Lough Lene
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Lough Lene, Ireland

Also known as: Lough Lane, Lough Lein, Lough Leibinn

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Ireland's Lough Lene is a natural freshwater glacial lake in northern Westmeath, an inland county in the province of Leinster. This lake has an irregular, flattened oval shape and is noted for its clarity and pristine condition. References to its remarkably transparent waters repeatedly deem the lake "gin clear"--though at a maximum depth of 66 feet (20 meters), it's a rather shallow lake by most standards. Research has suggested that the lake is fed by groundwater, since no surface inflow is apparent. Outflow is a stream from eastern Lough Lene that leads into the River Deel.

Lough Lene is situated centrally among the villages of Fore, Collinstown, and Castlepollard. Nearby villages Collinstown, Richardstown, and Glenidan all rely on Lough Lene as a reservoir for their water supplies. Other nearby lakes in the county include Lough Derravaragh, which is 5.6 miles (9 kilometers) from Lough Lene to the west; Lough Owel, 11.8 miles (19 kilometers) to the southwest; and the larger Lough Ree, 31 miles (50 kilometers) to the southwest. Lough Lene is only about 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the Dublin airport, which makes it fairly accessible to air travel vacationers.

Mullingar, the nearby busy commercial and tourist center, is located about 20 minutes from Lough Lene by car; this area is connected to other parts of Ireland through the Royal Canal, a series of 46 locks, that links the River Shannon to the city of Dublin. With its presence on this popular travel and trade route, Mullingar has become known as possibly the best cattle-raising district in all of Ireland. It's also the home of Mullingar Pewter, a company famed for its pewter products. The Mullingar Arts Centre is known for its cultural activities and live entertainment.

Mullingar sits at the head of the Fore Trail, which is a tour taken by car that covers many historic locations on a scenic route. Travelers on this circuitous route will encounter many attractions of note, including Knockdrin Castle, Crookedwood village, Taughmon Church and its fort, Lough Derravaragh, Collinstown village, Lough Lene, Fore Abbey, Lough Crew cairns and gardens, Tullynally Castle and gardens, and Multyfarnham. One the way back to Mullingar, Lough Owel and its islands are accessible, and along the trail there are opportunities to stop and rest or have a leisurely picnic.

Fishing in Lough Lene is allowed from March 1 to September 30 each year. From the shore or by boat, anglers enjoy the beautiful surroundings as much as the large-sized pike and wild brown trout that the lake yields. It's been called the favorite and most productive fishing lake in Ireland. Some of its best features include its three islands, Nun's Island, Castle Island, and Turgesius Island, which are extensively surrounded by shallows and excellent locations for good fishing, including fly-fishing. The three islands in Lough Lene are collectively known as Smythe's Islands, which may be a reference to William Barlow Smythe, who once owned at least two of these islands during the 1880s. All three are thought to have been used for refuge and safety during times of turmoil; all have been sites of important archeological finds and contain ruins of significance. Monks Island, which was the fourth island in this lake according to older maps, seems to have been subsumed by the wetlands around the lake.

Lough Lene is a wonderful family vacation destination for its variety of flora and fauna and its unspoiled environment. Although many water activities are enjoyed there, including windsurfing, sailing, and swimming, restrictions keep jet skis and water skis from being used on the lake. The community of farmers in the area has long been active in keeping the lake free of pollutants and unnecessary man-made influence. This self-regulation, which includes the management of farm runoff to minimize impact on aquatic and other wildlife health, earned Lough Lene a Blue Flag, the first freshwater lake to receive such designation from the European Union's international pro-environmental initiative. The Blue Flag Programme, made official in 1987, recognizes areas that have been shown to maintain good water purity and sanitation as well as an effort to upkeep high environmental standards.

With its excellent water quality and diverse environment, the lake's area is a lush habitat for such birds as the tufted duck, gray heron, mallard, water rail, mute swan, teal, curlew, lapwing, snipe, cormorant, wigeon, and pochard. At the northwestern end of Lough Lene, which is a wooded area, sphagnum mosses, bilberry, and fragrant heather are abundant. In the wet woodland area, birch, alder, willow, march pennywort, jointed rush, pondweed, stoneworts, and the common reed are all present and thriving. At 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) long and 1 mile (1.7 kilometers) wide, and covering about 500 hectares, the lake supports a wide array of species in the water and out. On land, goats, sheep, horses, and cattle are commonly seen dotting the picturesque countryside.

Outdoor activities are plentiful for visitors, including horseback riding, golf, cycling, hiking, and touring historic gardens and the numerous archeologically significant sites. Lough Lene boasts a variety of ancient ruins, prehistoric burial sites, and is purported to have been the home of a king, Turgesius.

Lough Lene has also been known by several other names in its past, including Lough Lein, Lough Leibinn, and Lough Lane. It's an unusual lake for its hard-water status; marlstone and limestone are the dominant minerals in the lakebed. As a lake surrounded by historic significance and natural beauty, it's no wonder that the area around Lough Lene is a popular destination.

A wide variety of lodging accommodations is available, including self-catering cottages, renovated farmhouses and charming bed and breakfasts, woodsy lodges and cabins, and most any other type of holiday rental one could imagine. Vacations and holidays spent in Ireland are unforgettable. It's a magical land with a warm, welcoming population that draws travelers in and makes them want to stay on. Some vacationers do just that: real estate is available in Ireland for those wishing to buy a summer cottage or build their own dream home in this rugged and beautiful landscape.

Fore village's Fore Abbey is the site of an ancient monastery which was built during the time of the yellow plague, around 630 A.D. Three decades after it was founded, more than 300 monks lived in the community. Located only 10 minutes from Lough Lene, this is an impressive destination for its standing ruins as well as the Seven Wonders of Fore, which includes "the water that flows uphill" and "the tree that won't burn." Fore Abbey is open year round and charges no admission. Although it was burned 12 times between 771 and 1169 A.D., Fore Abbey was always rebuilt. It's a very popular attraction, and the area surrounding it feels thick with a sense of history and purpose.
it feels thick with a sense of history and purpose.

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Fish Species

  • Brown Trout
  • Trout
  • Pike


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