Best things to do and see in (and around) 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.

Carrickcraft’s marina on the Lower Shannon sits just north of Lough Derg, so it is the ideal starting location for exploring this fun-filled destination on the River Shannon.  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:

Portumna Castle and Gardens

Ramble like royalty around Portumna Castle and Gardens and explore 400 years of history. The original castle was constructed around 1616, but completely destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1864. The present castle is actually the third castle to be built on the site.

There is a charming formal garden and a walled kitchen garden. The Castle is right beside Portumna Forest Park which contains 1500 acres of parkland with an abundance of flora and fauna including a herd of rare Irish red deer, 

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

The Ferry Inn

For a traditional Irish experience, call at the  Ferry Inn  in Portumna, a traditional Irish bar and restaurant with a modern twist.  Choose from a super selection of lite bites or sweet treats or something more hearty like steak and chips, all prepared from seasonal, wholesome and locally sourced produce.

With live music in the bar at weekends, you will find a warm welcome, great hospitality and a unique ambience. 

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.  You can access the Lough Derg Way at Killaloe/Ballina, Garrykennedy and Dromineer, locations you can also access on a Carrickcraft cruiser.  You could enjoy the lush scenery and lakeside vistas by following a section of the walk while taking a Carrickcraft holiday on Lough Derg.

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, and warm and welcoming pubs and restaurants along the way especially at the trailheads at 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.

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 Boru 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.

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.

Carrickcraft’s 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 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.

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 where you can relax and soak up the atmosphere of a real Irish pub.

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.

Wilde Irish Chocolates

For a sweet treat, head to the Wilde Irish Chocolates’ Factory in Tuamgraney, on the Scorriff River.  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.

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 Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon by Liam Maloney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0