| 14.3°C Dublin

Go big oar go home

From Drumshanbo to Carrick-On-Shannon, by board, bike or on foot - Leitrim is ideal for exploring the heartlands, writes Audrey Kane


Audrey gives stand-up paddleboarding a go.

Audrey gives stand-up paddleboarding a go.

Audrey gives stand-up paddleboarding a go.

Like many others, this is my second staycation in Ireland since the pandemic began. And do you know what - this may be slightly controversial - I actually don't mind.

While there's no denying guaranteed sunshine every morning would be an added bonus, I'm exploring what's basically on my own doorstep and finding we're really at the top of our game during a crisis.

As part of my trip, I was invited along to lovely Leitrim. From food to art, castles by the sea and endless water activities, here are some of the best things I found to do.

1. Leitrim Surf Company


When your day begins by paddling down the River Shannon, well, you know life ain't so bad. Lee Guckian, who runs the company specialising in stand-up paddleboarding safaris on the Shannon Blueway, was our guide for the two-hour trip.

Dubbed 'Drumshamazon', we took a sheltered route where the scenery is Amazonian and also secluded enough so you don't have anyone laughing at you as you try to get onto the board, never mind stand up.

It has to be one of the most fun ways to spend a morning, trying out new skills and seeing the country from a different view - sometimes from the board and sometimes from the water. It was something I never thought I'd enjoy and I felt almost zen-like floating along... until I hit the water. But even this didn't dampen my spirits as I simply (with the help of Lee) got back on board and paddled my way to shore. This adventure will be on my highlight reel of holiday memories for a long time to come.


Audrey has drinks and dessert at The Landmark Hotel.

Audrey has drinks and dessert at The Landmark Hotel.

A gin and whiskey tasting tour at The Shed Distillery.

A gin and whiskey tasting tour at The Shed Distillery.


Audrey has drinks and dessert at The Landmark Hotel.

2. The Shed Distillery


After my Shannon baptism, it was time for a different kind of SUP-ing at The Shed Distillery. The tour is really enjoyable and capped off with a tasting. The staff's knowledge and pride in the place shines through, and while it's fascinating learning the process of distilling their Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin, Sausage Tree Vodka and Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, it's even better tasting it. The Jackalope café and gift shop are also open on site.

3. The Landmark 4-Star Hotel


Situated on the banks of the river Shannon in the picturesque town of Carrick-on -Shannon, the hotel couldn't be any more central. So, after a long day SUP-ing and supping, it was time to check in. The hotel has quite a grand feeling as soon as you enter, and arriving at our Landmark Suite, with panoramic river views and graceful furnishings, we were suitably impressed.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

There are a number of dining options inside and outside, including the Boardwalk Restaurant and Bar, where we ate that night. We opted for a sharing charcuterie tray and were completely blown away by the feast for just ¤32 followed by Toblerone cheesecake, ¤7.95 - which we also shared (reluctantly on my part). Oh, and a cheeky Mojito to help the food go down.

From front-of-house to the restaurant staff, they are all super friendly and make you feel really at home and welcome in their town, and it's definitely one to put on your radar for either dinner, accommodation or both.

4. Glencar Waterfall

Formoyle, Glencar

Remembered in WB Yeats' poem The Stolen Child, Glencar Waterfall is a must. This enchanting waterfall is located near Glencar Lough and you can grab yourself a cup of coffee in the little café near the car park and take the short stroll up to the 50ft waterfall where you can listen to the water crashing down. It is particularly impressive after heavy rainfall - which is not hard to come by on an Irish holiday.


Parke’s Castle.

Parke’s Castle.

The Red Brick restaurant.

The Red Brick restaurant.


Parke’s Castle.

5. The Dock & Leitrim Design House

leitrimdesignhouse.ie & thedock.ie

Our next stop took us to the Leitrim Design House, located in The Dock - a beautiful 19th-century courthouse building in the heart of Carrick-On-Shannon. The gallery and shop represents over 250 designers, makers and artists working in the creative sector. The gallery also features cutting-edge exhibits. A great opportunity to support Ireland's creative industry.

6. Costello Memorial Chapel

Main Street, Townparks, Carrick-On-Shannon

It would be so easy to walk past this charming little chapel, but it's so worth stopping to see this monument to love. The Costello Chapel was built by local merchant Edward Costello after the death of his wife, Mary, in 1877. The couple continue to rest beneath glass panels today, their coffins on full view beneath a stained glass window.

7. Floating Boardwalk

Acres Lake in Drumshanbo

In the picturesque village of Drumshanbo, you'll find the start of a 6.5km linear walking and cycling trail along the Shannon Blueway. You can soak up the stunning scenery before heading out to dinner.

8. The Red Bank Restaurant


Like most restaurants, The Red Bank has adapted well to the pandemic and continues to offer an outside dining option with its dome venue. They are set-up well for the ever-changing Irish weather - providing shade from the sun and shelter from the rain.

The food and service are exceptional and the prices are very reasonable for the quality of the ingredients. For starters, I had seared scallops, kataifi prawn and Andarl Farm pork belly, while main was a mouth-watering 12-hour braised beef feather blade with wild mushrooms and rich port jus.

To round it off, because, well, it would be rude not to, dessert was Chocolate Calypso, coming to a total of ¤40 for one. All nicely washed down with a bottle of Chateau Haut Blanville 2018 Merlot for ¤29 - which I shared (once again, reluctantly) with my other half.

9. 17th century Parke's Castle


The Landmark Hotel is perfectly situated beside the River Shannon

The Landmark Hotel is perfectly situated beside the River Shannon

The Landmark Hotel is perfectly situated beside the River Shannon

Kilmore, Fivemilebourne

Stately and stunning, this former plantation still stands from the 17th century and was home to the English captain Robert Parke. Situated on the banks of Lough Gill, the house isn't open due to restrictions, but you can still walk around the grounds, and it offers amazing views around the lake.

10. Strokestown Park House


On our way home, we stopped off at Strokestown Park House which is situated within the small, pretty town of the same name. There lies this magnificent Georgian Palladian 19th-century mansion, preserved with its original furnishings and fabrics.

The house is undergoing redevelopment so no tours are available, but you can still wander around the six-acre walled gardens and woodlands. You can also enjoy a coffee and a slice of cake sitting in one of their new outdoor dining pods. Their new National Famine Museum will open in 2022.

11. Ardcarne Garden Centre


While in Roscommon, our final stop was lunch. Everything about this café is wonderful, from the friendly and helpful staff to the wholesome and healthy food - watermelon and feta cheese. We ate outside in the garden centre surrounded by nature. Not a bad way to finish off a holiday.


Travel factfile

LOCATION: See fáilteireland.ie

  • Audrey Kane was a guest of Fáilte Ireland, whose Keep Discovering campaign is encouraging Irish people to experience the joy of discovering the many hidden gems that Ireland has to offer this autumn and beyond.
  • FOR more staycation inspiration, visit discoverireland.ie or follow @discoverireland.ie and @irelandshiddenheartlands on Instagram.

Late deals

THE Wicklow Escape is now offering its outdoor dining experience at their Firey restaurant to non-residents. Bookings are open for Wednesdays and Fridays, with 6.30pm and 7.45pm time slots available. Foodies are in for a treat, with a four-course menu designed by one of Ireland’s leading chefs, Danni Barry, with complimentary wine pairing.

Booking is essential as spaces are limited, and the menu is priced at €89 per head. Located at Ballinclea, Donard, Co Wicklow, the foodie haven has proven to be hugely popular post-lockdown, with guests being able to book overnight and weekend-long packages.

But now non-residents will also get a chance to experience the stunning location.

See thewicklowescape.


If you haven’t had a holiday yet this summer, like a lot of us, you might consider a trip now that the schools are back? Cassidy Travel has great last-minute deals like this one to the beautiful island of Malta, departing on September 28.

 Located in the central Mediterranean, you will be soaking up the almost year-round sunshine and exploring the rich array of historic sites and cultural attractions Malta has to offer.

  Seven nights in the four-star Golden Tulip Vivaldi Hotel (pictured), flights, transfers and 10kg bag per person is only €309pp with limited availability (based on two people sharing).

Call Cassidy Travel on  01-8901000.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices