Swans on Lough Ree at Barley Harbour
Lough Ree (Irish: Loch Rí - Lake of the Kings) is a lake in the midlands of Ireland, the second of the three major lakes on the River Shannon. Lough Ree is the second largest lake on the Shannon after Lough Derg. The other two major lakes are Lough Allen to the north, and Lough Derg to the south. It separates counties Longford and Westmeath (east) from County Roscommon (west). The small town of Lanesborough is at the northern end of the lake. This mystical lough studded with islands is a place of great myth and legend. Sprits of high kings, ghosts of fallen warriors and the guiding eyes of ancient monks peer through the mist and linger in the air. There is even the rumour of a lake monster – so beware!
Inishcleraun (Quaker Island) was founded in 540 AD by Saint Diarmuid who was a teacher to Saint Ciaran of Clonmacnoise and is buried here. The settlement was a place of learning and pilgrimage for centuries and contains the ruins of six churches, graveyards and a fort for protection against Viking raids. It is located to the north of the Lough Ree and is worth exploring.
There are other islands in Lough Ree that have monastic sites.Many of these still contain ancient ruins from the early Middle Ages. Inis Inchturk, Inis Inchmore,Inis Inchbofin, and Inis Ainghin (Hare Island) are the names of the larger ones.
The Lough Ree Monster
Lough Ree is home to probably the most credible lough monster sighting in the world. Similar to Lough Ness in Scotland, a sea serpent is thought to live in these waters. On May 28, 1960, three priests were enjoying a day’s fishing on the lough when one of them noticed an unusual creature about a hundred yards away. The priests then focused on the creature and began to note its size and features in great detail. The story was recorded in many of the local newspapers and made it onto the international stage when the BBC picked it up. The report says the monster was six foot in length and had a head of about eighteen inches in diameter. Since 1960 there have been a few other sightings by locals and fishermen. There have also been reports of hard knocks and thumps on the hull of many a Shannon cruiser as they have sailed through the lough. So be very careful!
This small harbour is situated on the eastern side of Lough Ree and is a wonderful little place. The location is noted for the bogwood sculpture and craft workshop which is not too far from the harbour. Also within walking distance is the town of Newtowncashel which is a very interesting place. The town is dotted with sculptures nearly everywhere you look, from the lovely quarry park and waterfall to the towns centre piece and even in the gardens of a few of the locals. The nearby Saints Island is home to the ruins of a 15th century Augustan monastery which is open for exploring.
Useful links: Discover the Shannon - Lough Ree, Fishing in Ireland. - Lough Ree, Lough Ree Angling Hub