48 hours in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Longford, Roscommon and Leitrim

2-Day Itinerary of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands:

Hidden landscapes, a ‘subtropical paradise’, captivating stories and vibrant towns; the central area of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is ready to uncover. Start planning your trip today with our 48 hour itinerary.

Duration of Itinerary: 2 days      

Highlights: Carrick-on-Shannon, Costello Chapel, Center Parcs Longford Forest, Clonalis House, National Famine Museum - Strokestown Park, Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, Roscommon Castle, The Suck Valley Way

Center Parcs

Spend 3 or 4 nights in Center Parcs Longford Forest – only ninety minutes from Dublin. Boasting a tropical climate, this brand-new centre offers wooden lodges, restaurants for every taste all in the tranquil oasis of a 400-acre forest in Longford. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil mini-break or an adrenaline-fuelled getaway; or perhaps a bit of both, Center Parc’s amenities make it easy to get everything you want out of your trip.

Once you’ve slipped on your togs, it’s off to the Center Parc’s Subtropical Swimming Paradise – Ireland’s largest waterpark – where you can tackle the Wild Water Rapids or relax in one of the whirlpools. If you’re seeking more of a thrill, there’s the Tropical Cyclone raft ride which is a “gravity-defying drop” as well as the two-seater Typhoon ride that not only includes those heart-racing drops but also swings up to 45kph.

If you’re looking to have your feet on solid ground then how about exploring the park’s forest? Many of the trees are 300 years old. Try outfield archery in the wilderness or head up to the canopies for an aerial adventure as you swing through the trees along the rope course. And then it’s time to warm up in the Lava Sauna followed by a hot stone massage at Aqua Sans Spa.

Head back to one of the ten restaurants for a spot of lunch and pack your bags for the next step in the adventure.

Morning

At just 13km away from Centre Parcs, a 40-minute cycle or a 15-minute spin in the car, is Corlea Trackway – a reconstructed oak pathway from medieval times. A fully preserved section of the original path can be seen in all its ancient glory in the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre. A 90-minute cycle or 25-minute car trip through Lanesborough leads you to Strokestown House – a beautifully-preserved Georgian Palladian mansion. Hear stories of assassination and Irish court life in the 19th-century as you wander through the rooms still decked out with the original furnishings and fabrics. Make sure to have a gander through the historic gardens and woodlands.

Not to be missed is the National Famine Museum within Strokestown Park, which draws on a combination of original documents and images relating to the Great Famine of the 1840s. This collection boasts an extensive range of papers including actual letters written by the tenants on the Strokestown Estate at the time of the famine.

Afternoon

Before leaving the park, relax in the café before travelling on to the medieval village of Tulsk where you’ll spot Rathcroghan Visitor Centre– by bike just 45 minutes (13km) from Strokestown. The centre interprets the rich archaeology and mythology of a prehistoric royal site, which was home to the fearsome Iron Age Warrior Queen Medb (Maeve), and starting place for the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley), the oldest vernacular epic in European Literature. A guided tour uncovers the hidden landscape of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – this is definitely a site not to be missed.

The final destination of the day is the town of Roscommon, just an hour’s cycle southwards along the N61. Offering a friendly atmosphere, wander this traditional county town before making your way to the castle.

Views of Roscommon Castle, Co. Roscommon
Views of Roscommon Castle, Co. Roscommon

Roscommon Castle is an imposing 13th-century Norman structure built in 1269 by Robert de Ufford, Justiciar of Ireland, on lands he had seized from the Augustinian Priory.

Delve into the castle’s fascinating history; how it was besieged by the Connacht King Aodh O'Connor in 1272, and eight years later when it was again in the hands of the English garrison who fully restored the fortress. Discover how it was partially blown up by Cromwellian ‘Ironsides’ and its demise in 1690 when it was burned down and fell into decay.

Evening

Roscommon has no shortage of quaint pubs where you can sit yourself down on a stool, order your tipple of choice and relax into the evening. And whether you’re looking for a B&B, caravan park or hotel, be sure to get a decent amount of shut-eye for day two of your explorations.

Morning

Start the morning with a hearty breakfast at Gleesons Townhouse or Rogue & Co followed by a relaxing walk around Loughnaneane Park just outside the town. Walk over a long-lost lake – known as a turlough (dry lake). The park includes a crannog known locally as the ‘Hill o' Bones’; a wildflower meadow; bird walk; lake feature; and mounds.

And while the day is still young, make your way out of Roscommon along the N60 to the town of Castlerea where you’ll find Clonalis House, an elegant Victorian residence owned by the O’Conor family who are direct descendants of the last High Kings of Ireland. The house is open for guided tours from June through to August, and a range of exclusive accommodation options.

Hailed as the perfect place to escape into the wild, The Suck Valley Way – a section of the historic Beara-Breifne Way – passes through Castlerea. The trail offers the chance to explore the heart of Ireland by walking, angling or cycling in the valley of the River Suck.

Rainbow arching over a shadowed vale, Co. Roscommon
Rainbow arching over a shadowed vale, Co. Roscommon

Next you can start back on your journey by taking the R361 and cycle the 2 hours 15 mins (42km), or hop back behind the wheel for a forty minute spin to Carrick-on-Shannon.

Afternoon

Carrick-on-Shannon is a vibrant and bustling town with a calendar of festivals happening over the summer. But options to get off the beaten track are never far away in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and a cruise with Moon River Cruises delivers on panoramic views of the softly undulating horizon that simply cannot be accessed through any other form of transport! Carrick-on-Shannon is also a hub for three, four or seven-day cruise rentals with a great choice of destinations.

Visit The Leitrim Design House, set in the 19th-century courthouse building it gives a platform to talented local designers, makers and artists. They often hold “Meet the Maker” events where you can call in and learn about the inspiration and process involved in the artist’s creations.

Drop in for a quick visit to Costello Chapel – one of Ireland’s smallest churches sandwiched between two shops on one of the town’s main streets. It’s often said to be a “true labour of love” given that Edward Costello built it in memory of his beloved wife in 1879.

Evening

Dine in the award-winning Oarsman Pub for a meal made from the best of local produce. Or perhaps The Cottage Restaurant is more your style, located just a few kilometres from Carrick-on-Shannon. Sham, the owner, combines “a subtle blend of Asian influences from his grandmother’s kitchen, to modern Irish and European favourites”.

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is close to all the main cities of Ireland; yet feels far away from it all. Dip your toe into not only the lakes of this region but also the culture, immense historical significance and, most importantly, the spectacular nature on offer.

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