Where can you find the beautiful Lough Allen?
Lough Allen is an Irish lake, lying in the northwestern province of Connacht. Most of the lake is part of County Leitrim, with a much smaller part lying in County Roscommon. Covering a surface area of 14 square miles, Lough Allen is one of the largest lakes in Ireland.
Sitting slightly south of the River Shannon’s source in the Iron Mountains, Lough Allen is also the uppermost lake along the entire river. With the Slieve Aneurin mountain range to the east and the Arigna hills to the west, Lough Allen cuts through the valley below, creating a picturesque landscape of lake views and Irish hills – the epitome of the Emerald Isle.
You can begin or end a River Shannon cruise in Lough Allen, travelling along its route from source to sea. One of, if not the river of Ireland, tours along the River Shannon are some of the most rewarding in the country and Lough Allen is one of many must-see sights along the course.
Lough Allen has long been a firm focus for the surrounding area for centuries. The area surrounding Lough Allen in Ireland has been a region of Ireland famed for its iron mining for millennia – giving the name to the Iron Hills that surround it. From the 17th century onwards iron ore mines and works were set up around the lough, though fortunately none remain to spoil the picturesque green views surrounding the water today.
Starting your journey to Lough Allen
Getting to Lough Allen is an easy journey to make with your hired boat, especially if you start from Locaboat’s station at Carrick-on-Shannon. Carrick-on-Shannon boat hire allows you to rent one of Locabaots riverboats and set out north to Lough Allen. Joining the River Shannon from here, you will boat north, passing Lough Drumharlow and navigating the river as it passes through the lough. Before you reach Lough Allen, which is around 12 miles north of the Locabost base, you will pass through a few points of interest that may be worth stopping and exploring.
The first of these is the charming settlement of Leitrim Village, right alongside the River Shannon. Aside from the draw of the small village houses, shops and cafes, history buffs should also check out the ruins of O’Rourke’s Castle. A hark back to medieval Ireland, O’Rourke’s Castle once stood proudly overlooking the river.
Continuing north, you will pass along some of the most beautiful rolling green countryside in Europe, helping you to understand why this nation is known as the Emerald Isle the world over. As the river widens, your first sight of Lough Allen will quickly come into view, with the Lough Allen lake appearing more like an inland sea due to its jaw-dropping size.
5 Unforgettable things to do at Lough Allen
Once you have boated your way up the River Shannon and arrived at Lough Allen, you will find that there is much that this idyllic lake has to offer. First of all, you will want to find a place to moor your boat on the lake. Where to moor your boat will all depend on which area of the lake you want to explore first.
Entering the lake in the south, you can moor your boat at the mouth of Lough Allen at Drumshanbo. There are also two other spots, one to the east and one to the west. The eastern mooring spot is near Cleighran Mor and has a number of amenities surrounding it. The western spot at Spencer harbour is a little more secluded and quaint if this is what you would prefer.
Enjoy the native wildlife at Lough Allen
Boating holidays in Ireland offer some of the best chances to see the unchanged nature and wildlife of northwestern Europe and Lough Allen is no exception. The lough itself and the surrounding coniferous woodland that covers much of the outer reaches of Lough Allen are a haven for wildlife. This habitat provides perfect conditions for sheltered nesting sites in the undergrowth and plenty of feeding areas. Bird watchers will be chiefly pleased with what can be found here, as the lough’s surrounding area is inhabited by birds such as Merganser, Common Sandpiper, jay, heron, redpoll, crossbill, curlew and many more.
Alongside the many bird species, Lough Allen is also home to a number of sledom seen animals. First of these is the viviparous lizard, also known as the common lizard – Ireland’s only native reptile. During your boating holidays on Lough Allen, you may also be lucky to spot the pine marten which is surprisingly common around the woods and shore of Lough Allen.
This plethora of wildlife and nature alone makes Lough Allen a great place to visit. Far away from the built-up towns and cities of Europe, the green and pleasant woodlands and natural habitat are some of the most rewarding in all of Ireland.
Feel the thrill of watersports and bushcraft adventure
Once you’ve moored up your Lough Allen boat hire , the water and surrounding areas are free to be explored and enjoyed. One of the best places to do this is at Lough Allen Adventure, located at the southeast shore of the lough.
Here, you can hire and enjoy a range of watersports activities out on the lake. Lough Allen Adventure rents out and organises watersport activities such as stand up paddleboarding and kayaking. The vastness of the lough allows kayak exploration far and wide, taking in the pristine shoreline and numerous small islets. The hills that surround Lough Allen also provide the perfect conditions for windsurfing out on the lake, with a funnel effect creating ideal winds from the south and north – something that you can also do through the lakeside adventure companies.
One of the more unique activities to be enjoyed around Lough Allen is the programs of bushcraft adventure. Taken out in a group, you can learn the skills for surviving out in the wild. This includes shelter building, creating fire, wild foraging, and so much more. This is usually done throughout the woodlands and shore of Lough Allen, another way of truly immersing yourself in Ireland’s pristine wilderness.
Experience Arigna Mining
Due to the lough and its surrounding area being synonymous with mining for thousands of years, the history and culture of mining are preserved in the Argina Mining Experience, located at the southeast edge of Lough Allen.
While mining in the area ended in the 1990s, it has long been preserved as a cultural destination, ensuring this cultural heritage is not lost to the generations to come. The Arigna Mining Experience allows visitors to explore the once active coal mines nearby, with many of the tour operators being former miners themselves.
The mine was once only four feet high but has been heightened and widened to allow visitors to explore it comfortably. Arigna Mining Experience is also home to a plethora of mining equipment and paraphernalia, giving visitors an insight into the everyday experiences of Ireland’s miners.
Visit the Shed Distillery of PJ Rigney
Also located in the southeast region of Lough Allen is The Shed Distillery of PJ Rigney, a traditional Irish distillery. Visiting the distillery is a great way to tap into traditional Irish drink making, including Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, and more Irish made spirits. When visiting the distillery, you can also take a tour behind the scenes of how the famous gin and whiskey is made.
This fully immersive experience draws the curtain back on traditional Irish whiskey making, something that has been part of Irish culture for centuries. After taking a tour of the Shed Distillery of PJ Rigney, you may also want to make a visit to the onsite shop, taking away a bottle or two as a souvenir of your time spent on the shores of Lough Allen.
Explore the Moorlands Equestrian Centre
After boating your way up the River Shannon, enjoying the water with all things watersports, there is another way to truly immerse yourself in the Irish countryside of Lough Allen, and that is visiting Moorlands Equestrian Centre.
Lying on the southern shores of Lough Allen, Moorlands Equestrian Centre is a family-run horse riding centre that has been operating riding classes, excursions and scenic horse riding days out for nearly thirty years. Here, you can enjoy a horse riding trip from the shore of Lough Allen and explore the wider countryside with four hoofs.
Although horseback riding isn’t for everyone, the chance to explore the green fields, lakeside meadows and foothills of the Iron Mountains of Ireland from horseback ignites romantic notions of travelling Ireland and can be a highly rewarding activity.
A final word about Lough Allen
Lough Allen offers up one of the most quintessential Irish boating experiences anywhere on the Emerald Isle. From boating along on the country’s most famous rivers to immersing yourself amongst some of the pristine nature and wildlife Ireland has to offer. The perfect balance between idyllic isolation and numerous lakeside activities makes boating on Lough Allen a fantastic experience.