The Midlands is a popular tourist destination because of it’s rich natural beauty including lakes, waterways and canals, along with rich culture and history.
Top Reasons to Visit
Clonmacnoise Monastery – This spiritual religious settlement withstood attacks by Vikings, Normans, and the English for hundreds of years.
Country Mansions – From Birr Castle to Tullynally Castle, the Midlands are home to many fine estates and gardens as well as some of the best farmland in Ireland.
The Slieve Bloom Mountains – The 32 kilometre long Slieve Bloom Trail is a fantastic hiking path with stunning scenery on offer.
Athlone – There’s a restored 13th Century castle and the oldest pub in Europe as well as a collection of quirky shops and the recently opened Luan Gallery.
The Treasure House of Emo– This grand example of Palladian extravagance dates to the 18th Century and features stunning rotunda which was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
The east Midlands is only about an hour from Dublin and has such grand stately homes as Belvedere House, Emo Court, and Tullynally Castle. There’s also rich history to be found in Abbeyliex village, Fore Abbey, and Kilbeggan Distillery. Cavan and Monaghan to the north are two of the three counties of Ulster in the Republic (the other is Donegal) and the area north of Cavan Town is home to many spectacular lakes.
The west Midlands meanwhile offers one of the more out of the way corners of the Ireland if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. Large bogs and stately homes such as Birr Castle and Strokestown House can be found here as well as Clonmacnoise Monastery.
Ireland’s Midlands are popular with cyclists.
Cruising on the River Shannon
Both one hour and weeklong tours and cruises of the Shannon, the longest river in the British Isles, are available throughout the year.
There 344 kilometres of the River Shannon for you to explore with major town such as Athlone along the way as well the historic Clonmacnoise and plenty of lakes. You’ll also find good pubs and restaurants along the banks.
Ireland’s largest ‘inland sea’ Lough Derg lies along the river’s course as well as rustic villages like Mountshannon and Terryglass and a cruise is intended to be a leisurely affair as the boats travel at just 11 kilometres per hour.
Boat rentals are cheaper between May and early June and there are fewer people on the waterways.
A One Day Visit to the Shannon
Many choose for a day trip on the Shannon, understandable, given its length, and there are three hour tours available in Athlone to Lough Ree aboard the Viking. Tours cost €10 to €20. You can also take a tour downstream from Athlone to Clonmacnoise and pleasure boats are available at Dromineer and Killaloe.
The Moon River Company organises 100 seater luxury cruises during the evenings with commentary. Guided Cruises Can be Found At:
Moon River, Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim
Silver Line Cruisers, Banagher, County Offaly
The Spirit of Killaloe, Killaloe, County Clare,
Viking Ship Cruises, 7 Saint Mary’s Place, Athlone, County Westmeath
Exploring the Shannon on Your Own
Boat hire allows you to explore the meandering Shannon and its lakes at your pace, stopping wherever you want to explore the villages and countryside along the way. Banagher, Carrick-on-Shannon, Portumna, and Williamstown are the main places for boat hire.
Off season, renting a two to four berth cruiser costs €650 for a week while you’re looking at over €1,500 during the summer. For shorter three to four day cruises, fees are normally €450 off season and €1,400 in summer. Boat Hire Locations Can be Found At: Carrick Craft – Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim Emerald Star – Portumna, County Galway Shannon Castle Line – Williamstown Harbour, Whitegate, County Clare Silver Line Cruisers – Banagher, County Offaly
Exploring the Midlands
The motorways built through this region in the last few decades have bypassed many of the charming towns and villages you’ll find here but for a slower pace of life than what you might find elsewhere in Ireland, It’s worth investigating the Midlands.
Top rate food, fine farmhouse B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels, and great options for hiking and cycling make the Midlands a very worthy destination indeed to relax and explore a slower pace of life.
These flat plains are home to grand heritage museums and art galleries in towns like Athlone, Birr, Cavan, and Tullamore and it’s rare to find multinational coffee chains or big international department stores. Instead, you’ll find one-of-a-kind shops and ancient industries including crystal making and whiskey distillation; not to mention traditional pubs which also sell groceries out front.
There’s tremendous history to be found here as well in places like monastic Clonmacnoise, Birr Castle’s gardens, and some of Ireland’s finest country estates such as Emo Court and Strokestown Park House.
The Grand Canal and Royal Canal both pass through this region, linking the Shannon with the Irish Sea in Dublin.
The Midlands consists of the counties of Cavan, Laois (leash), Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, and Westmeath.