Ireland, often called the Emerald Isle, is renowned for its stunning landscapes, and its lakes are no exception. I have included a short description of these Irish lakes, along with two or three words describing each. I have not been to all of them, but I have ticked off quite a few. I hope to see all of these lakes in Ireland someday.
From the serene beauty of County Wicklow to the rugged charm of County Donegal, here are 15 of the most beautiful lakes in Ireland, each with its unique allure. I’ve included photos of some of the Irish lakes. You can also jump to any of them by clicking on the lake table of contents.
The “best” Irish lake depends on your personal interests and what you hope to experience during your visit. Each lake on the list has its own unique appeal, and exploring them allows you to discover different facets of Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage. I’ve also added a reason for what it is the best for on all applicable Irish lakes.
Table of Contents: Lakes in Ireland
- Glendalough Upper Lake(Best for Peace and Tranquility)
- Lough Leane(Best for Scenic Beauty)
- Lough Derg(Best for Cultural Connection)
- Lough Neagh(Best for History and Culture)
- Lough Ree
- Lough Corrib(Best for Fishing)
- Lough Allen(Best for Adventure)
- Lower Lough Erne
- Lough Conn
- Lough Derg (Donegal)(Best for Outdoor Activities)
- Lough Derravaragh(Best for Local Lore)
- Lough Tay
- Caragh Lake
- Lough Key
- Lough Mask
1. Glendalough Upper Lake:
Best for Tranquility: If tranquillity is your priority, Glendalough Upper Lake in County Wicklow provides a serene escape amid lush forests and ancient ruins.
Nestled within the stunning Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough’s Upper Lake is a serene oasis of natural beauty. Surrounded by dense forests and ancient monastic ruins, this lake immerses you in tranquillity. You can take leisurely walks along its shores, absorbing the peaceful ambience and enjoying the sight of centuries-old landmarks.
Don’t miss the chance to explore St. Kevin’s Monastic City nearby, an archaeological gem.
2. Lough Leane:
Best for Scenic Beauty: If you’re looking for a lake with breathtaking natural beauty, Lough Leane in County Kerry, often considered the jewel of the Killarney Lakes, offers stunning vistas and the picturesque Innisfallen Island.
Lough Leane, the largest of the enchanting Killarney Lakes in County Kerry, is a masterpiece of nature. Its shores are graced with lush woodlands and historic sites, including the iconic Innisfallen Island. Visitors can explore the island’s ancient abbey ruins and bask in the serene surroundings. Whether by boat or along the scenic walking trails, Lough Leane promises an unforgettable Irish experience.
This Irish lake has to be seen from the water to appreciate it. I also highly recommend visiting Killarney National Park at the same time. Check out this incredible boat tour of Killarney and Lough Leane
3. Lough Derg:
Best Irish Lake for Cultural Connection: Lough Derg in County Donegal provides a serene retreat in Ireland’s northwest, perfect for those seeking a quieter, more secluded experience.
Known as Ireland’s pleasure lake, Lough Derg spans three counties: Clare, Galway, and Tipperary. This expansive lake offers something for everyone, from sailing and watersports to lakeside strolls in charming villages. The marinas and harbours bustle with activity, while the tranquil waters provide a sense of escape. Lough Derg is an invitation to explore Ireland’s heartland’s vibrant culture and natural beauty.
4. Lough Neagh – Lakes in Ireland:
Best for History and Culture: For those interested in history and culture, Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland boasts a rich heritage, with ancient castles and historic sites along its shores.
Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland and the UK, is a majestic waterbody steeped in history. Its shores are dotted with ancient castles and picturesque towns. Take a boat tour to discover its islands, including the enchanting Coney Island. Lough Neagh is a haven for birdwatchers and offers glimpses of the region’s rich heritage.
5. Lough Ree – Lakes in Ireland:
Lough Ree, straddling the counties of Longford, Westmeath, and Roscommon, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. The lake is dotted with charming islands, and its peaceful shores provide an ideal setting for angling and leisurely walks. History enthusiasts can visit ancient monastic sites on some of the islands, such as Inchmore and Inchcleraun.
6. Lough Corrib:
Best for fishing: Anglers might favour Lough Corrib in Counties Galway and Mayo, renowned for its trout and salmon fishing and its proximity to historic villages.
Lough Corrib in Counties Galway and Mayo is renowned for its exceptional fishing, particularly for trout and salmon. The lake’s shores are adorned with picturesque villages like Cong, where scenes from the classic film “The Quiet Man” were filmed. Explore Inchagoill Island to discover ancient monastic ruins, adding a touch of history to your visit. It is also the second-largest lake in Ireland.
7. Lough Allen – Lakes in Ireland:
Best Irish Lake for Adventure: For adventure seekers, Lough Allen in Counties Leitrim and Roscommon offers opportunities for windsurfing, kayaking, and hiking in a dramatic landscape.
Lough Allen, situated in Counties Leitrim and Roscommon, offers a dramatic and rugged landscape. Adventure seekers will find plenty to do, from windsurfing and kayaking to hiking along the nearby Arigna Mountains. The lake’s tranquil bays and inlets provide a peaceful escape amidst breathtaking scenery.
8. Lower Lough Erne – Lakes in Ireland:
While technically in Northern Ireland, Lower Lough Erne is easily accessible from the Republic of Ireland and offers scenic cruising and historic sites like Devenish Island. This tranquil lake is perfect for exploring ancient ruins, enjoying water sports, or simply relaxing in serene surroundings.
9. Lough Conn:
Lough Conn in County Mayo is celebrated for its clear waters and excellent angling opportunities. The lake is surrounded by charming villages, with Pontoon being a favourite starting point for anglers. Nature enthusiasts can explore nearby Ballycroy National Park or take in the picturesque beauty of the Nephin Beg Mountains.
10. Lough Derg (Donegal) – Lakes in Ireland:
Best for Outdoor Activities: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Lough Derg in counties Clare, Galway, and Tipperary offers a wide range of water-based activities, making it a hotspot for watersports and exploration.
Lough Derg in County Donegal offers a serene retreat amidst unspoiled natural beauty. Its tranquil shores provide the ideal backdrop for leisurely walks and moments of reflection. While less known than its namesake in the south, this Lough Derg offers a peaceful escape in Ireland’s northwest.
11. Lough Derravaragh – Lakes in Ireland:
Best for local Lore: Lough Derravaragh in County Westmeath, with its connection to Irish folklore and legends, might pique the interest of those looking for a touch of mystique.
Lough Derravaragh is steeped in Irish folklore and is said to be the home of the mythical Children of Lir. This tranquil lake in County Westmeath is perfect for picnics, fishing, and birdwatching. Its mystical ambience makes it an ideal setting for reconnecting with nature and Irish legends.
12. Lough Tay – Lakes in Ireland:
Lough Tay, often called the “Guinness Lake” due to its dark waters and white sandy beaches, is set amidst the stunning Wicklow Mountains. The surrounding mountains enhance This lake’s beauty, making it a popular spot for photography and relaxation. The nearby Luggala Estate adds a touch of aristocratic charm to the area.
13. Caragh Lake:
Caragh Lake, nestled in a glaciated valley in County Kerry, is a tranquil haven for those seeking peace and natural beauty. Rolling hills surround the lake and offer scenic walks along its shores. Anglers can try their luck in its pristine waters, while adventurers can explore the nearby Caragh River and Gap of Dunloe.
14. Lough Key – Lakes in Ireland:
Lough Key in County Roscommon is part of a beautiful forest park that offers a wealth of activities. Visitors can enjoy boat trips on the lake, explore walking trails through ancient woodlands, and visit the impressive King House.
15. Lough Mask – Lakes in Ireland:
Lough Mask, straddling Counties Galway and Mayo, is a paradise for trout fishing enthusiasts. Its crystal-clear waters and scenic surroundings make it a top choice for anglers. The lake is also conveniently located near Connemara National Park, offering a dual opportunity for nature and adventure enthusiasts.
Bonus must visit Irish lakes:
- Lough Gill; County Sligo: Known for its crystal-clear waters and the famous Lake Isle of Innisfree, immortalized by W.B. Yeats.
- Lough Ennell; County Westmeath: Offers peaceful lakeside walks, fishing, and a rich archaeological history.
Conclusion on the best of Ireland’s Lakes:
These stunning lakes in Ireland offer a diverse range of experiences, from outdoor adventures to serene contemplation in some of the most beautiful natural settings that Ireland has to offer.
In exploring Ireland’s most stunning lakes, we’ve uncovered a rich tapestry of natural beauty and cultural Irish heritage. From Glendalough’s peaceful serenity to the grandeur of Lough Neagh, these lakes are more than picturesque settings; they’re gateways to Ireland’s heart and soul.
These lakes offer many experiences, from the tranquil allure of Lough Derg to the adventurous spirit of Lough Allen. Each lake has its unique charm, steeped in folklore and history, and beckons travellers to create lasting memories.
Whether you’re a nature lover, an angler, or simply searching for a tranquil retreat, Ireland’s lakes extend an open invitation to connect with the essence of this captivating island. As we conclude this journey, remember that these lakes aren’t just destinations; they’re stories waiting to be told, experiences waiting to be lived, and treasures waiting to be discovered in the heart of Ireland.
Before you go, I am sure I missed a lake in Ireland that should be on this list. So please email me with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I will add any that deserve to be on this list.
Thanks for reading,