If you’re looking for a good excuse to explore Ireland from its majestic waterways, you can’t go wrong with Lough Derg . Full of history, culture and plenty of picturesque sites, here’s what you need to know about navigating this popular Irish canal.
Where is Lough Derg?
Lough Derg is a freshwater lake located in the midlands of Ireland, straddling three different counties – these counties include County Clare, County Galway and County Tipperary. Covering an area of over fifty square miles, Lough Derg is the third-largest lough in the entire country.
Its central location between the cities of Limerick to the west and Dublin to the east has long made it an important body of water. With links to a network of canals as well as the famous River Shannon, it’s the perfect place to arrive or depart on any Shannon cruises.
With a Locaboat station just north of the lake at Banagher, your Lough Derg cruise can begin close to the lake, winding your way down the most celebrated waterway in the Emerald Isle. Also, with Lough Derg on the Shannon River , you can also start your boating holiday further north at Carrick-on-Shannon. Both Carrick-on-Shannon and Banagher boat hire is common amongst those who visit the country and provide perfect vessels to explore the region.
Wherever you choose to start your Lough Derg adventure, you are sure to soak up some of the best views, waterways and natural spots that Ireland has to offer.
How to get to Lough Derg
As we’ve noted above, this section of the River Shannon is home to two main starting points. Deciding where to begin your Lough Derg experience will all depend on what you want to get out of your trip and what you’d like to see along the way.
Beginning from Carrick-on-Shannon
Starting further north along the River Shannon allows you to begin your journey to Lough Derg from the town of Carrick-on-Shannon. With Locaboat based here, Carrick-on-Shannon boat hire is a simple process and allows you to enjoy the sights and sounds of the small town before you set off.
By starting here, you can meander your way southwards along the River Shannon and take in the stunning surroundings before you arrive at Lough Derg . These surroundings include interesting historical sites, laidback riverside villages and many other of Ireland’s captivating lakes and loughs.
Although a much longer route compared to starting from Banagher, the section of the river from Carrick-on-Shannon to Lough Derg is some of the most popular waterways in all of the country and is just as rewarding as the destination itself.
Starting from Banagher
A starting point much closer to the lough is that of Banagher, a mere 15 miles north of the lake. Lough Derg boat trips beginning from Banagher have only a short trip before entering the lough from its north entrance on the River Shannon. As you boat between the two counties of County Galway and County Tipperary, the relaxed atmosphere of the river here is the perfect start to any Lough Derg boat tour .
Another advantage of starting your journey here is its central location between Lough Derg and the Irish capital of Dublin. Those coming from outside Ireland will have a streamlined connection from their first port of call in Dublin, to their boating holiday destination at Lough Derg .
Best time of the year to visit Lough Derg
Ireland as a whole is not exactly famous for its overly accommodating weather. And yet, there is definitely a better and worse time to visit the country and the lough itself. If it’s glorious summer sunshine that you are after when conducting your canal boat hire in Ireland, then July and August are, without doubt, the best time to visit Lough Derg .
This being said, July and August are both peak months for holidays in both Ireland, Great Britain and the wider European continent. So, if you’re set on getting that elusive Irish summer weather, be aware that accommodation and general services will be at their peak during these months, in both price and capacity.
Generally speaking, it’s best to visit Lough Derg and Ireland in general, during the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn. Visiting during the April, May, September and October months will provide a far less crowded lough and surrounding towns and villages.
Currency in Ireland
Since 2002, the Irish nation has used the Euro as their currency, much like the 19 out of 27 EU member countries. This currency comes in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 denomination notes, which can be bought from most national currency exchanges. As well as notes, the Euro is broken down into 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, alongside 1 and 2 Euro coins. ATM’s are widely available across Ireland, and you’ll have no problem using an international credit card in most shops.
8 things to see and do on Lough Derg
Once you’ve rented a boat at Lough Derg , you will have the great expanse of water, shorelines and the rural land surrounding the lake to explore. Everything from fantastic historical spots, breathtaking flora and fauna, world-class fishing and general lough life is here to entertain you. It is no surprise that Lough Derg is one of the most popular spots in Ireland to visit, and you will never be short of things to see and do here.
Try a spot of Lough Derg fishing
When it comes to the best fishing spots in Ireland, Lough Derg is the place to be. Widely seen as one of the premier fishing destinations in the whole country, many choose to visit Lough Derg in Ireland for this very reason. Lough Derg fishing boat hire is very common on the lake, yet with your own boat hired from Locaboat, you may be able to jump right in and start catching some record-breaking fish.
Lough Derg is a fantastic fishing spot for a wide range of anglers, and with so many different fish species here, you will be spoilt for choice. The water is home to fish species such as bream, tench, roach, perch and record-breaking pike, some of the largest seen anywhere in northern Europe. You don’t need a licence for coarse or pike fishing anywhere on the Shannon, but a share certificate is required for game fishing.
As an experienced angler, you can simply head out onto the lough under your own steam and enjoy a relaxed day fishing. Alternatively, there are a number of local fishing guides who run fishing tours out onto Lough Derg , and with years of experience fishing in these waters, they can add a huge amount of technical advice to your fishing trip.
With fishing being such a popular pastime on Lough Derg, it is no surprise that you will find plenty of fishing tackle shops, such as Tj’s in Killaloe and Treacy’s in Scarriff.
Cool down with a refreshing dip in Lough Derg
If a warm summer day is breaking you out in a sweat, or you can handle the cooler waters of Ireland, Lough Derg is a great place for a bit of wild swimming. Lough Derg marina as well as numerous lakeshore beaches, are perfect spots for enjoying a dip into the lake.
Somewhat surprisingly, Lough Derg is also home to a number of blue flag beaches, which have their own lifeguards and water safety patrols. Beaches can be found at the picturesque villages of Mountshannon and Portumna, and there is also a Blue Flag beach at Twomilegate lakeside amenity park at the extreme southwest of the lough.
For those who have a little bit of a thrill-seeking nature in them, the southern edge of Lough Derg , around the large village of Killaloe, is the ideal spot for jumping into the lake. Both visitors and locals alike make a game of jumping from the bridges and mooring piers into the lake, adding a little excitement to your daily swim.
Visit the Holy Island of Inis Cealtra
It’s well known that Ireland is a land of deep history, mystic and religious roots that are intertwined with ancient pagan and early Christian beliefs. During your time at Lough Derg , you can pull the curtain back on all of these Irish elements and step back in time.
In the far west of the lough lies the island of Inis Cealtra, known as Holy Island in English. Like something out of a fantasy novel or mysterious tale, Inis Cealtra has a long and textured history and one tightly linked with the history and culture of Ireland herself.
One of the first northern European countries to expect Christianity as its statewide religion, early Christain sights popped up all over Ireland. Inis Cealtra was once home to a monastery, which was constructed around the year 520. Soon after, many more monasteries and churches were to be constructed on the island, making it a sacrosanct location for Christianity within Ireland.
Soon after the reformation, the religious dwellings here fell into disrepair, and the whole island has become a ruined relic of Ireland’s Christian past. Visiting the island today, you can walk around the ancient buildings and a graveyard with burials dating back over a thousand years.
Although a small island compared to the wide expanse of Lough Derg , it is one the must-see places when visiting here. As many come from far and wide to visit the Holy Island of Inis Cealtra, being literally yards away in your Lough Derg boat means you can deluge in this iconic Irish landmark during your stay.
Stop off at Terryglass Village
Near the extreme northeast of Lough Derg is the small yet lively village of Terryglass. Terryglass Village is a popular stop-off for many people boating down the River Shannon and visiting Lough Derg. Simply moor up at the nearby Terryglass Harbour, and the village is a short walk away.
This area is popular due to the many facilities available for holidaymakers, which include barbecue spaces, picnic areas, showers and toilets. Often many groups of visitors to Lough Derg will gather in this area to enjoy a spot of socialising and general feel-good times.
If you’re looking for something a little more indoors, away from the elements, it is only a short walk into the inner village. Terryglass Village is home to a number of popular pubs, including Paddy’s Bar and The Derg Inn.
Explore Lough Derg Equestrian Centre
If you fancy trading your water going vessel for four legs, the Lough Derg Equestrian Centre is the perfect place to go. Nestled at the southern end of the lough, Lough Derg Equestrian Centre has been established for nearly 20 years and has long made the dreams of equestrian lovers come true.
There’s something about travelling on horseback around the green land of Ireland that makes horse riding a natural pastime in these parts. From those who have never even seen a horse in their life to expert and experienced horse riders, an afternoon at Lough Derg Equestrian Centre is welcome to all.
Taking you out in groups, you’ll ride your gentle beast around the shores of Lough Derg , taking in the picturesque sights as they pass you by. What two better ways of seeing one of Ireland’s most celebrated inland waterways; from the deck of a boat on the lake and from the saddle of an Irish horse.
Sample some sweet treats at Wilde Irish Chocolates
Just when you thought that Lough Derg and the surrounding Irish countryside couldn’t offer up anything more surprising, you’ll catch sight of Wilde Irish Chocolates. Located at the very southern edge of Lough Derg, Wilde Irish Chocolates is an independent chocolate factory located in the small Irish village of Tuamgraney.
Visiting Wilde Irish Chocolates will entice you into the long-forgotten activity of the cottage industry. Both a shop and factory, Wilde Irish Chocolates create and sell a wide range of chocolates on-site and will have you regarding Irish-made chocolates as just as good as the famous Belgian names. After a tour of this fantastic little chocolate factory, you can stock up on numerous choccy delights to keep up your strength as a boat throughout Lough Derg and the River Shannon.
Enjoy a round of gold at Portumna Golf Club
At the very north of Lough Derg is the Portumna Golf Club, an attractive mooring destination for those who love the sport. This course is sure to brighten the eyes of any keen golfer, regardless if they are experienced in visiting many courses or not. This is down to the fact that Portumna Golf Club is made up of woodland and forests, perfectly set out as you would expect from a green cast island such as Ireland.
This unusual setting for a golf course means that there are many elevated tee-box positions, an inviting challenge for many connoisseurs of the game. Being so close to the lough and surrounded by the idyllic nature of rural Ireland, teeing off a few well-intentioned games of golf is the perfect way of destressing – not that your stress levels will be high after securing your Lough Derg boat hire .
Catch sight of native wildlife around Lough Derg
As a wide expanse of water in rural Ireland, it will come as no surprise that Lough Derg is a haven for wildlife in the area. One of the best reasons for exploring and visiting such a place is to lap up the fantastic flora and fauna.
One of the first instances of the natural world you will see on Lough Derg is the plethora of birdlife on the water. Great-crested Grebe can be seen diving for fish dinner on the surface of the lake, with their distinctive black plumed feathers on display. Alongside these is a huge population of Cormorants, who nest a little way from the lake, yet come to feed. A little more difficult to spot, although you can hear their call with great distinction, is the humble cuckoo.
Aside from the huge variety of bird species, Lough Derg is also home to a number of mammals. One of the best animals on the Lough Derg must-see list is the ever-rarer red squirrel. Most of the red squirrel population in northern Europe, especially the British Isles, has been decimated by the evasive grey squirrel. This beloved red rodent can be seen jumping from tree to tree in the nearby woods and forests surrounding the lough.
Top of the list on the animal-spotting list of Lough Derg for most people is the famous fallow deer. Although naturally quite an elusive animal, fallow deer can be spotted around the Portumna Forest Park, just north of Lough Derg. To get a good look at these quite secretive animals, it’s advisable to wake up before dawn or head down to the forest as the day is ending.With such a huge array of wildlife, it is no surprise that many visit Lough Derg for the chance to see such wild wildlife.