Lough Leane is the largest of the three Lakes of Killarney. Lough Leane is approximately 19 square km (4,700 acres) in size and is the largest fresh body of water in the region. The three lakes of Killarney are:
- Lough Leane (Lower Lake)
- Muckross Lake (Middle Lake)
- Upper Lake
The Lake of Learning - Innisfallen Monastery
The Irish name Loch Lein means Lake of Learning and is a reference to the monastery on Innisfallen, an island on the lake. Founded in 640 by Saint Finian the Leper, during the period when Ireland was referred to as the Land of Saints and Scholars, the monastery served as a centre for teaching, and remained occupied for over 800 years. According to tradition, the High King of Ireland Brian Boru received his education here. The ruins of the monastery may be seen from the lake today.
The island is quiet and not trammelled with tourists, since the larger tour boats pass the island without stopping. To reach the island, visitors may hire their own row boats. As well as visiting the ruins of the monastery, visitors may delight in observing the many red deer that swim out to the island to graze on its grass.
In addition to Innisfallen, the other noteworthy island on the lake is copper-rich Ross Island, on which Ross Castle was built in the 15th century by the O'Donoghues. This charming castle offers a picture-postcard ending to cruises on the lake, after a morning's trek through the Gap of Dunloe.
Scenery and Features
Fun amateur video of a boat trip on Lake Leane, with olden-days musicThe lake is dotted with other uninhabited islands and fringed with wooded slopes. The river Laune drains Lough Leane to the north towards Killorglin and into Dingle Bay. All three lakes lie in a mountain-ringed valley, starting in the Black Valley. The mountains composing the ring are Corrauntookil (1,038 m), Purple Mountain (832 m), Mangerton Mountain (843 m), and Torc Mountain (535 m). The surrounding Killarney National Park offers a variety of sites of interest along the lakes, which highlight both natural and religious points of interest.
Killarney Town Centre is merely a mile from the shores of Lough Leane, whose noteworthy islands include Lake cruises leave Ross Castle and boats can be hired for the trip to Innisfallen. For those coming from the Gap of Dunloe, boats can be hired at Lord Brandon's Cottage in the Black Valley. Ladies View, a scenic stop on the N71 from Killarney to Kenmare offers a fabulous view of the lakes and the valleys.
Lough Leane. Image by Herr Sharif