Have you done that same lap of that same park every single day for…the last you can’t remember how long? Are you able to picture every bend and tree along your walk perfectly? Or have you gone the other way and now stroll mindlessly as you’ve seen it all so many times before?? If this sounds like you, then I have a bit of treat in store.
Picture a beautiful lake, surrounded by rolling hills with picturesque villages nestled around its perimeter. Sounds like something out of a fairytale, right? I’m describing Lough Derg! Why not break free from the mundane monotony of the local park and venture into Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands! While you stretch your legs you can feast your eyes upon the most magnificent scenery. Lough Derg has so many incredible trails to offer.
A great way to relax and recharge while getting some real hiking in is to take a weekend break and drive to Killaloe, one of Clare’s most picturesque attractions and the epicentre of a lot of the happenings on Lough Derg. You can stay in one of its many fabulous AirBnbs or the traditional Lakeside Hotel. The heritage twin towns of Ballina/Killaloe are full of life and vitality so, if you can get away from your day-to-day responsibilities early, why not get a head start to get a feel for the place. Relaxing by the canal with a book or strolling through the town’s bustling marina is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Arriving on a Friday, you could drop your things at the accommodation and head down to The Washerwoman for your beverage of choice and some live music. Chat to the locals and breathe in the old town charm. Your only challenge will be which of the many local restaurants you have to choose from for a memorable meal. Then it will be time for some much needed winks before you head out on your adventures the next morning.
On Saturday, you could switch that alarm clock to snooze (perhaps having had too much fun the night before) or you could get up with the birds and greet the Lough Derg sunrise. It’s totally your choice – everything is easy on Lough Derg. If you decide to take the more chillaxxed option, why not head over to The Wooden Spoon and get yourself a steaming hot cup of morning energy and a pastry to enjoy on the river bank before dusting off your hiking boots and getting going. If you want to get straight on those trails and you’re in a hurry, promise me you’ll take a moment to soak in the sunrise – that’s a mental image you won’t want to forget.
Whatever way you decide to start your day, once you’re up and at ‘em, take the five minute drive to Two Mile Gate where you can park your car to start your day’s adventure. From there, you have open access to the woods and pathways that lead to the highest point in County Clare, Moylussa. The trails are well-marked and sign-posted and there are benches placed at each viewing area to allow respite and reflection. The gradient is reasonably steep and is sure to elevate your heart rate, but you can take it as slow or as fast as you please. Getting your steps in (however challenging you may choose to make them) with the beautiful Clare countryside and Lough Derg views opening up in front of you sounds pretty enticing to me.
You will follow the signs – sometimes sheltered by welcoming forestry, sometimes past streams and miniature waterfalls – until you meet the final push signalling the most spectacular views that await you up ahead. After 300-400 metres of a steep climb, you’ll meet the boardwalk. Top tip: pictures on the boardwalk always look great for Insta. Continue along the boardwalk until you reach the rock marking the peak of Moylussa at 1,748ft. 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).
If you’re the really prepared type, you might have swimming gear waiting for you in the car. A great way to cool off and relax those muscles is to throw on your togs and hop into the lake at the Blue Flag Beach at Two Mile Gate before heading back to your accommodation for a hot shower and a cuppa. The afternoon is yours to relax, snooze or soak up the silent serenity of Lough Derg. Later on, why not book into Tuscany Bistro or Flanagans on the Lake? You’re on your holidays after all … indulge. After a mouth – watering pizza or a sizzling steak you might be jaded and want an early night. If so, doze off with the promise of another day of hiking on the cards.
On Sunday, you have to visit the Farmers’ Market before heading off on your next adventure. Here you will discover the very best of locally – produced fresh and natural produce as well as crafts and gifts. The market is always buzzing and you could have your breakfast here – I recommend the falafels.
Lets head out to the Graves of the Leinstermen. Top tip: On the way, you’ll come across the ‘Lookout’ at Portroe. Park here and you’re sure to snap some fabulous shots of the Lake.
The ‘Lookout’ offers magnificent views across Lough Derg to County Clare and up the River Shannon towards Galway. An excellent viewing point with panoramic views, there are map boards and picnic tables here, making it a good place to stop on your journey. Photographers and amateurs alike can capture magnificent images of cruisers navigating their way up and down the lake. The Lookout sits above Castlelough burial ground and Castlelough Amenity Park. After taking a breather, you’ll continue on to The Graves of the Leinstermen.
This is a 6km looped walk starting at the Graves of the Leinstermen and traversing minor roads amidst pleasant countryside. The route then leaves the road and turns into the Arra Mountains. The path continues up to the summit, Tountinna, where the views of Lough Derg and the surrounding countryside are truly spectacular. You will hardly be able to believe your eyes with valleys extending from Galway all the way down to Kerry. Your trek will then descend 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.
A few spots to have a look at on your travels…
Peppermill – Award winning restaurant, right in the heart of Nenagh. The Peppermill offers dishes using the best of Irish and locally sourced produce.
Andy’s Gastropub Bed & Breakfast – Andy’s is a stylish, modern Gastro pub/restaurant situated in the heart of Nenagh. It is renowned for its top quality bar food. Their experienced chefs have created an attractive menu with a special focus on local suppliers.
Gooser’s Bar & Restaurant is nestled on the banks of the Shannon in Ballina/Killaloe, Co Tipperary. Along with excellent food, it offers panoramic views of Lough Derg and Co. Clare.
Raw Interiors & Cafe is a store that aspires to inspire. Offering a wide range of unique objects sourced from around the globe, it’s a must-see. After browsing, relax with a steaming hot cuppa of speciality coffee.
Pontevecchio in Killaloe offers delicious food, superb coffee and outstanding service in a warm and charming atmosphere.
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.