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Lakes in Ireland: 8 of the best lakes in Ireland for activities in 2019

Heading out on to one of the many lakes in Ireland is a great way to see some stunning scenery. If you are looking for more active ways to enjoy the water, have a read of our guide to the best lakes in Ireland for activities.

With so many lakes in Ireland, there is ample opportunity for you to get out on the water no matter what part of the country you visit. So, if you want to try your hand at angling or cruising, canoeing or windsurfing, we’ve got plenty of inspiration in our guide to the best lakes in Ireland for activities.

8 beautiful lakes in Ireland for activities in 2019

Hiking in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Glendalough glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Glendalough in Co. Wicklow is an old monastic town with a rich and fascinating history that has been attracting visitors for thousands of years.

The ‘valley of the two lakes’ is just spectacular and hiking is one of the most popular activities to do in Glendalough. A full loop around both lakes takes between two and four hours. Bring a picnic with you and take a break at the top to enjoy the stunning view before making your way back down. 

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Windsurfing on Lough Allen, Co. Leitrim & Roscommon

Castle ruins set on an island on the River Shannon.

Lough Allen is a lake on the River Shannon in County Leitrim with a small part of the lake in County Roscommon. Lough Allen is the uppermost of the three main lakes on the River Shannon, which also include Lough Ree and Lough Derg.

This area of outstanding natural beauty is also home to some keen windsurfers. At the lake you can rent equipment and take lessons. With a bit of practice you’ll be planing across the water in no time. Whilst you are doing so you’ll also get to take in some fabulous scenery and enjoy the unspoilt nature.

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Angling on Lough Corrib, Co. Galway & Mayo

Boat and swans on a lake in County Galway.

Lough Corrib is known for its angling especially for salmon and wild brown trout. At around 56km in length, there’s plenty of places to find a quiet spot during fishing season, which begins in February and ends in September. 

If you need to book accommodation, hire a boatmen and stock up on equipment and supplies, just make your way to one of the many angling centres around the lake.

When you have caught your supper, head into Galway city and check out some traditional Irish music in a cosy pub and sink a pint of the Black Stuff.

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Course fishing on Lough Derg, Co. Tipperary, Clare & Galway

Someone fishing on a lake.

Lough Derg is the third largest lake on the island or Ireland after Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland and Lough Corrib in Co. Galway. It is one of the best lakes in Ireland for activities, but it is most famous for its coarse angling for bream, tench, roach and perch, as well as record weight pike.

Not into fishing? Well, Lough Derg is located in the Lakelands district which has plenty of things to do both on and off the water. Rent a car and explore the surrounding countryside, try your hand at some water sports or simply go for a ramble around the pretty towns and villages – Ballyleague and Lanesborough are two of our favourites.

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Boating on Lough Gill, Co. Sligo

Beach with sand and a mountain in the background.

Lough Gill is home to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, immortalised by W.B.Yeats in his poem of the same name. It is also home to around 20 other small islands and is one of the best lakes in Ireland for activities that are more on the tranquil side.

You can explore this lake by car or bike along a 35km loop that starts in Sligo, and takes you through Hazelwood, Parkes Castle, Dromahair, Slish Wood, Dooney Rock and back to Sligo.

If you want to get out on the lake, one of the most romantic ways of doing this is on an open boat. You can board these boats in Sligo town and they will take you down the Garavogue River and out on to Lough Gill.

Back on dry land, why not go for a hike? Here’s some of the best walking routes and trails in Ireland.

Sailing on Lough Key, Co. Roscommon

Lough Key in County Roscommon is one of the largest forest parks in Ireland. It is set amongst mixed woodland and has a number of islands, too. It is one of the best lakes in Ireland for activities for people of all ages.

In Lough Key you can explore nature trails and a tree canopy trail, you can get muddy in a bog garden, make a wish in the wishing chair and go wild in the adventure playground. Plenty to keep the whole family entertained. If you want to stay in the park there are well-equipped caravan and camping sites.

To get out on the water you can hire a boat from within the park. 

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Birdwatching on Lough Neagh, Co. Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone & Derry

Kingfisher on a tree branch.

Lough Neagh is a fresh water lake in Northern Ireland and the largest lake by area in the British Isles.

It is a haven for wildlife with many viewpoints around the shoreline. Birdwatchers are in for a treat so be sure to bring your binoculars. Over 100,000 wintering wildfowl fly in from places such as Canada, Iceland, Greenland and the Russian Arctic. You’ll even spot some Kingfishers too.

There is also plenty of interesting flora and fauna, including unique species of fish, such as the Dollaghan, which is a huge Trout, and Pollan, which is a small freshwater type of Herring. The lake is also famous for its eels that travel over 6,500km to breed in the Sargasso Sea. The young fry then return back to the lake by drifting on the Gulf Stream back over the Atlantic.

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Hiking around Muckross Lake, Co. Kerry

Muckross Lake in Co. Kerry in Ireland reflecting the trees and clouds.

Muckross Lake is located in Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry, surrounded by the peaks of Ireland’s highest mountains.

There is some really good brown trout fishing in the lake, but most people come here and hike around Muckross Estate.

The quickest circuit, which starts and ends at Muckross House, takes about three hours. But you could add another hour on to that when you factor in how often you’ll want to stop to take photos or just enjoy the views.

Your walk will take you past the formal gardens and historic buildings of the Muckross Estate and down to beautiful beaches and coves. You can also take a side trip off the circuit to visit Torc Waterfall.

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8 of the best lakes in Ireland for activities in 2019

WhereBest for
1. Glendalough, Co. Wicklowhiking
2. Lough Allen, Co. Leitrim & Roscommonwindsurfing
3. Lough Corrib, Co. Galway & Mayoangling
4. Lough Derg, Co. Tipperary, Clare & Galwaycourse fishing
5. Lough Gill, Co. Sligoboating
6. Lough Key, Co. Roscommonsailing
7. Lough Neagh, Co. Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone & Derrybirdwatching
8. Muckross Lake, Co. Kerryhiking & history

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