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Lough Eske, or "Lake of the Fish," is a cozy little lake nestled in Ireland's Northwest tourism region. Wedged between the Blue Stack and Tawnawully Mountains, this scenic body of water is best known for its dramatic backdrops and awesome angling. It has a shoreline length of nine miles, and a maximum depth of 100 feet.
Like its name implies, Lough Eske is a hotbed for species such as salmon, sea trout, brown trout, grilse, autumn fish and char. Fishing season runs from 1 March to 31 September each year, and permits can be procured at the Eske Angling Center on the southwest shore. Only boat angling is allowed here, and trolling for shrimp and prawn is strictly prohibited. The three-mile River Eske is also great for fishing; it flows southwest from Lough Eske through Donegal town.
A recent fish pass on the Lowerymore River created a vast habitat for spawning spring salmon at Lough Eske, a species that is best caught between early April and the end of September (catches of up to 20 pounds are not uncommon). Grilse are prevalent from June through September, and sea trout averaging 3/4 lb are rife between July and September. Char populate the lake en masse for roughly two weeks around Halloween, when fishermen can walk away with 30 or 40 specimens per day. Spinning and fly fishing are the most successful angling methods on the lake.
Kayaking and canoeing opportunities along Lough Eske are fabulous thanks to its numerous islands; Moylederg Island, Gull Island, Round Island, O'Donnells Island and Roshin Island are the main highlights, but there are many smaller, unnamed landmasses that are also ripe for exploration. Several day walks and mountain biking trails wind through the beautiful Bluestack Mountains, and also by the beaches close to Donegal.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Donegal Town, just southwest of Lough Eske. Animal lovers of all ages enjoy horseback riding along local forest and coastal paths. Various underwater wrecks and other interesting dive sites are available for scuba diving, particularly in the town of Muff.
Golf around Lough Eske is also top notch - four championship courses can be found within a 45-minute drive. Shoppers and socialites can take advantage of Donegal's downtown area during the day, eat at a fine dining restaurant, and then hit the pubs at night.
Day trips from Lough Eske include one of Europe's highest cliff tops: Slieve League, at 1,972 feet. Another nearby excursion is Glenveagh National Park - one of Ireland's most visited preserves with 40,870 acres of woodlands and a Scottish-style castle. The Newmills Corn and Flax Mills are estimated to be 400 years old, and the Donegal County Museum boasts artifacts from prehistory through medieval times.
Lough Eske has many convenient facilities, including a wheelchair accessible entrance point at Mill Pool. A fish counter records salmon and sea trout 35 cm or longer; the machine recalibrates every hour to account for changes in water height and conductivity due to environmental conditions and flooding. On the southern end of the lake lies a picturesque arch bridge, ideal for long strolls and stunning photographs.
Lough Eske also features a recently renovated castle originally built in 1474. The last castle was constructed in the mid-1800s, but an accidental fire demolished most of it in 1939. The new design incorporates previous versions, but with all of the comforts and amenities of a five-star hotel.
Several hotels and bed and breakfasts can be found along Lough Eske's breathtaking shores. Holiday cottage rentals and real estate properties are available, many with mountain or lakeside views that are just perfect for weddings and large get-togethers.
With such incredible natural beauty and so many things to do, Lough Eske is the perfect getaway for families, couples and solo-travelers looking for a peaceful escape. If you enjoy picturesque views and historical landmarks, you're sure to fall in love with Lough Eske.
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