Portumna (Port Omna: "landing place of the oak") is a village in County Galway at the north end of Lough Derg. With a population in 2016 of 1450, it's best known for its fine castle and gardens. It's linked by a swing bridge across the River Shannon with Lorrha in County Tipperary, which has a collection of tumbledown abbeys and castles.
Bus 547 runs from Ballinasloe to Portumna four times M-Sa and twice on Sunday, taking 45 min. Ballinasloe is on the Dublin-Galway railway and X20 bus route.
By car from Dublin either follow M6 west to Ballinasloe then wind south on R355, or follow M7 to Moneygall then head northwest on R490 then N65.
You need wheels. A bike will do nicely to reach Lorrha and Terryglass.
- 1 Portumna Castle, Portumna H53 YK27. Apr-Oct daily 09:30-17:00. This is an early example of a bling castle, built 1610-17 to show off wealth and with little defensive purpose, in an era when others still preferred to huddle behind stern bastions. The owner was Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricade, and it was a family home to 1826. It was abandoned after a fire and became a sorry roofless shell, but in 1968 the Office of Public Works re-roofed it and began other restoration, which continues. You can visit the ground floor and extensive formal gardens. Adult €5, conc €4, child €3.
- Portumna Abbey is a ruin just east of the castle. It was founded in 1254 by the Cistercians but in 1426 passed to the Dominicans. The abbey was dissolved in 1582 but the friars maintained a local presence and the church was in use on and off to 1810. There's a medieval graveyard, and a corner of the cloister has been reconstructed.
- 2 The Workhouse, St Brigit's Road, Portumna. M-F 09:30-17:00. By 1800, haphazard local poverty relief by church and voluntary effort was swamped by the rise in destitute people. Workhouses for the able-bodied poor were set up across the British Isles, with some 130 in Ireland. Portumna was one of the additional 33 established in 1850 in the aftermath of the Great Famine. It was built for 600 inmates; the workhouse records have been lost but the 1901 Census recorded 118 residents, falling to 68 in 1911. This and other workhouses closed in 1922 when the new Irish government established County Hospitals for the sick and Homes for the aged. Adult €7, conc €5, child €3.
- Portumna Forest Park is accessed from R352 one km west of the village. It's mostly conifer, with easy walking trails. Another couple of km west, "Stoneyisland Man" was found in 1929. Radiocarbon dating puts him to 3320-3220 BC, so he's 5000 years old. Unlike other "bog bodies" this fellow wasn't buried, it looks as if he drowned in a northern reach of Lough Derg which then became infilled as bog.
- 3 The swing bridge carries N65 across the Shannon while enabling river traffic to pass. It sets foot on Hayes Island mid-river, which along with the east bank is in County Tipperary. The bridge was completed in 1911 and the opening section was replaced in 2008. Craft of less than 4 foot air draft can slip under it any time, others must await the opening times, six daily April-Oct and three Nov-March.
- 4 St Ruadhan's, Lorrha. St Ruadan mac Fergusa Birn (died 584) founded a monastery here. A church was built over the site c 1000 AD, and what is now a Church of Ireland was built next to it in modern times. There are two broken 8th C High Crosses in the graveyard. Adjacent are the scrappy remains of an Augustinian priory, founded in the 12th C, with the ruins dating to 15th C.
- The Dominican Friary at Lorrha is 200 m west of St Ruadhan's within the grounds of a modern RC church. It was founded in the 13th century.
- 5 Lackeen Castle is a derelict tower house from the 12th C, rebuilt in the 16th. The "Lorrha Missal", an illuminated manuscript of the 8th / 9th C, was found here hidden within a wall in the 18th C. It was taken into a manuscript collection in Stowe, Buckinghamshire, so it's often called the "Stowe Missal," but it's now in the National Museum in Dublin. The castle is on private land next to Lackeen House, built 1730; neither can be visited.
- 6 Redwood (or Egan) Castle is a 13th century tower house. It was burned by Cromwell's forces in 1650 and lay in ruins for 300 years, but in 1972 was restored. It's now a private residence but can be visited on selected dates in summer, adult €8.
- 7 Terryglass is a picturesque little village near the north end of Lough Derg. There's a tower house built in the 13th century, but the abbey survives only as the wall of a pub. There are two holy wells: St Columba's Headache Well in the village, and St Augh's Eye Well on the lakeside quay.
- See Shannonbridge for Clonfert Cathedral to the northeast.
- Hire a boat for extended trips around the lake and Shannon. Operators include Le Boat and Cruise Ireland, others such as Canal Cruiser are specialist booking agencies.
- Portumna Golf Club is at the west edge of the forest park along R352. White tees are 6112 yards, par 72.
- The Forest Marathon is in June; it also has 100 km, 50 km, half marathon and 10 km routes. The 2020 event was cancelled and the next is on 12 June 2021.
- Shorelines Arts Festival is in mid-September. The 2020 event was cancelled and the next is probably 16-19 Sept 2021, tbc.
- The main store is Supervalu, open daily 08:00-21:00.
- Eating places in village centre are Modena (Irish, daily 12:00-21:00), Supermac's and Papa John's (burgers, daily 14:00-22:00), New Golden City (Chinese, W-M 12:00-00:00), Beehive (pizza and grills), and a couple of cafes. Bethlehem is a block east on Dominick St, open M-Sa 12:00-23:00, Su 14:00-23:00.
- 1 Ferry Inn, Lorrha E45 XW35, ☏ . Long-established pub and restaurant east of Shannon.
- Village centre bars are Curley's, The Boathouse, Hogan's and O'Meara's.
- Podumna Village on Dominick St has glamping pods, open all year. They also have B&B rooms in their main building.
- Oak Lodge B&B, St Brendan's St, Portumna, ☏ . Friendly well-run place in village centre. B&B double €100.
- Another nearby B&B is Portumna House on St Brendan's St.
As of Dec 2020, Portumna has 4G with Eir, 5G with Three, but only 3G with Vodafone.
- Cross the river at Shannonbridge northeast to reach Clonmacnoise, Ireland's best preserved monastery complex.
- Birr in Offaly is a small Georgian town that in the 19th century housed the world's most powerful telescope.
- Galway to the west is a lively colourful party place, but the trick is to dodge the stag and hen parties.