Are you a crafty devil? Or are you intrigued by all things crafty? Do you like to give back to local communities and appreciate the beauty of heritage craftmanship? If so, Lough Derg is the place for you. Around the lake, there are ample opportunities to explore the very best that Irish craft has to offer. Whether you decide to visit the stores where the magic happens or order online, that’s up to you. Everything is easy on Lough Derg…
Let’s head to Tuamgraney, a major hub for arts and crafts on Lough Derg and start off with a foodie craft I’m sure we’ll all be interested in… Established in 1977, Wilde Irish Chocolates has built a sweet tradition, with an impressive 80 different yummy handmade chocolates. This small artisan chocolate factory has something for all palates, so your sweet tooth will certainly be satisfied, of that you can be sure.
For a Willy Wonka-esque experience that will captivate all the family, why not visit the factory where they offer the opportunity to tour their open-plan production area and watch all kinds of chocolate goodies being made and packed? You will even get to taste the chocolates in production, all for free! As they so aptly put it, they welcome new faces and are always looking for guinea pigs to judge their latest chocolate inventions.
If that wasn’t enough, they have a recently-developed Chocolate Cafe in which you can have the most glorious hot chocolate with all of the chocolate sprinkles and dipping goodness that your heart desires. It’s sensational! Trust me, I’ve tried it. While you sip your ‘hug in a mug’, you can choose which chocolates you’d like to take home with you. They have so much to choose from, so why not go Wilde?!
A minute down the road is McKernan Woollen Mills. This family-run business sells exquisite scarves, hats and shawls – their designs are sold in select boutiques, concept stores and museum shops throughout Ireland, Europe and North America. At McKernan weavers, they view each of their creations not only as a highly-rated product, but also as a canvas that allows them to express their artistry, love of colour and appreciation of high quality textiles.
At their Tuamgraney headquarters, the lovely team will welcome you with open arms if you would like to experience their working mill for yourself. They will happily take you through the ins-and-outs of designing, weaving and knitting.
Just a stone’s throw away from McKernan Weavers you will find East Clare Trading Post which is, in a sense, the epitome of shopping local! This cute little blue building is home to a permanent ‘market and coffee shop’. The shop showcases products from 40 different local traders, making it the perfect opportunity to give back to a wide range of communities. You can rest assured that your purchases are making a difference to the lives of Irish artisans and craft-folk from the region.
The shop sells products like art, crafts, giftware, soaps, skincare, personalised gifts, local honey and much, much more. Whether you’re having a ‘treat myself’ day or looking for a present for that special someone, East Clare Trading Post has ample choice. If you just want a browse or are passing through and feeling peckish, the cafe has an excellent selection of hot drinks as well as sweet and savoury foodie bits. They sell a variety of homemade cakes, chocolate, breads and savoury foods to keep you fuelled and happy.
And by the way, if you create products that need an outlet, East Clare Trading Post encourages creative and friendly individuals to contact them. Why not get your creative juices flowing and join this amazing collective!
In Ogonnelloe, you will find Lynn Kenny. Lynn is a talented artist, creating pieces that will connect with people, lift them up and make them laugh. Her work begins with recycled materials and she combines layers of found papers, magazine and tissue papers to create interesting bases for her work. Stitch and fabric bring the characters to life with shape, colour and texture. With a layer of paint, main motifs pop out, while shadow and bursts of colour give strength to her work.
Lynn’s workshop is in the picturesque Ogonnelloe, complemented by a few hens and soon there will also be donkeys. She is kind, welcoming and accommodating. Whether you’re an artist looking to revisit an earlier talent or you are keen to make your mark on the artistic world, get in contact with Lynn. She might have a workshop with your name on it!
Following the lake into Killaloe, McConnell’s Woollen Mills is a renowned Irish knitwear brand whose designers draw inspiration from time-honoured work-wear pieces, reworking them to fit a contemporary wardrobe. This unique styling approach ensures you will be wearing one-of-a-kind garments that complements your own personal style.
At McConnells, they echo aspects of Ireland in their clothing. For example, the Autumn Winter MMXX collection echoes the landscape of the wild, rugged, Irish coast, creating a stylish and very wearable clothing line. Natural yarns and hand-finished techniques complete the DNA of the brand. The owner of the line, Ann McConnell, has been knitting since she was 4, so you can rest assured you’re in good hands (quite literally).
Crossing the bridge and heading to Tipperary, let’s visit the lovely farmer and beekeeper Ailbhe Gerrard at Brookefield Farm. Brookefield farm is a beautiful blend of artisan food, bespoke gifts and locally-sourced honey. At the farm, you will find the most delicious wildflower honey, farm-made beeswax candles and tender lamb minimally processed.
With breath-taking views of Lough Derg, Brookefield is an elegant place with an enchanting effect. Ailbhe’s hand-dipped and -poured candles are intoxicatingly scented with botanical essential oils that make a lovely gift for any occasion. If you want to experience the magic of hand-crafted candles, Brookefield Farm welcomes visitors for open days to view broadleaf forestry, wildflower meadows, lambs, crops, hives and craft demonstrations.
In Nenagh, Hanly’s Woolen Mills pride themselves in ethical practice, sustainable sourcing and providing their customers with timeless pieces. When you buy from John Hanly, you’re investing in an item that will stay with you for life as a testament to craftsmanship and outstanding quality.
Available both in John Hanly stores and online, the range includes woven scarves, throws and fabrics in wool, cashmere, lambswool, mohair and other natural fibres. Hanly’s Woolen Mills provide the promise of ethical practice and sustainable sourcing combined with cutting edge design and stylish flair.
By constantly re-imagininging and refining their style, Hanly’s have made contemporary creativity a hallmark of their range. Their style evolves with the seasons and that means they have something to cater for people from all walks of life. So, why not upgrade your wardrobe and give yourself the gift of a John Hanly piece to treasure for many years to come. You won’t regret it.
So whether you want to channel your inner Picasso and create a masterpiece or draw on the creativity of some leading designers and craft professionals, a tour around the shores of Lough Derg will take you on an uplifting exploration of craft, beauty and inspiration.
Some great spots to check out while on your travels…
Flanagans on the lake – Take in the spectacular views of Ballina Killaloe with a cool drink from the bar or with one of the wonderful dishes from their extensive menu.
Bistro 41 is a restaurant in Nenagh with elegant decor and a friendly and relaxed atmosphere – the perfect spot to take your ease, enjoy good food and good conversation.
Nuala’s Bar & Restaurant is situated in Tuamgraney. At Nuala’s, they pride themselves on the warmth of the welcome you will receive when you visit the premises, not to mention the excellent quality of their food and drink.
The Wooden Spoon in Killaloe is a cute cosy spot with a vibrant atmosphere. Their menu is diverse, their ingredients are fresh and you’re guaranteed to leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling after a hearty wholesome meal or a delicious coffee.
The Pantry Cafe in Nenagh is one of Nenagh’s best-known meeting points in town whether that be a quick bite or a lazy catch up among friends. There is a wide range to choose from, you won’t be disappointed!
Steeples in the heart of Nenagh’s historical quarter offers nutritious and tasty food in a relaxed, comfortable surrounding. Their ethos is founded on focusing on a healthy mind, body and spirit.
Killaloe Luxury Pods Find peace and serenity in self-catering luxury holiday pods with breathtaking views of the River Shannon.
Lantern House is a family run guest-house, ideally situated overlooking the picturesque Lough Derg in Ogonnelloe, Co Clare.
Abbey Court Hotel offering the highest level of comfort, service and dining experiences, this hotel is the perfect base to explore the wonderful sights of Nenagh and the surrounding Lough Derg region.