Lough Derg in the southern part of the Shannon is a very popular place to enjoy a cruise. There are nine beautiful towns to visit which are full of attractions, friendly local people and wonderful restaurants and café’s to eat. The scenery is stunning, from the east Clare mountains to the rolling countryside hills of Tipperary. The marina’s are very well facilitated for overnight mooring and the lake offers some of the best fishing in Ireland. You can start your Lough Derg cruise from the towns of Portumna or Banagher and take in all the relaxing comforts that this magnificent part of the Shannon has to offer.
Whether you start from Portumna or Banagher, the beautiful tourist town of Portumna is certainly a place that you have to visit. There are two marina’s which offer access to the town and the castle marina is the most interesting. Here you will find the great Portumna castle (built in the 15th century) this was once the seat of the town fist inhabitance, the DeBurgo family. The castle is open for viewing during the summer months and tours are provided daily. Also next to the marina is the great Portumna forest park which is a fantastic place to stretch your legs and explore some of the natural beauty of this area. Upon further exploration of the town you will find some lovely restaurants, shops and cafés to enjoy. The local tourist office is located in the Irish Famine Workhouse and this is a must visit attraction in Portumna. Having recently been restored into the modern facility it is today, this is the premier famine workhouse memorial in Ireland and it gives a detailed account of the role workhouses played during the great Irish famine of the mid 19th century. A visit here makes for a very interesting yet sobering experience and is certainly recommended. Upon leaving Portumna travel south to the east Clare village of Mountshannon and here will be a great place to spend the evening. The marina is very popular and the village is lovely. One new attraction to the town is it’s Eagles which are under constant surveillance from a local town initiative in anticipation that they will successfully mate. The eagles regularly make national news and it is hoped that they will mate this year. There are two well known pubs in Mountshannon which are great ‘craic’ so enjoy the night but remember it will be an early start in the morning.
One thing that you will have surely noticed when entering Mountshannon is Holy Island, located just outside the town. This 7th century monastic settlement is one of the treasures of Lough Derg and daily tours are provided by Ger Madden who will take you out from the marina. Ger is a local historian and a great storyteller. A trip to Holy Island with Ger is something you have to do when cruising on Lough Derg. When leaving Mountshannon head south again but this time up the Scariff river and into the towns of Scariff and Tuamgraney. Tuamgraney is famous for the east Clare heritage centre which is housed in one of the oldest remaining churches currently in use in the world and dates back to the 10th century. This is certainly worth visiting, the town also has a local chocolate factory and tours are also provided here daily. A little further up river is the town of Scariff which is also a very charming place to visit. Upon leaving here it is time to visit the most southern town on Lough Derg and this is Killaloe. It is easily one of the most beautiful places on the river Shannon. Old medieval streets, artisan restaurants, bars and really fun and friendly people make up the reasons why the town is always a popular place to visit and a wonderful place to explore. The new marina is really well facilitated and some of the best places to visit in the town include the Brian Boru heritage centre and exhibition next to the bridge and St Flannans Cathedral. Do also take advantage of the quirky shops and restaurants when here. As evening approaches you can choose to spend the night in Killaloe or travel not too far away to the popular marina of Garykennedy. There is not much here except the wonderful thatched Larkins Bar and Restaurant which has Irish music playing most nights of the week during the summer months and is truly a fantastic place to visit and spend and evening.
Today is all about relaxing. Set out from Garrykennedy and continue north on the eastern side of the lough. Dromineer has always been a popular place to visit and the castle next to its marina its marina is one of the most photographed locations on Lough Derg. Recently a bakery/café has opened at the marina and the coffee here is superb. So stopping in Dromineer for you breakfast or brunch is a very good idea. After this relax and enjoy you final day on the Lough. Across the lake from Portumna is the little town of Terryglass and the village is famous for two things, Paddy’s bar and restaurant and the Lough Derg inn. They are both great places to eat and enjoy and wonderful night of ‘craic’ so the choice is yours. The cruiser will have to be dropped back in the morning, Portumna is just a short distance away but Banagher is a good two hour cruise so bare this in mind when departing Terryglass in the morning. You will be back in the real world before too long so do take your time and enjoy the final few hours of your cruise before reporting back to base.