Make a Splash! Day Trips along Ireland’s Waterways

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Whether you live in the city, or in the wilds of the country, a visit to Ireland’s lakes and loughs is a tonic for the body and the soul. To help you choose your next water adventure, Waterways Ireland has put together a guide to help you embrace the natural beauty of Ireland’s waterways.

Spending time by the water is enjoyable, but it is also known to bring many positive effects, both for our mental wellbeing and physical health. Luckily for us, Ireland is full of beautiful waterways, surrounded by scenic landscapes, with plenty of activities and nature trails to immerse yourself in on a day of exploration or adventure – where you can decide to ramble along at your own pace or take part in activities that are more adrenaline-inducing. 

Barge along the Royal Canal from Maynooth to Kilcock, Co. Kildare

Take the train from Dublin to Maynooth and join Jenny Wren, of Royal Canal Boat Trips, on a barge trip to Kilcock through the lock 5 on the Royal Canal. Enjoy lunch in the village at Rye River Café or Gregory’s Tavern or have food catered on board. Then soak up more scenery by walking or cycling the Greenway from Kilcock back to Maynooth.

Trips custom in length and price.

Visit www.facebook.com/royalcanalboattrips for more information.

Baysports Waterpark on the River Shannon, Hodson Bay, Co. Roscommon

The Baysports Waterpark, Ireland’s largest inflatable waterpark, on the River Shannon at Hodson Bay is just a 90-minute drive from Athlone. Start off early and head out for a family fun experience, either on the inflatable water park or pick up a paddle and go kayaking. Pack a picnic or travel back to Athlone town for lunch which is brimming with cafés and restaurants. Wrap up the day back on the water with a Viking Boat tour from Athlone Castle to Clonmacnoise to view the monastic ruins and round tower.

Viking boat tour for 2 adults and up to 5 children: €100

Double kayak rental: €35 per hour

Visit www.baysports.ie or www.vikingtoursireland.ie for more information.

Barrow Way, Vicarstown, Co. Laois

Depart from Dublin and drive 70 minutes to canal-side town of Vicarstown, Co Laois for a morning of cycling on the Barrow Way with Barrow Bike Hire. The route from Vicarstown to Athy, Co. Kildare is 10.5km, with plenty of room to stop by the canal along the way. Reenergise yourself and your crew by grabbing lunch at Kildare Village. Then set off once more, cycling the short distance to the Irish National Stud in Kildare Town where an on-foot tour gives you the chance to see some of Ireland’s most famous horses up close – with the added bonus of experiencing the tranquil beauty of the unique Japanese Gardens.

Bike hire cost: €25 for 4 hours per adult, €10 for the day per child

Visit www.barrowwaybikes.ie/ for more information.

Freedom on the Water at the Barrow, Barrow Quay, Athy, Co. Kildare

Explore ‘Freedom on the Water’ adventure activity with Athy Boat Tours, and enjoy a one- hour or three-hour boat trip through the lock on the Barrow. Only 60 mins from Dublin, Athy Boat Tours will make you feel city life is far behind you as you have the chance to experience life on the water up-close. Recharge with a spot of lunch in Square – Specialty Coffee Bar or The Bay Tree in Athy. After sampling some of Co. Kildare’s finest food, why not venture onto Leinster’s largest hedge maze, the Kildare Maze, just outside Prosperous town, and shake off the ‘sea legs’ while letting the little ones run around. After navigating the maze, check out other activities on offer such as crazy golf, a pets corner, assault course and zip.

€70 per 1 hour tour for six people

Visit https://athyboattours.com/ for more information.

Zip through Lough Key, Co. Roscommon

In Lough Key, Co Roscommon, you have the best of both worlds with plenty to explore on both land and water. Head to Lough Key Forest Park for a morning on the ziplines, flying through the trees, before stopping to enjoy a lakefront lunch in the Lough Key visitor centre where you can overlook the stunning blue waters dotted with enviably green islands, watching as nature play out before you. Ensure to take a guided canoe tour of the lake and Drumman’s Canal to get the full Lough Key experience.

Zipit prices vary from €25-42pp

Kayaking prices – €30 for a 2hr splash and session

Visit www.loughkey.ie/admission-prices for more information.

Mountain biking in Portumna Forest

Travel an hour east to the shores of Lough Derg from Galway City for a real forest immersion experience – taking on the mountain bike trails that flow through the beautiful woodlands and along the lake shores of Portumna Forest. You’ll swiftly work your way to Portumna town where you’ll be spoilt for choice with the town’s many cafés and eateries – make sure to try Una’s Tearoom and The Country Kitchen. No visit to Lough Derg would be complete without learning the story of Irish ancestors, architecture, the welfare state and care of the poor and sick at Portumna Workhouse.

Average cost of bike hire with Dick’s Bike Hire: €10-35 (child/mountain/e-bike)

Portumna Workhouse €12 for adults

Visit www.dicksbikehire.ie/bike-hire or www.irishworkhousecentre.ie/visit for more information.

Paddling in Limerick

You won’t be short of water sports in Limerick, with University of Limerick UL Sport Centre, and Derg Isle Sport Centre offering water sport activities. Choose from one of the watersport centres to start your day with kayaking, paddle-boarding or canoeing on Lough Derg. Trips are tailored to the groups’ capacity and fitness. Once back on land, grab a bite in Nuala’s charming stone fronted pub in Tuamgraney for a gourmet pub lunch. Top tip – make sure to save space for an afternoon visit in Wilde’s Irish Chocolates for a tour and a taste where you’ll get to sample handcrafted chocolates.

€35 for a single kayak, with packages for families or groups combining both land and water-based activities.

Visit [email protected] for more information.

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Julia Labedz
Julia Labedz
Julia has several years of experience as a writer and editor, working with independent clients as well as larger organizations. Prior to working for ITTN she was a marketing executive. She has both a BA and MFA in English with Creative Writing, with an extensive professional and creative portfolio. In her free time, Julia works on her novel.

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