Overview

Family Fun on the Shannon-Erne Blueway

Ballyconnell White Water Course
Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Drumshanbo Canal
Sliabh An Iarainn Visitor Centre
Canadian Canoeing
Bear Essentials
Crom Esate

Connecting the Erne System with the Shannon River, the Shannon-Erne’s history stretches back to the mid-19th century.  And while it was originally designed as a working waterway, it is now a place of pure pleasure and boasts a recently developed Blueway, with 15 individual  paddling journeys on lakes, rivers and canals. Leitrim Village is where the waterway starts and it makes a great place to base yourself with a wide array of accommodation, from the Leitrim Marina Hotel to Leitrim Quay Self-Catering.  It’s a scenic, tranquil spot with a pretty marina and pleasant canal-side walks.  The attractive village of Drumshanbo is a short drive (or cycle) away. Along the Shannon-Erne Waterway you’ll find a pleasant array of towns and villages, including quiet Ballinamore and the historic town of Ballyconnell. Winding through County Cavan, the waterway takes a fork in the water with one stretch reaching Belturbet and the other up to Crom.  At Belturbet, grab a few cakes at Dinkin’s Bakery and head over to Turbet Island for a picnic, or make you way to Crom and spend the day exploring the beauty of this magnificent National Trust estate with castle views, and rippling lake.
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Day 1 on the Shannon-Erne Blueway image

Day 1

Day 1 on the Shannon-Erne Blueway

Ballyconnell White Water Course
Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Drumshanbo Canal
Sliabh An Iarainn Visitor Centre

Start your day with some thrills and spills, beginning at Lock 2 in Ballyconnell, the white water course suits experienced adventurists who are happy to tackle the rapids, standing waves, eddies and rock piles along the course.

Not to worry, if a more relaxed approach is your thing, then there are plenty of ways to enjoy adventure of more laid-back kind by canoeing or kayaking with some of the Blueway’s great tour companies, including Adventure Gently Canoe Tours, Cavan Canoeing, and Way To Go Adventures. Or a tour with Leitrim Surf Company, who specialises in SUP and surf, with guided stand-up paddle-boarding along sections of the Blueway from Leitrim Village.

For lunch drop in during the cooler months to the Barge Restaurant and Steakhouse in Leitrim Village, and you can enjoy dishes beside the open fire, while in summer the beer garden opens up for relaxed dining alfresco.

Finish your day with mesmerising reflections on the water along the Shannon-Erne Blueway, but look up as the beautiful Iron Mountain or Sliabh an Iarainn comes into view.

Beautiful walking trails here bring you into the heart of the mesmerising landscape – a place so appealing that it is said to have been the landing place of Tuatha dé Danann, a mythical race of god-like people who had incredible powers.

After touching down, surrounded by “dark clouds”, the gods “brought a darkness over the sun lasting three days”. Pick the right day, and you’ll have the landscapes around here looking their best in the beautiful sunshine, highlighting the greens, rusty browns and navy waters of the landscape at the Sliabh an Iarainn Visitor Centre at Drumshanbo, explore more about the people, transport and industry of the area.

For dinner it's hard to get a better experience than sitting by the fire in Smyth's and enjoying a rich, warming bowl of beef stew, and maybe even a pint of Guinness! This is a fabulous little pub – quirky, friendly, traditional and it's a delight both at lunchtime or in the evening, when you might get a bit of music thrown into the mix. Main Street, Ballinamore.

Day 2 on the Shannon-Erne Blueway image

Day 2

Day 2 on the Shannon-Erne Blueway

Canadian Canoeing
Bear Essentials
Crom Estate

A perfect way to experience these waters is with a guide, who can bring you out for short hops or even a whole day's exploration. Travel the Blueway in the company of a local and you can unlock secrets that hide around every bend, from rolling mountains steeped in myth to beautiful old ruins.  Stephen Wrynn of Way To Go Adventures is one such local guide who can unveil aspects of this landscape you might not otherwise see. Running tours and excursions in a Canadian canoe, Stephen will be by your side as you travel through this stunning watery landscape.

The chance to immerse yourself deeper into the graceful green countryside comes at specific points on the Blueway, with walking trails at Leitrim Village, Ballinamore, Skelan, Ballyconnell and Belturbet. These really offer a chance for some quiet contemplation in a charming natural environment where life goes slow – and you can, too. And with distances of around 5km, the trails are perfect for old and young alike.

As the Shannon-Erne winds its way through County Cavan, head for Bawnboy, the young at heart will get a real kick out of a visit to Bear Essentials and its Silver Bear Centre.  With workshops, events and crafts, as well as a showcase of old and new teddy bears – not to mention a teddy bear hospital – if you have a lovable fluffy bear who may be in need of some TLC, you know where to go...  

The water stretches to south to reach the town Belturbet and to the north up to Crom Estate. Stand at the ruins of the Old Castle in Crom and a scene of pastoral beauty unfolds all around you, from the glassy waters to the old yew trees to Crichton Tower on an island in the lake. It’s an exceptionally scenic place – a landscape graced with islands, woodland and historic ruins including a boathouse and summerhouse. Whether you wish to take afternoon tea in the visitor centre or wander one of the walking trails, Crom’s sedate elegance and languid beauty is hard to resist. 

Head either way for more leg-stretching opportunities, but if it's Belturbet that your trail takes you to, grab a few cakes at Dinkin's Bakery and head over to Turbet Island for a picnic. It's a short walk, but it has a fascinating history (this is where the first ever remains of a woolly mammoth were found in Europe).

Fill your belly with a real charm, visit Tara and Geroid Lynch's Olde Post Inn in the genteel village of Cloverhill, County Cavan. Set within the old post office dating from the 1800s, the surroundings are almost as delightful as the food, which is crafted using the finest ingredients from local suppliers.