Ireland’s Lakes Will Transport You To Another Time And Place - Try These Routes - The Gloss Magazine

Ireland’s Lakes Will Transport You To Another Time And Place – Try These Routes

AUTHOR gWEN wILKINSON shares her favourite lake-side getaways …

Main Image; Lough Erne Resort

In 2019, I set myself the challenge of building a canoe and paddling it the length of Ireland via a network of rivers, loughs and canals. My voyage began in Co Fermanagh, on the River Erne, where it occupies the landscape in the form of two large lakes, Upper and Lower Lough Erne. For me, exploring these watery worlds was like tumbling through a portal into Ireland’s ancient past.

Following the Lough Erne Canoe Trail, I paddled to the shores of Boa and White Island with its enigmatic Celtic stone carvings. The tall round tower on Devenish Island heralded my arrival to the ancient pilgrimage site. Striking out along the Upper Lough, I stayed overnight at beautiful Belle Isle Castle, a private island retreat. On Trannish, I realised a long-held fantasy of being a castaway on a deserted island. Stopping off at the island of Govindadvipa, I left offerings at the Hare Krishna shrine and paddled on to explore the lonely Crichton Tower, a famine folly on Gad Island. This long, meandering voyage inspired my book The Waters and the Wild, which was published this summer.

Down by the water’s edge, wind whispers through the reeds and rustles up ancient histories. Lakes are enchanting places steeped in wondrous tales with mysterious islands begging to be explored. On Lough Ree, the notorious Queen Maeve retired to Inchclearaun, where she built herself a palace and walled garden. Many are lured to the island in search of Grianán Maeva, “Maeve’s sunny place”. Setting out across the glittering waters of Lough Ennell, you might find your way to Lilliput Harbour and experience the vista that inspired Jonathan Swift’s epic tale Gulliver’s Travels. Lough Key is a dreamy lake, sheltered by mature woodland. Layers of history have accumulated on its numerous secluded islands – cloistered and castellated ruins, all now slowly sinking back into the earth.

These arcadian waterscapes are brimful of wildlife. Rare breeding birds such as lapwing, little egret, and whooper swan find a refuge on these watery margins. Great crested grebes thrive in the habitat of slow-moving waters. Dragon and damsel flies dazzle with their iridescent hues. Concealed in these wetland habitats is a treasure trove of lush and varied flora – orchids, angelica and yellow flag irises. From July, the islands of Loughs Derg and Ree are abloom with nodding harebells. The pale-blue faces of water forget-me-nots smile up from their semi-submerged habitat. Sorrel, water mint, yellow cress and other wetland herbs form a magical carpet, thriving both underwater and in open air.

A hired cruise boat is the most popular way for families and groups to explore the idyllic loughs of the Shannon and the Erne. Shallow draft vessels, such as dinghies, canoes and SUPs have the advantage of being able to access secluded shores and launch on smaller landlocked lakes. Whether you wild camp on a deserted island, drift in the company of restless lapwings or linger shoreside, Ireland’s lakes will transport you to another time and place.

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