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“I could go back for three weeks” – Roz Purcell’s holiday in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
Experience Ireland's Hidden Heartlands with Roz Purcell.
Ireland's Hidden Heartlands logo colour
If you follow Roz Purcell on Instagram, you’ll know her vibrant snaps capture the beauty of our incredible island. The cookery author and outdoor adventurer recently travelled to the Hidden Heartlands and well, the experience well and truly blew her away.

Open water pools, magical castles, sunrise hot tubs and Ireland’s largest water park are just some of the epic things in this part of the country. As Roz puts it, she “could go back for three weeks, there’s just so much to do”.

Find great adventures in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands

The Hidden Heartlands is home to some fantastic outdoor experiences including an open water pool in Banagher, Offaly and Baysports, one of Ireland’s largest waterparks in Athlone, County Westmeath.

Roz describes Baysports as one of the trip’s highlights, bringing out her inner child.

“It’s this huge obstacle course with inflatable slides and floats on the lake, and it was just so much fun. It brought another element to the trip. I felt like I was reliving my youth a little bit, going back to my teenage years. The Heartlands are full of adventure”.

Kayakers playing at Baysports, Athlone, Westmeath
Find fun and excitement at Baysports in Athlone.

Thankfully, Athlone has fantastic cafés to warm up in afterwards with a delicious hot drink and yummy treat. Try the caramel and apple tart with vegan ice cream at Beans and Leaves Café or the homemade tiramisu at Savoury Fare and experience Athlone like a local.

Another unforgettable experience was a sunrise swim at the open water pool in Banagher, Offaly. This riverside town is the perfect place to relax, unwind and enjoy the tranquil pace of life in this part of the country.

“With the Shannon open water pool I posted about on Instagram, I don't think I've ever gotten so many messages about something in my life.

“I went there for sunrise and had it totally to myself. The Banagher Bridge was so misty and foggy, it was amazing. Wherever I went, every corner I turned, there was something new to discover”.

Ireland's Hidden Heartlands is an incredible place for anyone who likes to get out on the water. From paddle boarding to floating boardwalks and cruising holidays, there's an aquatic adventure here for everyone. Make sure you check out our article on the epic waterways in this amazing region. 

Roz Purcell standing in the water at sunrise in Banagher Outdoor Swimming Pool, Offaly
Enjoy a sunrise dip at the open water pool in Offaly.

Plan a memorable romantic getaway

If you’re looking for somewhere special to visit with your other half, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands should be on your list. With romantic picnic spots and breathtaking sunsets, you’ll never want to leave.

“The sunset hot tub experience at Wineport Lodge on Lough Ree was amazing. The lake was all pink and it’s up there as something I'll always remember. If someone's heading to the Heartlands, I'd highly recommend it, it was just magical”.

Roz Purcell in a wooden hot tub at sunset at Wineport Lodge in Athlone, Westmeath
Soak up the sunset in a hot tub.

“Hidden Heartlands is the perfect name. If you want a romantic getaway, this is the spot”.

If you’re planning a special break for two, Roz has another recommendation - a picnic at Yew Point in Athlone. The stunning wicker picnic basket from the Hodson Bay Hotel is a smorgasbord of delicious treats that's hand delivered by a butler to your incredible picnic spot under an ancient oak tree.

“We went to Yew Point, beside the hotel. There was a bench set up under trees on the Yew Point Walk, with a full service and delicious food. It was like Love Island… when they go on their final dates. It was so nice, and I feel like the trip gave me so many great date ideas for people.

Nothing quite says 'romantic getaway' like an unforgettable meal out in a spectacular restaurant. Woo your partner and book a table at one of these gorgeous restaurants and see why they're some of the best kept secrets in the country. Keep the idyllic holiday going with a visit to the sumptuous spa at Kilronan Castle Estate and treat yourself to a refreshing massage and nourishing treatments.

Roz Purcell sitting at a picnic table under a tree at Yew Point, Westmeath
Roz recommends a picnic for two at Yew Point in Athlone.

Immerse yourself in ancient history

Roz’s holiday featured rich history too, with visits to Celtic Bog Roots Studio, The Claypipe Centre, and Roscommon Castle. Listening to ghost stories, carving crafts from bog oak, and learning the art of Ogham writing are just some of the unique experiences she encountered.

“Where we were in the Midlands, there was so much mythology. I felt a real connection with Ireland when I was in the Heartlands".

Roz Purcell sitting on a wooden chair carved with animal sculptures on the grounds of Roscommon Castle, Roscommon
Sit back and enjoy the views from the Nature Chair in Roscommon.


“The people who are giving the tours are beyond passionate about what they're speaking about. You're talking to someone about the mythology of Roscommon Castle, and they're so enthusiastic about it that you feel like you're back in time with them.

“They know all these amazing stories that are just so captivating. You almost feel like you’re watching a Netflix documentary. The talent of the people who are giving tours across Ireland, it’s like no place else”.

Find even more historical wonders nearby at the Roscommon County Museum and see an inscribed stone from the 9th century and wonderful examples of Sheela na gigs. Walk ten minutes across Roscommon Town to the ruins of Roscommon Abbey afterwards, where the King of Connaught is rumoured to be buried.

Roz Purcell climbing a stone staircase in Roscommon Castle
Explore the ruins of Roscommon Castle.

There’s always something new to see

Roz regularly shares recommendations for things to see and do in Ireland, from stunning swimming spots to magnificent mountain trails. With 529k followers and counting, Roz’s content is well received and she’s keen to continue exploring. 

“I’m very grateful of the country we live in, and I won't be taking it for granted. I'll be doing more and more staycations.

“As things go back to normal, what I've realised is, there is so much to keep discovering. Every time I go back somewhere, I find something new.

Having experienced some of the best things to do in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, Roz has no plans to stop adventuring just yet. "I'm in Sligo again this week, and I've just found a new open water pool and did a new hike this morning."

It’s time to experience Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands

Roz raves about her holiday in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and with such a variety of things to do and see, it’s no surprise she’s keen to return.

“In terms of hidden swimming spots, great lakeside walks, food spots, and activities, it was up there as one of my favourite staycations in Ireland”.

Get more inspiration from the Ireland's Hidden Heartlands page and start planning your trip to this spectacular part of the country.

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