Killaloe is a pretty little town in east County Clare that borders the beautiful Shannon river (The longest river in Ireland). Its twin town of Ballina lies just across the bridge in County Tipperary. Its situated just off the M7 motorway and a short 20 minute drive from Limerick City.
On a glorious day in July we drove over to Killaloe and drove out the Lough Derg road. Just 1km out the road you will see two big pillars and the sign for Killaloe Hotel and Spa on the right hand side. It only opened its doors this April.
There is a lovely big Lobby as you enter the front of the Hotel and a beautiful old style reception desk to your left. The first thing that hit me as we walked through the hotel was the smell of newness. There is a lovely little lounge room to the left hand side of the reception area where there was a few people sitting down reading newspapers (although why they weren’t outside enjoying the sunshine I don’t know!).
We walked through reception and up to the Bar area which is all covered in beautiful dark wood paneling. There is a lovely spacious (and really well stocked) bar area and over to the right is the restaurant area with some beautiful big ornate tables. It seems like a lot of time and effort was put into the design of the Bar and Restaurant and it has certainly paid off. We walked through the Bar and out onto the fabulous terrace outside looking down over the marina.
A lovely waitress came straight out to us with menus and we were well impressed with the menu. Everything on it was very reasonably priced and the selection was to die for! We settled on a trio of fish on Guinness bread and a duck salad.
With the beautiful food, the sunshine and the fabulous setting we could have stayed here all day! But we were very excited about our date with a Kayak and we took our leave of the beautiful Killaloe Hotel and Spa. We drove back into Killaloe then and parked up just off the bridge in between the canal and the river. Our lovely guide for the evening was Mike Jones of My Next Adventure. Mike started this fantastic company in 2015 and along with his wife Andree they offer guided kayak trips around Killaloe. They also offer family adventures and kids camps.
Mike was all ready for us when we arrived down to meet him beside the canal. He got us zipped up with our buoyancy aids and gave us a brief rundown of where we would be going. My first question was how on earth was I getting into the Kayak!
My galavanting partner for the day was Jane and she made getting into the kayak look easy! Mike was on hand though to make sure I didn’t make a holy show of myself and it was actually a lot easier than I thought! We each had a kayak and once Mike was happy that we knew how to use our paddles correctly we were off.
We made our way up along the canal, under the Killaloe bridge and up to a lock on the canal. Because it was such a nice day there were loads of people hanging out by the canal and jumping in swimming. This turned out very handy for us as we enlisted the help of two lovely young kids to help push our kayak through the gates of the lock. I reckon I would still be there trying to get through it if they hadn’t given us a hand.
The water is really still along here so it was lovely to take our time and listen to Mike as he filled us in on the history of this part of the canal. We weren’t long on the canal before we came to the place where the canal joins the Shannon. There was so many people jumping off the pier here and it was great to see so many people out enjoying the water!
We turned right here and kayaked over to the Ballina side of the Shannon. Again Mike was able to fill us in on all the development that was happening on that side of the river (and lack of it in some cases) and the points of interest like the old railway station, the beautiful Lakeside Hotel and the place to get the fabulous river cruises.
We crossed back underneath the bridge then and Mike told us about the washer woman’s bridge that still remains beside the old railway tracks (now a walkway). The washer woman’s bridge was the scene of a protest in the 1860’s when the laying of the railway tracks was blocking their access to the river to wash their clothes. They succeeded in their protest as a bridge was then built to give them the access they needed to the Shannon.
The county council has done a lot of development on the Tipperary side of the river but unfortunately the bad storms in recent years have damaged the structure of the quay under the water and its currently closed off to the public. We kept going down the river then at a leisurely pace enjoying the scenery and checking out the stunning houses that have their gardens and little boat docks along the Shannon (oh how the other half live!)
We came upon an open expense of water then and you can make out Parteen Weir in the distance. The open expanse of water in front of us used to be partially above water and St Lua’s Orratory (Killaloe is named after him) stood on Friars Island. The Island was flooded during the Shannon Hydroelectric scheme in 1929 but not before the church was moved and rebuilt in Killaloe in the same spot as the Catholic Church today. At one point we were kayaking over the old walls of the fields that used to be here and the lock keepers house is still visible through the trees.
We hung a right at this stage and got stuck in some reeds- I never said I was good at the Kayaking! Mike pulled us up onto a grassy verge and we hopped out for a break. We walked out into a clearing and it turned out to be Clarisford Park! We sat down on a park bench here and to our surprise Mike had a bag with a little urn to boil water- complete with dried twigs and some contraption to make a spark! (I would have used a lighter myself :)) We were super impressed! He had a hand held coffee maker then to make an Espresso or Americano! Jane was an instant fan and wanted to know where she could get one! He then produced a tin of gorgeous home-made cookies. We were spoiled. The recipe for them can be found on his blog.
After a half hour rest and soaking up more of the beautiful sun we got back into the Kayak (which proved a lot harder than getting out!) and headed back up the canal in the direction of Killaloe again. There are two kingfisher birds living among the trees here and we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of one of them skimming the water ahead of us.
There are some amazing houses along the canal here and most of them seemed to have their own private Jetty. It was a lovely leisurely paddle back up to Killaloe then and we really didn’t want it to end. Then came the comical display of me trying to get out of the Kayak- I assured myself that I was graceful enough but both Mike and Jane assured me that there was nothing graceful about it! 🙁
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the afternoon and I would recommend everyone- young, old or in between to give it a go. After bidding farewell to Mike we took a walk up the road to a coffee shop that I had heard did amazing cakes – The wooden Spoon- but unfortunately it was closed. It’s literally at the top of the hill when you come off the bridge though and it looks lovely. We headed up to the top of the town to get an Ice cream after our adventure and came across a beautiful viewing point and walk looking out over Killaloe and Ballina. Speaking of walks, there are so many walking trails that start here and take you up around Lough Derg and the surrounding countryside. There is also Paddle boarding available in Killaloe as well as the Spirit of Killaloe river cruises. The UL activity center is situated just out the road also. This spot is perfect for a weekend away or even a day trip with the family.
I have attached a few helpful links below if you are planning a trip. Mike at My next adventure was fantastic and this is an activity not to be missed in Killaloe! Let me know if we missed any hot spots along the way and as always- Happy Galavanting!