Gently floating in a canoe on the slow-moving waters of the River Shannon as the sun slowly rises is one of those “wow” experiences. Watson’s trip started from Portumna Bridge as the crisp fresh dawn opened into a beautiful morning.
A spot of paddling is the perfect way to see the majestic world of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands with picturesque places dotted all along the waterways. Stop by Lough Derg Watersports and choose from a fleet of different boats as expert guides show you the best of the lake.
By the shores of Lough Derg, the impressive Portumna Castle and Gardens casts a shadow on the peaceful lawns. Admire the spectacular architecture with plenty of exhibits to show how the aristocracy lived 300 years ago.
Spend some time strolling around the gardens with your pup. There’s a lot to see from the Willow Maze to the potager gardens, which have been beautifully restored to their original splendour. Dogs aren’t allowed into the castle, but Watson enjoyed the gardens on his lead while his owners took turns to have a peek inside. Order a coffee to go from CaToCa Fine Food on the castle’s grounds and explore with a delicious hot drink.
Enjoy a morning on the edge of Lough Ree and watch the sun climb high in the sky, while playing fetch with your four-legged friend. Studded with islands, Lough Ree is a realm of saints, high kings, fallen warriors and even has its own sea monster.
Lough Ree's monster is reputed to be six feet long. It’s not as big as Scotland's Nessie, but there have been several “sightings” and many suspicious bumps on passing cruisers reported. The water was a bit nippy for prolonged sea monster chasing, but Watson was happy to lead the way on a brisk walk along the spectacular Coosan Point.
If you have time, hop on a rental boat from Lough Ree Cruisers with your dog and cruise down tranquil waterways. Pull in for a harbourside lunch or pack a picnic and unwind, listening to the water lapping against the boat.
Watson uncovered the quietly beautiful Portlick Millennium Forest on his trip. Dogs and owners alike feel refreshed after a few hours exploring this wonderful wooded park along the glades and farmlands of the Whinning Peninsula. The gnarled roots and broad, delicate leaves of our native deciduous trees take you back to an ancient time. At 5km, the Westmeath trail is a nice distance for an entire afternoon’s walking, but shorter treks are also available.
Walking along tree lined trails can work up quite the appetite. The inviting Beans and Leaves a short drive away in Athlone serves up classic sandwiches and dishes with a menu to suit everyone and an outdoor dining area that’s dog friendly.
The beautiful Saint’s Island is yet another monastery in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands reached through a series of winding country roads. This otherworldly place in the heart of Longford became one of the most important islands on Lough Ree when Saint Ciarán founded a monastery there in 544.
Even though technically an island, it is linked to the mainland by a narrow 1km causeway that Watson loved running down. The walk is spectacular in itself, but so is the destination. It’s easy to see why the monks came here - this remote sanctuary is a wonderfully peaceful and spiritual spot to get away from it all.
Plan another walk through the Longford countryside with a visit to Corlea Trackway and explore the remnants of an ancient road.
This view is a true picture of the serenity that’s found throughout Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. There are lots of beautiful spots on the lake with the waterfall reached through a moss-covered wonderland. Don’t forget your camera to capture the incredible scenery.
Explore the five unique walking trails at Cavan Burren Park and after, head into the visitor centre to learn about the history of a place that has stood still in time for thousands of years. Watson spent several hours exploring the trails throughout the park, regarded as one of the finest prehistoric relict landscapes in Ireland.
Spot fossils embedded in limestone and the coral of a tropical sea from 340 million years ago. Glaciers carved out the local landscape of this prehistoric wonderland during the last Ice Age after which humans arrived and built the megalithic tombs and stone walls still visible today.
With spectacular walking trails and wonderful waterways, visit Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands where you and your dog can enjoy endless hours of fun. Remember to leave the landscape as you found it, and check out our Leave No Trace guide for tips before your next great adventure outdoors.