Lough Ree (Irish: Loch Rí – Lake of the Kings) is one of the largest lakes on the River Shannon. 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 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 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!
Close to the Lough are the towns of Athlone at the southern end, and Lanesborough to the north, both often acting as starting points when visiting Lough Ree. Close to the banks of Lough Ree are a number of small towns and villages where there are also marina facilities in place. At Coosan Point on the southern tip of Lough Ree, you will find the Lough Ree Inn. This is a bar and family restaurant very popular with cruisers and locals alike. Irish music is regularly played here during the summer months and the marina is generally a hive of activity. Glasson Village is located to the east, and has grown a reputation for great food and accommodation options. To the west, is the busy Hodson Bay.
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 Newtown Cashel 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.