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

Explore Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands:

Intriguing castles, lakeside trails, endless blueways and charming towns. These cherry-picked delights of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands are yours to uncover with this ready-made 48-hour itinerary.

Duration of Itinerary: 2 days      

Highlights: Arigna Mining Experience, Acres Lake Boardwalk, Boyle Abbey, King House, Lough Key Forest Park, The Shed Distillery

2-Day Itinerary of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands

You don’t have to travel very far in Ireland for truly breath-taking sights and scenery, secret places full of life and bursting with charm.

Just ninety minutes or under from Dublin lies Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, a region packed with beautiful places, but so undiscovered it’s easy to see why it’s considered a “hidden treasure”.

If you’re looking for a short getaway out in nature but close to home, the waterways of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands are a haven of tranquillity – brimming with wildlife and diverse scenery. The forests, open moorland and impressive castles offer a wide choice of outdoor adventures. Uncover the rich history of this beautiful landscape, starting bright and early underground in the quaint village of Arigna.

Morning

Arigna Mining Experience, Co. Roscommon
Arigna Mining Experience, Co. Roscommon

Set yourself up for the day with a delicious breakfast at the Sweet Geranium Café in Drumshanbo.

Suitably fortified, take yourself up to the Arigna Mining Experience, where your guide will be a former miner who will share his unique insights into what coal mining life was like in the area since its beginning in the 1700s until its closure in 1990.

Afternoon

Lough Key Forest Park, Co. Roscommon
Lough Key Forest Park, Co. Roscommon

After lunch, you can spend a lazy afternoon at one with nature at Lough Key Forest and Activity Park. The Local Link bus runs between Boyle and Lough Key or if you are feeling active, hire a bike from Chain Driven in Boyle and cycle to reach this magnificent forest.

Once you’re there, choose from one of many ways to travel around the park. There is an 8km traffic-free woodland cycle path so you can pedal past red squirrels, foxes, hares and maybe even a stoat! Boats and Segways can be hired there too, and children will enjoy the jeep safaris and tractor runs.

Make sure to take time to explore some of the 350 hectares of mixed woodland, lake and islands, spotting the wildlife throughout Lough Key. Each trail leads you to a surprising attraction; a bog garden; an observation tower; an ice house; a wishing chair as well as the underground tunnels that beckon you to explore.

The tree canopy walk is the “peak” track that will really take your breath away. On this journey as you walk through the trees, you’ll discover how humans have shaped the landscape over thousands of years and get an insight into life in Rockingham Estate back in the 19th and 20th centuries. If you’ve little ones in tow, make a beeline for the Adventure Play Kingdom.

The Lakeside café is the perfect pit stop, with its mesmerising views over Lough Key and Castle Island. The Miners’ Way & Historical Walking Trail which runs to the park is part of the Beara-Breifne Way.

Evening

Drumshanbo is also home to one of Ireland’s most popular gins – Gunpowder Gin – which is handcrafted in traditional copper stills in The Shed Distillery by PJ Rigney (Visitor Centre opening early 2020). You also have your pick of places to stay, from B&Bs to hotels as well as camping and caravan parks.






In the second day, we’re giving you the option to go east or west – so choose your own adventure in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands!

Morning

Western option

Rise with the sun to enjoy the misty views of Lough Allen explore the new walkway and cycle path which starts in Drumshanbo before joining the Shannon Blueway. After partaking of a fresh scone and coffee at the Sweet Geranium Café, make your way across the wilds of North Leitrim to Glencar Waterfall, ever beautiful but particularly impressive after rain when the sound of the water crashing into the pool below is a memory in itself. Described as one of the most enchanting areas in Ireland, the beautiful landscape around Lough Gill and above Glencar were a rich source of inspiration for William Butler Yeats and is immortalised in his poems ‘The Lake Isle of Inishfree’ and ‘The Stolen Child’.

Afternoon

Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim
Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim

Next, we’re driving 35-minutes or cycling for 2-hours along the shores of Lough Allen and past Dromahair to Parke’s Castle. The core of this castle dates back to the O’Rourke clan in the 15th-century. In 1628, Sir Roger Parke came into possession of the Gaelic castle and built a fortified manor house around the original structure. There’s much more to learn about this castle’s past in the guided tours from April-September.

Evening

MacNean House, Restaurant & Cookery School in Blacklion, County Cavan is one of the leading restaurants in Ireland. It’s Neven Maguire’s diligence to his culinary art that has this restaurant booked out well in advance. If you’re looking to bring home the cooking techniques and flavour combinations that make MacNean so popular, then you can learn these at the cookery school.

For ideas on where to stay, read onto the end of this article.

The Marina, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim
The Marina, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim

Morning

Eastern option

After breakfast in Carrick-on-Shannon, take the 50-minute car trip to Lough Oughter, County Cavan, which is part of the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. It’s here you can explore the wonderful forest walking trails and views of the ruins of Clough Oughter Castle, located on its own island in the middle of the lake. If you’d like to cycle or paddle around the area, Cavan Adventure Centre are nearby to sort you out with gear.

The area is of international importance for its wildlife and is home to large flocks of Whooping Swans. Take a guided tour with Heather Bothwell with Blue Damsel Discovery and witness the local wildlife including the breath-taking colours and aeronautics of Cavan's dragonflies and damselflies.

Afternoon

The Derragarra Inn in Butlersbridge is an ideal stop to grab a bite before heading to a truly spectacular site – the Cavan Burren Park, which is also part of the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. On your way, you can stop off at the Shannon Pot, the source of Ireland’s mighty River Shannon. The name comes from the Irish Log na Sionna, log meaning a hollow or a pit.

In the Cavan Burren, wander through 340 million years of ancient geology along paths and boardwalks. Layers of prehistory can be witnessed in the fabric of the land, from boulders transported by glaciers to megalithic tombs built by our ancestors. Choose one of the five walking trails that you can explore at your own pace or learn about the secrets of the landscape from a knowledgeable Geopark guide.

The Marina, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim
Cavan Burren Park, Co. Cavan

Evening

Head back to Ballyconnell for a comfortable stay at Slieve Russell Hotel, Golf & Country Club. Or else relax in a contemporary suite at the 17th century Farnham Estate and Cavan Crystal Hotel both on the outskirts of Cavan Town. All these hotels offer spa and dining packages, and the former have stunning golf courses, so you can unwind by floating in a heated pool or teeing off to the stunning backdrop of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

If you’re not ready to leave Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, how about adding two days to your trip with this Carrick-on-Shannon itinerary? Here you can visit castles, forests, take a boat cruise or go on a Segway adventure.






you may also like

With 750km of cruising on offer, the town is the perfect gateway to the River Shannon, the Shannon-Erne waterway and unspoiled scenery throughout. Explore bogs, woodlands, historic towns and even the seat of Ireland’s most notorious High King on your circular route around stunning Lough Derg. A ‘subtropical paradise’, captivating stories and vibrant towns; uncover this area of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands today with our 2-day itinerary.
With 750km of cruising on offer, the town is the perfect gateway to the River Shannon, the Shannon-Erne waterway and unspoiled scenery throughout. Explore bogs, woodlands, historic towns and even the seat of Ireland’s most notorious High King on your circular route around stunning Lough Derg. A ‘subtropical paradise’, captivating stories and vibrant towns; uncover this area of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands today with our 2-day itinerary.