Walking is one of the best ways to explore an area. Rambling outside allows you to soak up the ambience of a place and get reacquainted with nature. Walking is also a great way to get some exercise and clear your head.
With serene scenery, friendly locals and well-marked hiking trails, Ireland is a wonderful walking destination. If you are on a Carrickcraft cruising holiday on the River Shannon, the surrounding areas are particularly beautiful to discover on foot. Trailheads are accessible and there are walking routes of various lengths and difficulty. You are sure to find a walk that you’ll enjoy.
So, what are you waiting for? It is time to moor up your boat and lace up your hiking boots. Put those sea legs on terra firma and get out walking in this waterway’s wonderland.
Looking for some inspiration? Here are some of the best walks in the River Shannon area.
Walks Near Carrick-On-Shannon and Lough Allen
The Acres Lake Boardwalk Trail – Co. Leitrim – 6.5km
This peaceful, linear route follows the towpath along the Lough Allen Canal, linking the town of Drumshanbo with Battlebridge Lock near Leitrim Village. At 6.5km long, the gentle walk takes around 1.5 hours to complete and you pass through some serene scenery. Fancy walking on water? The route incorporates the beautiful 600-metre floating boardwalk sitting over the waters of Acres Lake Leitrim. This is a very pleasant place to relax and enjoy a picnic.
Lough Key Forest Park – Co. Roscommon – 3 to 4.2km
Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon, in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands region, is the perfect place to reacquaint yourself with nature. There are four marked scenic walks, ranging from 3 to 4.2km, easy to moderate. There are also multi-access routes, which are suitable for less mobile users. Following the nature walks, you’ll wander through the native woodland, conifer forests, bog gardens and follies and along canals. Give yourself plenty of time as you’ll want to stop to admire the splendid views too.
Derrycarne Wood – Co. Leitrim – 2.5km
Derrycarne is a woodland area by the shores of Lough Boderg just north of Dromod village. It is one of many beautifully tranquil walks in Leitrim. Nature lovers will enjoy this 2.5km lakeside and forest walk as you can spot all kinds of birds and wildlife as you stroll amongst the beech, oak and conifer trees. In the woods, you’ll find a pleasant picnic area where you can relax and watch the boats go by.
The Leitrim Way – Co. Leitrim – 25km
There are loads of hiking trails in Leitrim. But, if you really want to stretch your legs, the 25km Leitrim Way is the walk for you. This forms a stage of the Beara-Breifne Way, the longest walking trail in Ireland. Following the canal bank along old and new pathways, this trail links Leitrim Village to Drumshanbo. Whilst walking you will be immersed in the landscape of verdant fields, tranquil waterways and lough shores. Along the way, stop off in the Sliabh an Iarainn Visitor Centre in Drumshanbo and discover the heritage of the land through which you are roaming.
The Miners Way and Historical Trail – Co. Roscommon – 118km
The 118km Miners Way and Historical Trail forms part of the 500km Beara-Breifne Way. It usually takes about five days to complete the whole walk. The trail starts and ends in Arigna, County Roscommon, and snakes around this incredibly interesting and scenic area. Arigna was once a bustling coal-mining village and is now home to Ireland’s first coal mine museum. The route takes you across tarmacked roads, forestry paths and cuts through fields and soggy moorland. On your way, you’ll have beautiful panoramic vistas of the surrounding valleys and mountains, Lough Allen and Sliabh an Iarainn (The Iron Mountain). This is one of the best walks in Roscommon to experience the true essence of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands region.
Walks Near Athlone Around Lough Ree
Rinn Duin Castle Loop – Co. Roscommon – 4km
If you like your walks with a side of history, then you’ll love the 4km Rinn Duin Castle loop on Lough Ree. This well-preserved, deserted Norman town dates from 1227 and the walk takes you passed nine ivy-clad heritage sites. These included the old perimeter wall with its three towers, the ruins of a church, a gatehouse, a windmill, a hospital and the castle. The loop cuts through some farmland with livestock, so no dogs are permitted on this walk.
Lough Ree Park Walking Trail – Co. Westmeath
Lough Ree is the second largest lake on the River Shannon so, as you can imagine, there are plenty of lakeshore walks and trails to enjoy. Being a designated Special Area of Conservation and, because of its migratory waterfowl, a Special Protection Area too, makes this a wonderful walk for wildlife lovers. The Lough Ree Park Walking Trail was designed especially for those with limited mobility. It combines shoreline and woodland and is a great place for families as there are plenty of things to entertain the little ones including a playground and informative nature boards.
The Connaught Walk – Co. Westmeath – 3km
The 3km Connaught Walk is a great way to uncover the history of Athlone. Starting in Athlone town, you’ll pass many points of interest along the way. Highlights include Athlone Castle, the Church of St. Peter and Paul with its stunning stained-glass windows, the Costume Barracks, built in 1691, and the Athlone Boat Club, one of the oldest rowing clubs in Ireland. You’ll also take in the memorial to Count John McCormack, the world-famous tenor.
Portlick Millennium Forest Walk – Co. Westmeath – 5km
The Millennium Forest is located in Portlick, on the eastern shore of Lough Ree, 8km north of Athlone. The Forest Walk is a gentle 5km ramble through the native ash and hazel woodland. The forest floor is carpeted with a whole array of flora including woodrush, bluebell, primrose, wood sorrel and violet. It is a magnificent sight during the spring months when everything begins to bloom. Walks near Athlone don’t get much prettier than this.
Cloonlarge Loop – Co. Roscommon – 6.4km
Nature walks are a great way of keeping the little ones entertained. As you meander along this 6.4km lopped walk you’ll discover the flora and fauna of the peatland. Once an old bog road, the walking trail in Kilteevan, County Roscommon, is peppered with plenty of information boards and quirky wooden carvings. At the information points, you’ll learn about the birds, insects, butterflies and other species that call the bog home. With so much to look out for, this is a great family-friendly walk.
Walks Near Killaloe on Lough Derg
Garrykennedy Forest – Co. Tipperary
The beautiful Garrykennedy Forest in County Tipperary is a fantastic area for some family fun. There are plenty of trails around the native woodlands and lakeshore. As you ramble, you can admire the wooden sculptures and have a rest in the seats made from chopped down trees. You access the trailhead in Garrykennedy village, which has some terrific old-fashioned country pubs. The village makes for a wonderful stop post-walk for refreshments and refueling.
Graves of the Leinstermen – Co. Tipperary – 5.6km
Looking for one of the most scenic hill walks in Tipperary? Then lace up your hiking boots and tackle the Graves of the Leinstermen looped walk. This 5.6km route, which starts near to Portroe, ascends 459 metres up Tountinna, the highest point on the Arra Mountains. At the top, your effort is rewarded with extensive views of the whole Lough Derg Valley. It was on this hill around 1,000AD that the King of Leinster and his men were slain. Their bodies buried beneath the ancient standing stones. Today, just one stone remains, undergrowth covers the rest.
Millennium Cross Walk – Co. Tipperary – 3.1km
Located on Cloneybrien Hill near Portroe, outside Nenagh, is a huge stainless-steel cross which was erected in 2002 to mark the millennium of Portroe. The walk to the cross is 3.1km, along a rough track which cuts through open bogland. The walk is gentle and dogs are permitted. When you reach the millennium cross there is a small bench and far-reaching views of over Lough Derg and its hinterland.
Ballycuggaran – Co. Clare – 7.2km
Ballycuggaran, some 3km from Killaloe, has three way-marked walking trails through its woods. If you are feeling active, one of the best hikes is the strenuous 7.2km Crag Wood Walk, which starts and finishes in the Crag Wood entrance car park. For the best views, follow the route anti-clockwise. You’ll walk along forest road and tracks and hike through some impressive oak woods. When you reach the summit there are sweeping views of Lough Derg and the surrounding bucolic landscape.
Portumna Forest Park – Co. Galway
Situated on the north shore of Lough Derg, in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, you’ll find Portumna Forest Park. This is a wonderful area for a day out with the family as there is so much to see and do. There are four park walks which take you into the forest, where you have a great chance of seeing red squirrels and fallow deer. You might even spy a fox or badger. If you are really lucky you might catch a glimpse of the White Tailed Sea Eagle from the bird hide. Throughout the park, there are plenty of picnic benches, viewing platforms and heritage sites to enjoy. It really is one of the best Lough Derg walks for families.
Our map below marks the locations of the 15 walks detailed above. One handy tip for looking for more local walks in your area is to voice search “walks near me” to get more mapped trails to explore!
As you can see, there are some wonderful walks to enjoy in the Midlands of Ireland, in and around the River Shannon. Navigating the walkways and waterways truly is a unique way to explore Ireland. If you want to enjoy the best of both (boat?) worlds, book a River Shannon cruising holiday with Carrickcraft today.
Melanie May spent five years backpacking solo around the world and turned her wanderlust into a career when she became a freelance writer and photographer. She won the ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the Travel Extra Travel Journalist of the Year Awards 2018 and is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. She runs her own blog, Travel Eat Write Repeat (www.melaniemay.com) and you can follow her travels over on Instagram @_maymelanie