See & Do
Portumna Forest Park
Portumna Forest Park is located just west of Portumna Town. The Park can be accessed from the R352 or you can walk from Portumna Marina close to the centre of town (or indeed the swimming area mentioned below). Portumna Forest Park was recently honoured by winning the Multipurpose Award at the Agricultural Awards held in the RDS, Dublin. Portumna Forest Park also features in top 6 cycling routes in Ireland in the category of best for families, beginners and mountain bikers. Originally part of the Portumna Castle Demesne, the 450 hectare Forest Park is a popular recreational amenity with kilometres of walking trails including four way-marked trails.
The White Trail is the ‘Forest Friendly’ walking trail and is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs (1.4 km), the Blue Trail is the ‘Woodland Walk’ (2km), the Green Trailis the ‘Rinmaher Walking Trail’ (10km) and finally the Red Trail, the Bonaveen Walking Trail (10km). All trails begin at the Forest Park information centre next to the car park and are well-signposted. They are open to mountain bikers, as well as walkers.
Portumna Forest Park is of major national importance if not international importance and all that comes within the forest park but also all that surrounds and compliments it. There are picnic tables adjacent to the main carpark and the information centre.Portumna Forest Park contains an extensive area of woodland the majority of which is a coniferous plantation with Scots Pine, Sitka and Norway Spruce. There are also some significant areas of native Oak woodland with Oak, Ash, Holly and Silver Birch, and stands of other broadleaves such as Beech and Maples. Our native conifers, Yew and Juniper can be seen along the lake shore, as well as reed swamp, marsh and wet woodland with Willow and Alder.
The Forest Park is a stronghold for Red Squirrel. There is also large herd of Fallow Deer. Pine Marten are present but they are shy animals and not easily seen. If walking off the trail, you might come across a Badger sett. Many woodland birds can be spotted or heard in the park including Tits, Crossbill, Treecreeper, Jays, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Sparrowhawk. A large Cormorant colony can be seen nesting on offshore islands near Rinmaher (follow the Green Trail) and Black-headed Gulls breed on the islands. White-tailed Sea Eagles have been seen occasionally offshore and in the Bonaveen area. On a sunny day keep an eye out for butterflies along the woodland rides (including the rare Purple Hairstreak), dragonflies (with exciting names like Spring Hawkers and Four-spotted Chaser), and damselflies (also with evocative names like Banded Jewelwing, Azure Bluet and Common Bluetip) nearer the shore in the wetlands.
Water Recreation Park
Known locally as ‘the swimming area’ the Portumna Water Recreation Park is located just south of the town. The site has a quay and designated areas for swimming and fishing. This beautiful corner of the lake is an ideal place for birdwatching, fishing, walking or just enjoying the sights and sounds of the lake.
The Water Recreation Park is a particularly good location for bird-watching. Mallard, Teal and Tufted Duck are present on the lake all year round. In winter, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard and Goldeneye can also be seen. The graceful Common Tern is a regular sight during the breeding season in summer. White-tailed Sea Eagles have often been spotted in this area. Look out for a Kingfisher flashing by on a fishing trip. The remarkable flight patterns that huge flocks of Starlings perform in winter, known as ‘murmurations’, can regularly be seen near Portumna. The Starlings roost at night on the extensive reed swamp.
Wetlands fringe the lake on either side of the swimming area. The Common Club-rush is the main component of much of these wet lake margins in this area but Yellow Water Lily, Water Mint and Water Plantain are also present.
There is an extensive area of callows to the north of the Water Recreation Park with Reed Canary Grass, Meadowsweet, Ragged Robin, Angelica, sedges and rushes. The relatively rare Marsh Pea is also present. Callow grasslands extend northwards on either side of the River Shannon. Reed swamp and callows provide nesting and foraging habitats for many birds, and are often teeming with insects, especially dragonflies and damselflies, and snails.
Lough Derg is a great place for birdwatching as it is supports important populations of both breeding and overwintering birds. The large numbers of resident birds are joined by summer visitors and others that arrive in winter. There are numerous piers and quays where you can observe waterbirds at close quarters and lovely walking routes around the lake where wetland, farmland and woodland birds can be seen.
A remarkable natural spectacle that can be seen in late autumn and winter evenings on Lough Derg are the flight displays of Starling murmurations. A murmuration is a gathering of Starlings. In late autumn and winter, many thousands of Starlings gather and put on amazing aerial flight displays before roosting communally for the night. Numbers of Starlings are boosted by visitors arriving from Europe in winter.
Just before dusk is the best time to see Starlings perform their mesmerising aerial dance, which is something akin to a continuous Mexican wave. The reasons for these spectacular flight displays are not fully understood but the large gatherings probably offer safety in numbers. Predators such as Peregrine Falcons might find it hard to target one bird amidst a hypnotising flock of thousands.
Starlings possibly gather to fine tune their flying skills and perhaps to keep warm at night. Starling murmurations can be seen over Lough Derg in from the lake or along the shore.
White-tailed Sea Eagles are the most prominent members of Lough Derg’s rich bird fauna and a regular sight in summer. They nest on islands on the lake much to the delight of visitors and local residents. The lake provides them with the fish diet they require and the security of safe nesting sites on the islands. These truly spectacular birds of prey were reintroduced to Ireland from Norwegian populations by the Golden Eagle Trust and have bred successfully in recent years.
There are two pairs of White-tailed Sea Eagles nesting on the lake, at Mountshannon and at Church Island, Portumna. The Portumna pair has one chick that is only a few weeks old. Eagles frequently traverse Lough Derg.
Waterbirds of nature conservation interest on Lough Derg include the Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Common Tern, and Goldeneye. The lake is designated for nature conservation as a Special Protection Area (SPA) because it supports important populations of these species. SPAs are designed to protect birds of conservation importance and their habitats.
Greenland White-fronted Geese are also winter visitors to Ireland. They used to arrive in large numbers to sites around Lough Derg and feed on bogs and agricultural grasslands. They still use sites around the lake but not in such big numbers.
Other waterbirds to keep an eye out for include Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Pochard, Coot, Black-tailed Godwit and the familiar Mute Swan. Red-breasted Mergansers now breed on the lake and several Gulls can regularly be spotted- Common Gull, Mediterranean Gull and the Lesser Black-based Gull.
A Species list from a mornings Dawn Chorus (in order of heard)
2. Song Thrush
8. Chiff Chaff
9. Willow Warbler
11. Blue tit
14. Sedge Warbler
15. Coal Tit
17. Great Tit
18. Grey Crow
What a great variety. And they were just the early birds!!
Lough Derg is famed for its Brown Trout fishing, particularly during the Mayfly season which tends to peak in mid-May. Trout feed voraciously on the Mayfly before heading up river to spawn. The lake is also teeming with coarse fish including Pike Perch, Roach and Bream. There used to be a commercial Eel fishery on Lough Derg but Eels are now protected due to the drastic decline in their numbers within the European Union.
Pollan, a rare type of fish, is also present in the lake although numbers are much reduced. Pollan is only found in five Irish lakes (its nearest relatives are in the arctic). The lake contains a landlocked population of Sea Lamprey, River Lamprey and probably some Brook Lamprey. Lamprey are a primitive and peculiar group of fishes that look like eels. Some attach themselves to other fish during their lifecycle.
In 1994, a small group of us Mercy Sisters in Clonfert Diocese came together to find new ways of expressing our commitment to the Earth. We were awakening to the vision of Earth as a living organism, a great web of interconnectedness and interdependent life. We shared the desire to rediscover together who we humans are as a strand of this magnificent web. You could say we shared the desire to ‘come home’ to Earth after a long absence. And so An Gáirdín came into being!
At that time the site of the Rural Domestic School here in Portumna, which had taught agriculture and traditional crafts and skills for a hundred years, became available to us. “To make again a garden of this place” (Elisabeth Roberts) became our motto as we set out to learn to live in communion with one another and with the great diversity of life around us.
The garden needed some rest and healing following its years of generous production. It had time to lie fallow and renew itself before we began to do some organic growing. We welcomed back the hens and ducks. Our house was built on the site of the old dairy. We carefully sourced natural, renewable and recycled material. We installed the geo-thermal ground source heating system, a very new technology then.
Currently, our Education Programme and our Organic Growing are facilitated by a team of six people, two of whom are Mercy Sisters. As the need arises we can call on volunteers. A small group of those who share An Gáirdín’s vision meet regularly for support, study and reflection. Our most recent undertaking has been the provision of a building, adequate to meet the needs of our expanding range of courses and events. This has been a work of collaboration and every aspect of the building is a demonstration of sustainable practice.www.angairdin.ie Facebook - An Gairdin
Beo Port Omna
This group formed after a series of Biodiversity Training workshops. These workshops were funded by Galway Rural Development Company RDP fund.
The aim was to design a plan to enhance and protect the natural and wildlife in Portumna. A group of 17 people from Portumna took part in the training and identified areas that could be developed in an environmentally friendly way to further support and protect our rich natural heritage.
This became the three year Biodiversity Action Plan for Portumna from 2013-2016. The Port Omna Beo group are working from this plan to complete the projects identified with the support and help of individuals, community groups, organisations and business' in Portumna who are interested in getting involved.
The group organises all types of Eco Training classes, walks and talks.
To find out more check them out on Facebook
A unique opportunity to go ‘Glamping’ in the gateway to the west of Ireland.
If you haven’t experienced it yet, ‘Glamping’ is a great way to go camping. You stay in ‘Pods’, not tents. So there’s no canvas. There are no poles or tent pegs, no damp or draughts. Just all the fun of camping, without the hardship.
Whether you’re an experienced ‘Glamper’ or ‘Podder’ or you’re brand new to it, you should also know about one of Ireland’s best kept secrets: the town of Portumna in South East Galway, with its Castle, Abbey, historic Workhouse and Forest park, the River Shannon and Lough Derg, and a great range of shops, pubs and restaurants. Put them together and you arrive at Pod Umna, a unique Pod village, which is one of the most innovative and creative ‘Glamping'’ sites in the country.
Pod Umna is in a calm and peaceful setting right in the heart of Portumna town, with all its history and amenities.
Our ‘Pods’ are set in a tree-lined village landscape. They are charming, very comfortable and functional. They make a great daytime base, they sleep up to five, and each fully insulated Pod comes with mattresses, power and heating, and its own BBQ and deck area, complete with table and chairs.
Perhaps you might prefer a more traditional camping option? well then check out our fabulous Bell Tents, they can sleep up to six people, come with a luxuriously comfortable double bed plus four additional comfy single mattreses. You have an electric socket and your own decking.
On-site facilities include toilets, hot showers, drying room, meeting rooms.play room and workshops. There’s a kitchen and dining room if you want to self-cater, we can offer groups meals on-site as part of group packages or can recommend local restaurants and cafés if you would to dine out.www.podumnavillage.ie
Portumna, Lough Derg, and several areas in the surrounding landscape, are designated for nature conservation both as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and a Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which reflects the huge significance of the natural heritage in this area. SACs and SPAs are part of the Natura 2000 network of sites across Europe, which are considered to be the most important sites for nature conservation across the European Union. SACs are designated on the basis of containing species and habitats of nature conservation importance because they are rare internationally, declining or under threat e.g. Otters and bogs. SPAs are designated because they contain birds of conservation concern and their habitats e.g. waterbirds such as Tufted Duck and Goldeneye, and birds of prey such as Merlin and the Hen Harrier.
The variety of habitats and abundance of species of conservation importance makes Lough Derg a jewel in the crown Ireland’s biodiversity resource. Whether you travel Lough Derg by boat or explore the many bays, woods, wetlands and uplands along the shoreline on foot, you are in the midst of a vibrant ecosystem that is teeming with life all year round. Lough Derg is a wonderful place to enjoy and experience nature, and is also an excellent destination for the specialist interested in seeing some of the rare and interesting species that can be found. Go explore!
With many thanks to Portumna Beo for providing this material.