An inseparable part of Ashford Castle, the ancient and serene Lough Corrib forms a stunning backdrop for the hotel. It’s a commonly held view that there are 365 islands on the lough but, in fact, it’s closer to 1,332 depending on the lake’s water levels. The largest lake in Ireland and the second largest in the Irish Republic, it spans an impressive 68 square miles and, at 27 miles in length, it reaches into both County Galway and County Mayo. In addition to providing a wonderful view for hotel guests, this extraordinary lake is a fascinating historical sight, rich wildlife habitat and popular venue for fishing and sailing.
Regarded as a significant archaeological site, discoveries in its depths include items dating as far back as the Bronze and Iron Ages. A 10th-century log containing three well-preserved Viking battle axes was recently unearthed by an archaeologist. Similar objects have been found at various points around the lake.
In addition to its long history, Lough Corrib has long enjoyed a reputation for its excellent salmon and trout fishing, as well as its rich birdlife. While sailing around the islands, keep an eye out for the lake’s animal residents which include otters, stoat, mink, bats and frogs.
Many of the islands of Lough Corrib are uninhabited and not open to the public but it is possible to visit a few. The islands of Inishmacatreer, Inchaquin and Inisdoorus are all inhabited and connected to the mainland by a bridge or causeway, but the most recommended island to visit is Inchagoill. Certainly the most frequented and well-known of all Lough Corrib’s islands, Inchagoill takes its name from the Gaelic for ‘island of the stranger’ and has been used as a religious site since ancient times.
Visitors make the journey to this forested island to admire the ruins of two ancient holy sites, St Patrick’s Church, thought to have been built around the 5th century and the petite 12th-century Church of the Saints. After admiring the ruins, enjoy a peaceful stroll through the woods. Ask the hotel to pack you a picnic in advance so you can enjoy it on one of Inchagoill’s secluded beaches. Make sure you take a moment to appreciate the sublime views of the Maumturk mountain range.
From Inchagoill, visitors can sail on to the tiny but intriguing island of Castlekirk. Located in the north westerly part of the lake as you approach the village of Maum, the island dates back to the 1100s and is known by several names; Castlekirk, Hen’s Castle and Caislean na Circe.
The name Hen’s Castle comes from the history of the castle ruins that dominate the island. Castle heir Dónal an-Chogaidh O’Flaherty, renowned for his aggressive temperament and therefore nicknamed ‘the Cock’, married Grace O’Malley in 1546, who became henceforth known as ‘the Hen’. After O’Flaherty’s murder, Grace defended the castle herself with such fierce bravery that the name of Hen’s Castle stuck.
Explore the islands of Lough Corrib from Ashford Castle.
Image Credits: Lead image © Red Carnation Hotels. Ashford Castle from the lake © Red Carnation Hotels. Inchagoill island © iStock/hipokrat. Ancient ruin on Inchagoill © iStock/Stephen Barnes. Lough Corrib © iStock/magann.