| |

13 Scenic Lakes in Ireland You Can’t Miss

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

Are you wondering what the best lakes in Ireland are? You’re in luck.

If there’s one thing you can expect to find in abundance in Ireland, it’s natural beauty in abundance. The Emerald Isle is packed with rolling hills and a rugged coastline – it’s a real paradise for any nature lover. 

Did you know that there are over 12,000 lakes in Ireland? No matter which part of the country you visit, you’re sure to come across a lake or two, and these tranquil spots are a beautiful stop to make during your Ireland adventure. 

While studying abroad in Ireland for 5 months, I was able to see many of the beautiful lakes that this country has to offer.

Keep reading to learn more about the best lakes in Ireland.

🚗 Don’t forget to book your Ireland rental car! Click here to check rates. 🚗

Lakes in Ireland

Lough Leane

Large lake at the foot of the mountains with a large white rock on the left side

Lough Leane is located in Killarney in County Kerry and is the largest lake in Killarney National Park. It’s situated in a low valley flanked by rugged mountains – the scenery here is second to none.

One of the best views of the lake can be seen along the Ring of Kerry (a popular Irish driving route) by making a stop at ladies’ views – a viewpoint named during Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland in 1861 when her personal assistants claimed it to be the finest view in the whole country. 

The 15th-century Ross Castle perches along an inlet on Lough Leane’s banks, and visitors can take a scenic boat trip along the lough’s tranquil waters to reach the castle.

Keep an eye out for the Chieftain O’donaghue – legend has it he sleeps under the waters of the lake and rises every seven years on a magnificent white horse. If you’re lucky enough to witness him, it’s believed you’ll enjoy good fortune for the rest of your life. 

Lough Derg

Aerial view of a blue lake at the base of a mountainous area on a sunny day

Stretching across three counties, Lough Derg is the third biggest lake in Ireland. Its peaceful waters make it a popular spot for watersports like stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.

As a result, the Lough has been nicknamed ‘Ireland’s pleasure lake’ due to the range of activities that can be enjoyed there. Despite its popularity, its size means that you won’t struggle to find a serene spot to enjoy the beautiful lake. 

There are around 60 little islands nestled within the Lough, and tour providers offer the chance to explore some of the most popular ones, such as Inis Cealtra, which contains sacred remains of a 7th-century cloister settlement. 

The shores of the lake are flanked by verdant vistas and enchanting woodlands, and there are dozens of nature walks to enjoy while you’re in the area. There are trails for all abilities, but those looking for an adventure will love the Lough Derg Way, a route starting in Limerick City (County Limerick) and ending in Dromineer (County Tipperary).

Grab the Free Ultimate Ireland Bucket List

Sign up to get access to some of the best things to do in Ireland – perfect for planning your trip!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Lough Corrib

    Two small wooden boats docked on the shore of a lake at sunset

    Located in the west of Ireland in County Galway, Lough Corrib is the second biggest lake in Ireland. The lake has a large population of salmon and trout and is reputed as one of the best game fishing areas in the world – making it a popular spot with anglers. 

    The Lough is a Special Area of Conservation for recent historical discoveries – relics from as far back as the Bronze and Iron Ages have been discovered here. The vastness of the lake, along with its untouched natural charm, make it easy to feel like you’re on a trip back in time when you visit. 

    This famous lake is situated about a 40-minute drive from Galway, making it a popular excursion for tourists visiting the city. You can even book a river cruise which travels the length of the River Corrib, the river connecting the lake to the sea. This is the perfect way to experience the serenity of Lough Corrib.

    Lough Cullin

    Still lake at sunrise with large rocks scattered around the shoreline

    Many of the lakes in Ireland feature prominently in Celtic mythology, and Lough Cullin, located in County Mayo, is no exception to this. The lake is named after one of the two hounds belonging to Finn Mccool, a hero with a magic thumb that bestowed upon him great wisdom. 

    The lake is shallow and rocky, making it an unsuitable watersport spot – but there is still plenty to do there. It’s a renowned bird-watching spot and is home to many rare and endangered species. The area also offers activities like spa breaks, cooking classes, and art workshops – all set into a stunning backdrop of craggy mountains and desolate moors.

    County Mayo is a sparsely populated area, as many of its residents lost their lives during the potato famine.

    Visitors to Ireland often skip the county and head to the more popular nearby spots like Galway and Shannon – this means that if you visit Lough Cullin, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have it practically to yourself – you can enjoy it unspoiled by crowds, unlike many of Ireland’s most beautiful natural landmarks.

    Lough Ree

    Rocky shoreline of a still lake with trees along the far edge

    This beautiful lake sits in the middle of Ireland along the River Shannon and serves as a border between counties Longford, Westmeath, and Roscommon. Known as the “Lake of the Kings,” Lough Ree is a lake shrouded in myth and legend.

    As you cruise along the scenic lake, there is a palpable mystical energy in the atmosphere – for centuries, it’s been believed that the spirits of fallen warriors, powerful high kings, and noble monks linger in the Loughs air. 

    Lough Ree is also believed to be home to a monster potentially more credible than the famed Loch Ness monster in Scotland. In 1960, an unusual-looking creature was spotted in the Lough by three priests enjoying a day of fishing. It was about 6 feet long, and pictures of the intriguing creature spread like wildfire throughout the nation.

    Since the 1960s, there have been numerous sightings of the Lough Ree monster, and visitors regularly report hard knocks and thuds heard during boat trips. Keep an eye out during your visit – you never know what you might spot! 

    Lough Sheelin

    Lough Sheelin is a lake located in the midlands of Ireland, between the counties of Cavan, Meath, and Westmeath. It’s renowned for its stunning scenic beauty, bountiful fishing, and diverse wildlife.

    Lough Sheelin is one of the most renowned fishing lakes in Ireland, particularly for trout fishing. It is a popular spot for anglers who travel from all over the world to fish for its population of brown trout, which can grow up to 10 lbs in weight.

    Apart from fishing, Lough Sheelin is also a popular spot for birdwatching, with various bird species found around the lake. The pristine surroundings of the lake are a nature lover’s paradise and are also home to other wildlife, such as foxes, badgers, and hares.

    The lake rarely gets too busy – it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind in the midst of nature, on a gentle amble around the lake, or while enjoying a lakeside picnic.

    In addition to its natural beauty, Lough Sheelin is also steeped in history and mythology. According to legend, the lake is home to a powerful water spirit known as a banshee, who is said to warn of impending death with her mournful cry.

    The area around the lake is also rich in archaeological remains, including megalithic tombs, ring forts, and early Christian churches. Many people visit this area for the nearby archaeological sites of Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, and a trip to Lough Sheelin can be combined with a visit to these special sites.

    Lough Key

    Aerial view of a lake with a small island in the middle that has a castle on it

    County Roscommon’s Lough Key is one of the best Irish lakes for adventure lovers. The lake is a popular destination for water activities like kayaking, sailing, and paddle boarding, with no shortage of vendors renting out equipment and providing lessons. 

    The shores of the Loch are home to Lough Key Forest and Adventure Park. Here, you can experience the thrill of zipping through the thick forest along the zipline or soar high above the treetops on the tree canopy walk, a series of connected platforms and walkways which wind through the forest. Whatever activity you choose, you will enjoy impressive views over the lake and the surrounding countryside. 

    The park also offers boat tours on the lake for a more relaxed way to appreciate the beautiful views, and they even run electric bike tours through the stunning surroundings. 

    Lough Neagh

    Overhead view of trees and grass lining the shore of a large, blue lake

    Situated in the center of Northern Ireland, Lough Neagh is the largest lake in Ireland and is also the largest lake in the entirety of the British Isles. It’s surrounded by all 6 of Northern Ireland’s counties: Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Tyrone, and Fermanagh. 

    The lake has a long and rich history, with evidence of human habitation dating all the way back to the Mesolithic period. It has played an essential role in the region’s economy, serving as a significant source of fish, eels, and water for irrigation and industry.

    The lake also boasts a diverse range of flora and fauna and is an essential habitat for various bird species, particularly during the migration series.

    Lough Neagh isn’t lacking in things to do, and it’s a popular destination for boating, fishing, and water sports, as well as for scenic walks and cycling. It is also home to several historic sites and landmarks, including the Ardboe Cross, a 10th-century high cross, and the ruins of Shane’s Castle, an 18th-century country estate.

    A must-do activity on the shores of Lough Neagh is to sample local food and drink – eel dishes are a popular delicacy in this region due to the abundant population in the lake. Even if eel doesn’t take your fancy, you’ll definitely find something to your taste at one of the many high-quality restaurants and pubs around the lake.

    Lower Lough Erne

    Grassy field with small yellow flowers leading to a bright blue lake

    Lower Lough Erne is one of the biggest lakes in Ireland and is located in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Fermanagh is known as a water wonderland because of its low elevation and plentiful supply of sparkling lakes, and Lower Lough Erne is arguably one of its best lakes. 

    The lake contains over 150 islands, and the most famous island is home to the town of Enniskillen. Enniskillen is a popular destination for tourists, thanks to its beautiful waterside setting and rich history.

    Enniskillen Castle, the town’s focal point, was built in the 16th century and has been remarkably well preserved throughout history. These days, the castle houses the Fermanagh County Museum, a brilliant museum featuring exhibits on local history and culture.

    There are also many other historical sites in the area, including ancient burial sites, monastic ruins, and the ruins of medieval castles. The area is also known for its natural beauty, and there are many hiking and walking trails in the surrounding countryside.

    Muckross Lake

    Group of people walking along the shore of a lake and taking pictures

    Muckross Lake is a picturesque lake located in the famous Killarney National Park, County Kerry. It is one of the three famous lakes of Killarney, along with Lough Leane and Upper Lake. 

    Muckross is arguably one of the prettiest Irish lakes and is renowned for its dramatic beauty; it’s surrounded by undulating emerald hills and lush forests. The lake covers an area of approximately 250 hectares and is the deepest of the three lakes in the national park, with a maximum depth of around 75 meters.

    On the eastern shore of the lake, visitors will find the historic Muckross House and Gardens. This stunning Victorian mansion was built in the mid-19th century and now serves as a museum, showcasing the lifestyle residents led throughout history in the local area.

    The house is surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens, which are open to the public and feature a range of exotic plants and trees.

    Visitors can also enjoy a walk or cycle around the lake on the Muckross Peninsula Loop, a scenic trail that takes in some of the best views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

    Muckross Lake is a great spot to explore on a trip to the beautiful and tranquil Killarney National Park.

    Lough Caragh

    Overhead view of a dark blue lake with mountains and wooded areas lining the shore

    Lough Caragh is a freshwater lake in the beautiful County Kerry, in Ireland’s south. It’s situated right in the heart of the Kerry Mountains and is fed by the Caragh River, which flows from the lake to the sea. The Loch is known for its stunning natural beauty, with the surrounding mountains providing a dramatic backdrop to the crystal-clear waters of the lake. 

    On the southern shore of the lake, visitors can find the Caragh Lake Forest, which covers over 1,000 acres of woodland and provides many opportunities for hiking, cycling, and wildlife watching. The forest is home to a range of animals, including red deer, otters, and pine martens, as well as many species of birds and insects.

    Near the lake, visitors can also find the picturesque village of Glenbeigh, which is known for its wild beaches and traditional Irish pubs. The village is a popular base for exploring the surrounding area, with many hiking trails and scenic drives nearby.

    Glendalough Upper Lake

    Mountain range with a blue lake in the middle on a sunny day

    County Wicklow, located just south of Dublin, is home to Glendalough Upper Lake. The lake is part of the Glendalough Valley, which is loved by all for its remarkable natural beauty and historical significance.

    Glendalough Upper Lake is one of two lakes in the Glendalough Valley, with the other being Glendalough Lower Lake. The lake is fed by the Glendasan River and is surrounded by dense forests and rugged mountains, making it a picturesque location for outdoor activities and scenic walks.

    One of the main attractions of Glendalough Upper Lake is the monastic settlement of Glendalough, which was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and is now a renowned archaeological site.

    The monastic site includes a round tower, several ancient churches, and other ruins that are of historical and cultural significance. Visitors can explore the monastic settlement and learn about its rich history and heritage.

    Glendalough Upper Lake is also a popular destination for hiking and walking. Several trails in the area offer stunning views of the lake and the surrounding valleys, including the Glendalough Green Road, which is a relatively easy walk along the western shore of the lake, and the Spinc and Wicklow Way trails, which are more challenging but provide panoramic views of the entire valley.

    Lough Tay

    Grassy fields leading down a hill to a dark blue lake in a small mountain range

    Nicknamed the Guinness Lake, you’ll almost certainly recognize Lough Tay – the dramatic view of this lake and its surroundings feature pretty prominently in any Google image search of Ireland. It’s situated in the Wicklow Mountains and is known for its stunning scenery and unique features.

    Lough Tay is a relatively small lake. What makes it unique is its striking appearance – the lake is surrounded by steep cliffs and dense forests, and the water itself is dark blue in color, with a band of white sand running along the northern shore. This gives it the appearance of a pint of Guinness… hence its nickname!

    The lake is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, cycling, and fishing. The Wicklow Way, one of Ireland’s longest waymarked trails, passes by the lake and provides excellent views of the surrounding landscape.

    On the southern shore of the lake sits the Luggala Estate, which was once the home of the Guinness family. The estate is renowned for its stunning architecture and beautiful gardens, open to the public on certain days of the year.

    Lough Tay is an excellent destination for anyone on a short trip to Dublin – it’s a great way to experience the beauty and charm of the Wicklow Mountains. It’s only an hour’s drive from the city, and the journey there is almost as beautiful as the lake! 

    🚗 Don’t forget to book your Ireland rental car! Click here to check rates. 🚗

    Final Thoughts: Ireland Lakes

    There are so many lakes in Ireland to visit – there are over 12,000 of them in the country! Many of them feature historical sites and mythical legends, and some of them are great spots for adventure.

    Still, one thing is for sure – Ireland’s lakes offer a real taste of the picturesque natural beauty the country is famous for. 

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.