Best things to do and see in (and around) Lough Derg

Things to do in Lough Derg

Lough Derg, a lake on the River Shannon, is nestled in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and kisses the borders of counties Tipperary, Clare and Galway. Driving to Lough Derg takes about 2.5 hours (200km) from Dublin, 1 hour 20 minutes (80km) from Galway and just over an hour (50km) from Limerick.

About Lough Derg

Lough Derg is the third biggest lake in the island of Ireland and the largest lake on the River Shannon. As you can imagine, it is a magnet for boating and water sports enthusiasts but it also attracts those that love all types of outdoor pursuits. Whether you like boats, bikes or boards or prefer lacing up those hiking boots, there’s plenty of ways to explore the region.

But it’s not all about vigorous activity, there are plenty of things to do in Lough Derg at a more relaxed pace. The region is steeped in history and mystery with plenty of heritage hotspots to explore. There is a slew of family-friendly attractions with an abundance of ways to keep the little ones entertained. Your taste buds too are in for a treat as the fabulous food scene brims with places that prioritise and promote local produce. 

As you can see, Lough Derg is a fun-filled destination on the River Shannon with lots to offer all kinds of visitors. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start planning your next adventure to Lough Derg.

Lough Derg Facts:

  • The lake is 40km long from Portumna in the north to Killaloe in the south.
  • Its width varies from 1km-12km at its widest point.
  • Has 179km of indented shoreline along the counties of Tipperary, Clare and Galway.
  • There are about 30 islands on Lough Derg.
  • Irish for Lough Derg is Loch Dearg or Deirgeirt.

Things to do in and around Lough Derg:

Nenagh Castle

Ramble like royalty around Nenagh Castle and explore 800 years of history. This 13th-century castle stands tall and proud in the heart of Nenagh, the largest town in North Tipperary, which is just a twenty-minute drive from Lough Derg.

Nenagh Castle is free to enter and you can take your time, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy all the displays on a self-guided tour. Climb the 101 stone steps of the spiral staircase to reach the top of the keep and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views across the region. You might also get a glimpse of the peregrine falcon that lives in the church across the way. 

A trip to Nenagh Castle is a great thing to do with children and perfect rainy day activity.

Nenagh Castle

Country Choice Cafe

Continue the royal experience at the Country Choice Cafe in Nenagh, where you can dine on a feast fit for a king (or queen). Choose from a super selection of soups, sandwiches and salads or something more hearty like slow-cooked beef and Guinness pie, colcannon-topped shepherd’s pie, comforting stews and vegetarian tarts. You’ll also find it hard to resist the sweet treats that tempt you from the delicious display. 

All of these dishes are laden with local ingredients and you get a great taste of Lough Derg when you eat here.

Lough Derg Way

One of the most rewarding ways to explore this stunning region is by walking the 68km Lough Derg Way. Taking around three days to complete, this linear route begins in Limerick City and finishes up in Dromineer, County Tipperary.

The trail follows the River Shannon and its canal ways and passes through pretty villages and heritage towns. You’ll be surrounded by sensational scenery and lakeside views as you walk along the river and canal banks, forest tracks, old roadways and country roads. 

There’s a whole host of shops, accommodations and warm and welcoming pubs and restaurants along the way especially at the trailheads at Limerick City, Clonlara, Killaloe/Ballina, Garrykennedy and Dromineer. So lace up those walking shoes and enjoy this very pleasant way of discovering the many charms of the region.

Here’s our list of some more walks to enjoy in and around the region.

Inis Cealtra/Holy Island

Inis Cealtra is the Irish for Holy Island and this now uninhabited island is located on the western shore of Lough Derg. It is home to one of the foremost monastic sites in Ireland and it is accessed via boat with day tours running from Mountshannon.

On Inis Cealtra you’ll find a well-preserved round tower, the ruins of six churches, a holy well and a graveyard with slabs dating from the 8th-century. Holy Island truly is a historic place with its roots dating back to early Irish Christian times. 

The island is also associated with Brian Boru, the high king of Ireland from 1002 until 1014AD. His brother was an abbot on Inis Cealtra and legend has it that Brian Bord built one of the churches on the island. We told you Lough Derg was full of history and mystery, so don’t miss the chance to walk through the past on Inis Cealtra.

Inis Cealtra/Holy Island on Lough Derg, Ireland

Lough Derg Fishing

Lough Derg is one of the best lakes in Ireland for fishing and in particular coarse angling for bream, tench, roach and perch, as well as record weight pike. With so many species of fish, Lough Derg is suitable for all types of anglers. You don’t need a licence for coarse or pike fishing on the Shannon, but a share certificate is required for game fishing.

You can take a fishing tour with local guides or head out on your own. There are plenty of fishing tackle shops, such as Tj’s in Killaloe and Treacy’s in Scarrif in and around Lough Derg so you can stock up on essentials and there are plenty of places where you can rent equipment too for your Lough Derg boat trip.

Our marina in Banagher is ideally placed for exploring Lough Derg and if fishing is the main purpose of your trip, we’ll help you choose a suitable Lough Derg boat hire and we can pre-order and deliver bait for you. We can also supply fishing dinghies up to 14-feet long and outboard motors so you can reach the more inaccessible spots so you can truly feel like a castaway as you cast away.

Lough Der Fishing

Lough Derg Swimming

There are plenty of spots around Lough Derg to go swimming. The freshwater lake is awash with marinas and beaches and sheltered places to make a splash. 

There are Blue Flag beaches in the pretty villages of Mountshannon and Portumna and there is also a Blue Flag beach at Twomilegate lakeside amenity park, which is just a couple of minutes outside of Killaloe. All of these Blue Flag beaches are lifeguard-patrolled during the bathing season.

Speaking of Killaloe, if you are brave enough you can join the locals diving off the bridge and the mooring piers into the River Shannon for a refreshing dip.

For those who like a less frigid frolic in the water, there is a heated (hurrah) public outdoor swimming facility at Riverside Park in Ballina which is open from May to September and is fun for all the family.

Lough Derg Swimming

Slieve Aughty Centre

Reconnect with nature at the sublime Slieve Aughty Centre, which is an eco-friendly, and family-friendly, equestrian and activity leisure centre in Galway, just 20km west of Portumna on the shores of Lough Derg. 

At the Slieve Aughty Centre, you can enjoy extensive walking and cycling trails across 17 acres of rugged woodland. You can also take time out for some much-deserved relaxation and rejuvenation at The Three Towers Eco House and Organic Kitchen, one of just two certified organic restaurants in Ireland, and the only one in the West.

Horse riding is very popular in Ireland and especially so in this area. Equine enthusiasts will love the Slieve Aughty Riding Centre which caters to all types of riders. With its quiet location, this is an ideal place for cross-country trips or some gentle trail riding to explore this beautiful part of the country on horseback.

Terryglass Village and Harbour

Terryglass village in County Tipperary is a popular stopping off point for boaters along the River Shannon due to its great pubs and restaurants, which are located just minutes from the marina. At Terryglass harbour you can enjoy plenty of facilities like the BBQ and picnic areas, the playground and there are toilets and showers here too. The harbour slipway makes it easy to enter the water on canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and boats. From the harbour, you can walk to Paddy’s Bar and The Derg Inn where you can relax and soak up the atmosphere of a real Irish pub. 

The Derg Inn

With all the things to do in Terryglass, you are sure to work up an appetite! When hunger strikes The Derg Inn is a welcoming watering hole that serves excellent local food and drink.

This renowned bar and restaurant is set on the shores of Lough Derg and dishes up hearty, homemade food and is a great place to warm up and wind down after a day on the water.  

The Derg Inn Terryglass

Wilde Irish Chocolates

For a sweet treat, head to the Wilde Irish Chocolates’ Factory in Tuamgraney, just a 15-minute drive from Killaloe. This small, artisan factory is where Trish Wilde and her team create truly scrumptious creations made from the finest milk, white and dark chocolate. When you visit the factory you’ll see the magic happen as the team gets to work making 80 different kinds of sweet treats by hand. 

You’ll, of course, get a taste test and perhaps be lucky enough to try a new flavour that’s in development. Bring your pocket money, as you’ll want to stock up on these delicious handmade Irish chocolates – we recommend the rocky road and salted caramel fudge. A trip here truly is a treat for the tastebuds.

Portumna Golf Club

Full of sugar, it’s time to burn off some of that energy with a round of golf.

The Portumna Golf Club is a beautiful parkland course where you play through forest and woodland. This setting provides lots of interesting shots and a few elevated tee-box positions. Are you up to the challenge?

Being surrounded by nature it’s no surprise that you’ll come across plenty of flora and fauna as you play, so keep your eyes peeled for wild fallow deer, red squirrels, foxes and 85 different bird breeds, which reside in the Forest Park. It’s a golf safari.

Lough Derg Equestrian Centre

Lough Derg Equestrian Centre is a picturesque horse riding school located in the twin towns of Ballina/ Killaloe. This is a great place to get in the saddle for the first time as it is a fun, friendly and safe environment that is perfect for beginners, but it also caters for more advanced riders too. 

So hoof it over to Lough Derg Equestrian Centre and harness some horsepower for a trek around Lough Derg.

Plan your next trip to Lough Derg

Lough Derg is a brilliant base for a River Shannon holiday. With its wonderful waterways, heritage hotspots, great gastronomy and abundance of activities it is a destination that will appeal to all family members no matter what their interests.


One of the best ways to make the most of all there is to do in and around Lough Derg is to hire a Shannon-Erne cruise boat with Carrickcraft. Contact us today for more information and to start planning your waterway getaway.

Melanie-Author

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

Lough Derg Sunrise” by Sean O Riordan is licensed under CC0 1.0 Nenagh Castle by Corey Taratuta is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Monastic Tower and Church –Inis Cealtra by Liam Moloney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Lough Derg Morning by Liam Moloney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Lough Derg Inn by John M is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon by Liam Maloney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0