‘That bates Banagher”

I never in my wildest dreams imagined spending two nights of my holidays in Banagher! If there is a positive to Covid-19 it is that we are looking afresh at how we spend our time and where we spend it.

Growing their own grapes on Main Street Banagher!

#Staycation is the new buzzword and holiday at home is the only recommended option. Avoiding Covid hotspots and crowded venues should be the norm if we are to restrict the spread of Covid.

On the plus side we are looking at our own country in a different way; we are seeing the beauty in the ordinary and loving it. We spent the last week exploring Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and its Ancient East – never quite sure where the demarcation line is between the two!

The Mighty Shannon

One thing for sure is that the welcome is genuine, there is nothing ‘fake’ about the friendliness of people that you meet, which sometimes I question when I visit tourist hotspots along our coasts.

It was our first time to hire a boat and my only regret is we didn’t do it years ago! It was the perfect way to social distance and to see places along the Shannon from a different perspective. Time stands still as the boat moves so slowly! Great to see groups of young people thinking likewise and hiring small boats and barges for a holiday with a difference – they don’t deserve the blame they are getting for the increase in the spread of Covid – they are no more responsible than every age group..

Stopping off in tiny villages such as Dromineer and Terryglass was just perfect; some great local pubs with great food, great walking and cycling routes too.

Lough Derg
Walking Slí Eala near Dromineer

The Shannon region is steeped in history and there are some amazing sites to visit. Is there a more scenic setting for a monastic site than famed Clonmacnoise? The English and the Vikings have a lot to answer for in relation to our heritage sites. They reduced so many of them to ruins and destroyed such important parts of our history.

Temple Ciarán, reputed burial place of St Ciarán who founded the monastery in 548 AD.
The beautifully carved South Cross with the Cross of the Scriptures and the Round Tower behind.

Not far away along the byroads of Offaly is Lough Boora Discovery Park and The Offaly Way where we got to take in some lovely cycling routes across a corner of Offaly I’ve seldom visited.

Lough Boora Discovery Park

West of the Shannon, Portumna Forest Park covers an impressive 1600 acres and has some incredible single trail cycle tracks. Home to a herd of fallow deer and its possible to spot the White Tailed Sea Eagle from the bird hide on the Lakeshore.

20kms of single track
Turloughs are disappearing lakes found in limestone areas west of The Shannon
This is a Turlough! A disappearing lake, common in limestone areas especially west of the Shannon.
Portumna Pier

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the stunningly beautiful and simple Meelick Church – the oldest church in continuous use in Ireland, Built in 1414 AD it is still in daily use.

In continuous use since 1414 AD, the oldest Church in continuous use in Ireland
Meelick Church, founded by the Franciscans in 1414 AD.
Meelick Church

Seven days exploring a region that we would normally pass through proves yet again that every county has so much to offer, if we only take the time to visit and explore. Look with new eyes, try something different, use your two feet and explore the great outdoors! We give out about the weather but in reality there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing! Stay home this year, spend a few bob in our own country and help small businesses stay afloat and hopefully thrive!

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