With something to suit all levels of ability, there is a wide range of looped walks and hikes around the beautiful Lough Derg that are sure to take your breath away. And even better, plenty of great options to treat yourself when you’re done!
There is no better way to clear your head of clouded thoughts than to wander through the tranquility of trees. Portumna Forest Park is a great place to get your steps in with trail options for everyone. There are four looped trails to whet the appetite of the walking enthusiast. It is a nature nerd’s paradise with ash, beech and silver birch dotted along the lakeside, you’ll also spot the occasional yew and juniper.
The longest trail the park has to offer, the lovely Bonaveeen Walking Trail, is classed as moderate in difficulty – 10.5km in length and taking approximately 2 hours to complete. This loop will bring you through a multitude of diversity including mature Scots Pine forest and open lakeshore environments, affording you some amazing views out over the calming expanse of Lough Derg. Feel at one with nature as you are permitted access to the less explored areas of the park.
If a more leisurely stroll tickles your fancy, the Forest Friendly walking trail is the one for you. This is a great family route with wide and smooth forest road and timber boardwalk making for pleasurable adventuring. It will take approximately 20 minutes and is 1.4km in length. Bring along some bread and take a break at the duck pond. Your little ones are sure to be overcome with excitement. If that wasn’t enough, the park is known for the red squirrels frequently encountered in woodland areas, so keep an eye out!
The Woodland Trail is slightly longer and can be used for family walking or cycling groups. You will find yourself surrounded by a bluebell carpet, often referred to as ‘the fairy flower’ stretching as far as the imagination can see… If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a mystical being or two gliding gracefully between the blossoms. Top tip: keep quiet and you might spot some fallow deer.
A lengthier walk, the Rinmaher Trail is an appealing option for those looking to lose themselves in the leafy woodlands for a few hours. The loop treats walkers to inspiring views along the lake and allows visitors to immerse themselves in solitude with many areas being quiet and undisturbed. I’m not referring to complete silence here, but rather a silence that gives you space to enjoy the calls of wildlife from miles around.
Now for the part many of you will have been looking forward to, the post-walk treat. After tiring your legs and releasing some endorphins, head back into Portumna town where you’ll have a selection of lovely places offering delicious treats to choose from. Pop into Cafe Rose, known for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s the perfect place for a light lunch or some mouth-watering biscuit cake. Take your ease and relax with a book and some good coffee – you’ve earned it!
If you want to be challenged and really want to get your heart pumping, then pack your boots and head for Moylussa! At 532 metres, Moylussa is an energetic undertaking and the highest point in the Slieve Bernagh mountain range and in County Clare. The most popular route to the top starts from Ballycuggaran Forest Park near Killaloe and spectacular views over Lough Derg provide the perfect distraction as you climb.
It’s a moderate hike for the most part, taking in a little of the East Clare Way along the route, but, the final ascent to the top is a steep one. It’s a short enough push and the view at the top of the climb is something special to behold. Thankfully the boggy summit has become more accessible with the addition of a wooden boardwalk. Follow it to the summit marker stone, where it widens just enough for you to dance your happy dance… if you still have the energy that is!
Spend as long as you like here, because there truly is so much to take in with views across lake, forestry and moorland. You will see across to Tipperary and Limerick and maybe even County Galway (weather permitting). You’re sure to be hungry after the climb so why not settle into a mossy seat and fuel your body before the descent. The whole walk can take from three to five hours (depending on how many photo-stops you decide upon – and there will be many). Now that you’ve completed this challenge and climbed to the HIGHEST POINT in Clare, you are surely entitled to a reward (or three).
Head to the Wooden Spoon in Killaloe – their menu is diverse, their ingredients are fresh and you’re guaranteed to leave with a picnic full of hearty, wholesome food and the odd treat. Why not try something new and delve into a perfectly cooked falafel salad or delicious sausage roll!
Now for a tip that is highly secret and generally only known among the locals. If you are in Killaloe on a summer’s day, go to The Forge. Here you will find the creamiest, most delicious, wondrous 99 you will ever have in your life! The Forge is known for its 99s, they are simply divine.
Another challenging but glorious option is to go to the Graves of the Leinstermen, not far from Moylussa. The Loop Walk follows minor roads and laneways to ascend Tountinna (459m) where breathtaking views of Lough Derg await! This 6km walking loop starts at the Graves of Leinstermen, moving on minor roads through pleasant countryside. It then leaves the road turning into the Arra Mountains.
The loop continues up to the summit, Tountinna, where the views of Lough Derg and the surrounding countryside are truly spectacular. Then the loop descends steeply back to the trailhead. Whatever the weather, this loop walk never fails to impress. Breathing in the fresh mountain air puts things into perspective.
Why not head out to Garrykennedy for a delicious wholesome meal. Larkins is a picturesque little gastro-pub on the banks of Lough Derg. Larkins is over 300 years old, replete with irish charm and just the sort of country pub you want to find.
One way or another, if you put in the steps around Lough Derg, they are bound to lead you to a tasty treat and give you an appetite for more.
A few spots to have a look at on your travels…
Modena restaurant for a delicious Indian evening meal and great professional service make sure to stop by the Modena restaurant in Portumna.
Roma Take Away & Pizzeria is a family run traditional fish and chips restaurant centred on providing the best quality food and service that Portumna has to offer.
The Thatched Cottage Bar & Restaurant offers a homely ambience, fine dining and beverages as well as friendly staff catering for your every need.
Lough Derg House and Lake Cafe in the village of Dromineer provides great accommodation at reasonable prices and exceptional food for all at their cafe where everything is freshly baked every morning.
The Garden Cafe in Scarriff is a truly special experience – they grow the majority of their food in the community garden with everything else being sourced locally. They have a wide selection of herbal teas, fair trade and organic coffee and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
Hawthorn Lodge B&B here you will experience the true meaning of Irish hospitality at its best. Located in Mountshannon, they are the perfect venue for a family getaway, with room for everyone, including the family dog!
Lakeside Hotel is right on the shores of Lough Derg. Their rooms are designed to maximise the views of the lake so you can unwind with a drink in the stunning scenery.
Portumna House Bed & Breakfast is a purpose built Bed and Breakfast with all rooms en-suite and a guaranteed warm welcome upon arrival.