Monday 21 August 2017

Jewel of the Shannon: How Lough Derg won my heart

Irish Lakelands

Eoin O'Hagan and his daughter on Lough Derg
Eoin O'Hagan and his daughter on Lough Derg
Eoin O'Hagan, fishing on Lough Derg

Eoin O'Hagan

Lough Derg will grab your heart and not let go.

It's the third-biggest lake in Ireland, the crowning glory of the River Shannon - and the place I call home, since I moved here from Dublin 11 years ago. My wife, Ruth, is a Scariff woman, and we live here on the Clare end of its western shores.

The first time I went out on the lake, I fell madly in love with its pristine water. I took up fly fishing, but I always bring my camera along on my boat. I probably spend more time taking photos and video than I do casting flies for fish!

Three counties - Clare, Tipperary and Galway - dip their toes into Lough Derg, and there's a mouthwatering range of things to do between them.

Did you know the lake has two Blue Flag beaches, in Mountshannon and Ballycuggeran? Or that a new Blueway, developed by Waterways Ireland, will soon attract kayakers and canoeists with secure harbour locations to leave equipment overnight?

Lough Derg is an adventure seekers' paradise. You can sail, cruise, kayak and fish (the Mayfly season is ideal for wild brown trout, and its monster pike will test the strength of your knots, not to mention your arms, as you witness your rod bent double).

Eoin O'Hagan, fishing on Lough Derg
Eoin O'Hagan, fishing on Lough Derg

But it's not limited to the water. Padraig Giblin's Derg Isle Adventure Centre (dergisle.com) offers zip lines, climbing walls and archery among other sports. Walking and cycling options abound along the East Clare and Lough Derg Ways - even in winter, when southwesterlies whip up the waves and walks bring colour to your cheeks.

Cyclists of all levels will enjoy the 100km ride around the lough, with beautiful and historic towns along the way. Brian Boru's Killaloe is a good starting point, and a 7km cycle to the top of Ogonnelloe will leave you breathless as the magnificent Holy Island of Inis Cealtra is revealed.

Continuing via Mountshannon, you may spot our very own white-tailed eagles.

Stop by Portumna, with its castle and restored workhouse, take lunch in Paddy's Bar (facebook.com/PaddysBarTerryglass) or The Derg Inn (thederginn.ie) in Terryglass, Co Tipperary, or potter into waterside villages like Dromineer, Garrykennedy and Ballina for food and people-watching during those lazy summer days.

Yes, Lough Derg will grab your heart and not let go. Just as it did mine.

Eoin O'Hagan runs clarevirtually.ie, promoting tourism in Co Clare. See facebook.com/clarevirtually

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