Here are the top ten free things to do in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Travel across the water and land trails of the Shannon Blueway, the perfect opportunity to see some of Leitrim’s spectacular scenery. Take a walk on the Acres Lake Floating Boardwalk in the village of Drumshanbo and bring your bike to check out the cycle trails that run along the River Shannon between Battlebridge Lock and Drumleague Lock.
If time allows, explore the Carrick-on-Shannon to Roosky section of the blueway with 30km of paddling trails for all levels of experience. Listen to the ebb and flow of the rippling water and enjoy the peaceful setting.
Explore lovely Leitrim further with a visit to Glencar Waterfall near the town of Manorhamilton. Head to the car park at Glencar Lake and it’s just a 1km stroll to the spectacular waterfall which inspired William Butler Yeats to write his famous poem, The Stolen Child.
Watch in awe from one of the viewing platforms as a cascade of water rushes down, trickling over the lush greenery. The 50ft waterfall makes for some incredible photos so don’t forget to bring your camera. Pack a picnic with some tasty treats from home and soak up the amazing views.
Plan a day out that won’t cost you a cent with a visit to Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon. Discover its magical, leafy strolls with easy to moderate walking trails that showcase the park’s attractions. Try the 4km Bog Garden Trail where you’ll pass by the scenic lake shore and visit the bog garden with its collection of sprawling rhododendrons and colourful wildflowers.
For a longer walk, add on the 3.5km Drumman’s Island Trail which takes you along the Drumman’s Canal past towering trees, hidden follies, and the enchanting Fairy Bridge.
Get to grips with the Beara Breifne Way, Ireland’s longest national waymarked walking trail. Spanning 500km, the Beara Breifne Way runs from the Beara Peninsula in Cork to Blacklion in Cavan and traces the 14-day march undertaken by Dónal Cam O’Sullivan Beare and his supporters in 1603.
Before you start, order a Beara Breifne Way Passport so you can document your journey. You’ll get a stamp when you finish each section of the route.
Discover the Suck Valley Way deep in the heart of Roscommon, a 105km trail through the ‘nine friendly villages’ of Ballintober, Dunamon, Castlecoote, Athleague, Mount Talbot, Ballygar, Creggs, Glinsk and Ballymoe. Take on the Miner’s Way and Historical Trail, 118km of looped walks across Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim where the views of majestic mountains and romantic loughs are truly incomparable.
See Megalithic portal tombs, pre-historic rock art, stone monuments and ancient huts on a visit to Cavan Burren Park. Choose one of the five walking trails where you’ll come across the park’s astounding geological features including sunken valleys and vast sinkholes. Hike up gravel paths and bog bridge steps to admire the historical treasures, impressive biodiversity and lofty Cuilcagh Mountain laid out before you.
Marvel at the Tullygobbin Wedge Tomb, check out the scenic picnic spots, and look out for the information signs dotted around the park alerting you to the park’s unique features. While in the area, head off on the incredible Northern Glens driving trail which takes in parts of Cavan and Leitrim, showcasing the stunning scenery of the region.
When in Longford Town, a visit to St Mel’s Cathedral is a must. Did you know that the building was destroyed in a huge fire on Christmas Day 2009? With a lot of work and community spirit, the cathedral was restored to its former glory and reopened in 2014.
A landmark that means so much to Longford locals, visit the magnificent building for yourself and see the Harry Clarke stained glass windows, the marble altar that comes from the same quarry as Michelangelo's statue of David, and the St. Mel statue that miraculously survived the fire.
Drop by the Luan Gallery in Athlone where there’s always a carefully curated mix of contemporary and traditional art on display. The exhibitions change every two months and showcase vibrant art with paintings, textiles, and sculptures.
Take a free guided tour from a knowledgeable guide who’ll walk you through the pieces and after, wander around the spacious gallery with its floor to ceiling windows overlooking the River Shannon. It’s a special place to spend an afternoon.
On a trip to Offaly, you can’t miss a visit to Lough Boora Discovery Park. It’s an opportunity to discover the flora and fauna of this bogland region and the perfect place to enjoy a picnic too.
Spot whooper swans, purple moor-grass, skylarks, and foxes along the shores of Lough Boora and spend time viewing the striking sculptures by Irish artists made from industrial materials such as timber and stone. Because of the unpredictable weather, these sculptures change over time and become part of the landscape once again.
Explore the Lough Derg Way, a 64km walking route that runs along the River Shannon from Limerick City to Dromineer in Tipperary. Start your journey from the trailhead in charming Clonlara, pass by the pretty village of O’Briensbridge and look out for the thirteen-arch bridge between the historic towns of Killaloe and Ballina.
Experience the Lough Derg Way from the Garrykennedy trailhead and walk through the rich green countryside before arriving at the buzzing town of Garrykennedy with its picture-perfect marina. Take on the entire walk over two and a half days or pick one of the shorter walks in Ballycuggeran Woods or Tountinna Hill.
When in Lough Derg, the viewing point at Portroe is a must-visit. Enjoy the panoramic views and look down to see magnificent cruisers on the lake, don’t forget to bring your camera.
Head on a long-distance bike ride along the Royal Canal Way, a 140km walking and cycling corridor from Dublin to Clondra in Longford. Follow the grassy towpath along the banks of the Royal Canal where you’ll spot colourful barges, limestone bridges, ancient ruins, and canal locks.
The Royal Canal is home to an abundance of wildlife so keep your eyes peeled for badgers, foxes, moorhens, and robins. Make time to stop off at the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, where entry is free, and see an actual Iron Age trackway deep in the boglands of Longford. The Danes’ Road is the largest of its kind in Europe and experts believe it was once part of a route of great historical importance.
With these ten delightful things to do, you can experience the natural beauty of this region without spending a single cent. Head over to our Ireland's Hidden Heartlands page for even more fun free things to do.
Subscribe now to receive destination inspiration, travel tips, upcoming events and all the best things to do around Ireland!