Acres Lake Floating Boardwalk, Co. Leitirm
Feel the tranquility of Ireland's most underrated feature – its beautiful midland counties
The lakelands of Ireland, in the hidden heartlands of the Emerald Isle, are an 'undiscovered country' – well worthy of consideration for exploration by adventurous holiday makers.
And better still – you don't need the skills of Indiana Jones to discover this hidden grail.
Just follow the majestic Shannon as it winds along from its Fermanagh source, southwards towards Limerick and the estuary, and the treasures will reveal themselves to you.
Along that route you will encounter lush forests, intriguing trails, expansive lakes – and even the historic Grand Canal which connects the Shannon to Ireland's capital, Dublin.
You're spoiled for choice for fine hotels with their own distinct charms from which to base your exploration.
In the quaint Leitrim town of Carrick-On-Shannon you will find the Bush Hotel, one of Ireland's oldest hotels and the country's first to gain the eco label awarded for exceptional care and environmental awareness.
Here you will feel as if you are going back to a more leisurely age when you enter this welcoming inn with its open fires and themed lounges. You'll enjoy understated luxury in its 50 rooms, fine food in its carvery and bistro bar – all in the centre of a town worth exploring for quintessential quirky charm.
Make sure to take a tour of The Shed Distillery visitor experience, a fully operational authentic distillery, opening 10 September 2020. An incredible journey into the heart of rural Ireland and the Inner Sanctum of the first distillery in Connacht in 101 years. Home of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Drumshanbo Single Pot Still and other remarkable creations from the Curious Mind of PJ Rigney and located only 15-minute drive from the Bush Hotel.
As you follow the river southwards, do explore the neighbouring counties and you will be rewarded with hidden treasure.
Like the Dún na Sí Heritage Park in County Westmeath where you will find a disappearing lake, a traditional blacksmith's forge and a display of locally made artwork from recyclable materials.
Intriguing for hours
You're probably wondering what a 'disappearing lake' could possibly be. It's a uniquely Irish geographical feature – a turlough, meaning a lake which appears when water is plentiful but disappears when it's not.
Fermanagh's Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel and Lodges is another ideal base for a Shannonside quest. Located on the shore of the stunning Lough Erne, the hotel, within a mile of the historic town of Enniskillen, is a beautifully appointed and welcoming establishment with the excellent Kove Restaurant, Lakeside Grill and Carvery and an exclusive health club offering an indoor pool, the tranquil Elemis Spa and an outdoor hot tub overlooking the lake.
Refreshed, replenished and rejuvenated and before you travel south make sure you visit the county's Marble Arch Caves, a globally recognised geo park, which features stunning stalagmites and stalactites and would keep budding younger Indiana Jones intrigued for hours.
Included in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is the Cuilcagh Way, and it is home to the 'Stairway to Heaven', a steep climb is required up the 'stairway' to reach the 666 metre summit of Cuilcagh Mountain.
Walking on water
Here in the heart of Leitrim you will find breath-taking scenery in the vast estate and a magnificent Victorian walled garden.
Within its walls you will find regal opulence, fairytale four-poster beds and magnificent reception rooms reminiscent of scenes from Netflix hit series The Crown. In the double AA rosette Sandstone restaurant you will lunch like a lord and dine like royalty.
While still floating on air due to the care and attention at Lough Rynn, you could try work off some of the calories by walking on water at the Acres Lake Floating Boardwalk, connected to one of the Shannon's lakes, Lough Allen.
(By the way lough or loch is the Gaelic form of the word 'lake' – a handy tip for adventurers as they peruse their trusty maps!)
The stately bridge is seemingly suspended over still water and winds gracefully from one side of lake to the other. And it's not just for walking; kayaking, canoeing, fishing and sailing are popular activities here.
To the east is the county of Cavan, an overlooked hub of natural beauty that merits the 'lakeland' epithet more than any other. Despite its small size, it boasts some 365 lakes in all – one for every single day of the year, if you're prepared to overlook February 29.
A destination and a base
Here in the Slieve Russell Hotel, Golf & Country Club you will find a luxurious spot in which to relax and unwind. With its pool, tennis and games rooms, alongside its spa and golf facilities, this is not just a great base from which to explore the surrounding countryside, but a great destination in itself.
Ireland's lakelands and Shannon shoreside are a real treasure and deserve to be explored. Here you can find a hidden Ireland with magnificent and varied scenery, world-class accommodation and a destination for family adventures that will live long in the memory.
Now. It's time to dust off your Indiana Jones hat!
About Original Irish Hotels
Original Irish Hotels are a collection of unique, owner-run hotels, located in Ireland’s most outstanding destinations. Open the door to the magic of unmissable moments with Ireland’s leading collection of independent hotels.
Our 60 hotels are dotted around the entire island of Ireland in must-see locations, from the Wild Atlantic Way, to Ireland’s Ancient East, the Causeway Coast, Dublin and the treasured heartland of Ireland’s midlands and lakelands.
Irrespective of where our hotels are, Original Irish Hotels pride themselves in hosting a unique and truly memorable experience for our guests, and soon to be friends. The collection is made up of a range of traditional and boutique hotels, castles, manor and country houses, all run by locals, ensuring a unique experience every time.