At the meeting point of Counties Clare, Limerick, and Tipperary, the Shannon River’s largest lake, Lough Derg—virtually an inland sea—creates a stunning waterscape 40km (25 miles) long and almost 16km (10 miles) wide. The road that circles the lake for 153km (95 miles), the Lough Derg Drive, is one of Ireland’s great scenic drives, a continuous photo opportunity with panoramas of glistening waters, gentle mountains, and hilly farmlands unspoiled by commercialization.

The drive is also a collage of colorful shoreline towns, starting at the lake’s south end with Killaloe, County Clare, and Ballina, County Tipperary. They’re so close that they are essentially one community—only a splendid 13-arch bridge over the Shannon separates them. In the summer, its pubs and bars fill with weekend sailors. Killaloe is a picturesque town with lakeside views at almost every turn and restaurants and pubs perched on the shore. Kincora, on the highest ground at Killaloe, was traditionally said to be the royal settlement of Brian Boru and the other O’Brien kings, although no trace of any buildings survives.

Memorable little towns and harborside villages like Mountshannon and Dromineer dot the rest of the Lough Derg Drive. Some towns, like Terryglass and Woodford, are known for atmospheric old pubs where spontaneous sessions of traditional Irish music are likely to break out. Others, like Puckane and Ballinderry, offer unique crafts. On the north shore of the lake in County Galway, Portumna is worth a visit for its forest park and castle.

The best way to get to Lough Derg is by car or boat. Because the area has limited public transportation, you will need a car to get around the lake. Major roads that lead to Lough Derg are the main Limerick-Dublin road (N7) from points east and south, N6 and N65 from Galway and the west, and N52 from the north. The Lough Derg Drive, which is well signposted, is a combination of R352 on the west bank of the lake and R493, R494, and R495 on the east bank.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.