Limerick to Tipperary
Art and culture events aside, essential stop-offs here include the recently renovated King John’s Castle, the Limerick City Gallery of Art and the Hunt Museum.
After this city interlude, we move to a new county and a new town: Ballina, County Tipperary. Sitting on the eastern shore of Lough Derg, Ballina is one half of a twin town; its other half, Killaloe, lies across the Shannon River in County Clare. The two towns are linked by a distinctive 13-arch bridge, and are packed with historical treasures, including Brian Boru’s palace. A quiet spot, Ballina didn’t even have a traffic light system until 2006. Rent a boat here, and spend a lazy day on the water before getting back on the road.
From Ballina it’s on to Nenagh (the second largest town in Tipperary). Pick of the ‘must-see’ list here is the nearly 800-year-old Nenagh Castle. The castle’s explosive history saw a puritan named Soloman Newsome attempt to blow it up with gunpowder in 1750. The reason? Nesting birds were destroying his barley crop. There was an explosion – but all it did was make a hole in the tower’s side, which you can still see today. Make the 101-step climb to the top and soak up the stunning scenery. Trust us, it’s worth it.
Tipperary to Galway
From castles to Christian heritage, the marina village of Terryglass is our next stop. The Terryglass Art Festival (August) is a 5-day extravaganza of music, drama, street theatre and more. Terryglass has two healing wells: the Eyewell – named after the saint who lived there in the 9th century – and the Headache Well. Both are said to have ‘curative properties’.
It’s on to Portumna now, where we stop-off at Portumna Forest Park, sitting on the shores of Lough Derg. Among the sixteen species of wild mammals that call the park home is a herd of fallow deer and the elusive pine marten. And if you fancy a round of golf, Portumna Golf Club is a scenic 18-hole challenge situated spectacularly at the centre of the forest park.
For a taste of Ireland’s past, the Irish Workhouse Centre, also in Portumna, is a moving museum dealing with the often shocking conditions of Famine-era Ireland.
Galway to Clare
As you make your way from Galway to Clare, be sure to stop at the newly installed viewing point at MountShannon Pier. Grab a telescope and keep a look out for white-tailed sea eagles – the first born in Ireland for over a century.
Tuamgraney is the next port of call, and one of the most important ecclesiastical and historical villages in Ireland. Its pagan past is recorded in its townland names, holy wells and pillar stones. Take a look around the deceptively simple St Cronan’s 19th century church – it’s said to have been repaired by the legendary High King Brian Boru himself.
The perfect end to this Lakelands tour takes you to Ballina’s twin town, Killaloe, known as the birthplace of Brian Boru. While Brian was High King, he ruled from here, making it the “Capital of Ireland”.
Walk Killaloe’s narrow Victorian streets and browse the old shops looking down over the 13th century cathedral. After that, visit the Brian Boru Heritage Centre, sitting proudly where the River Shannon flows to Lough Derg, and the Clare and Tipperary mountains rising as a magnificent backdrop. Also in the town, the riverside St Flannan’s Cathedral makes for a perfectly picturesque photo opportunity, before bedding down for the night.