Lough Gill (Loch Gile in Irish Gaelic) is a lake near the town of Sligo in Ireland. Located on the counties of Sligo and Leitrim, this lake is rather nice to discover, with its twenty islets, and its surrounding hills, overgrown with forests and moors…
Lough Gill is 8km long and 2km wide and is surrounded by a tourist road, known as the R286. Whether you’re travelling by bus, bicycle, or your own car, the road is well worth the detour!
The circuit starts north of Sligo, in the direction of Dromahair. You will then pass through Hazelwood, a rather pretty little forest, which borders the shores of Lough Gill. You will have the opportunity to walk there: there are trails and you will even come across some sculptures on your way!
After your stroll, get back on the road: the R286 takes you a little further away from the lake, to gain height and offer you a superb view of Colgagh Lough, a small lake nearby.
Continuing on, we enter County Leitrim, near Parke Castle, a 17th century castle that dominates the whole of Lough Gill. It was built for Robert Parke, a wealthy local landowner who wanted to oversee his surrounding plantations. The castle is open to visitors for 3€ per person, and offers an exceptional view of the lake and its surroundings.
Possibility to book a shuttle bus at the foot of the castle for cruises on Lough Gill. These are valid during the day as well as in the evening, and offer rather nice dinners. For more information, ask the Rose of Innisfree.
After Parke Castle, take the R288, still in the direction of Dromahair. After the village, take a small road leading to Innisfree Pier. This is a jetty facing Innisfree Island. This small island was once one of the playgrounds of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who used to isolate himself here as a child when he was on holiday at his grandfather’s house.
Charmed by the beauty of the landscapes of Lough Gill and Inisfree, he later wrote a poem called: “Lake Isle of Innisfree”.
Then take the R287 to join Sligo County and reach the south of Lough Gill Lake. We then approach Dooney Rock, a promontory in the forest, which overlooks the lake with a breathtaking view.
It is reached by a small path: the forest and the sky are reflected on the lake, offering a breathtaking view! The Ben Bulben and the Knocknarea can be seen there.
A little before the end of the tour, we come across the Tobernalt Holy Well, a religious site built on a small river which then flows into Lough Gill. The shrine has been considered a sacred place since the Celts celebrated Lugnasad there. Saint Patrick himself is said to have baptized many pagans in the 5th century!
Nowadays, the site is still considered religious. It welcomes many pilgrims and other religious people who come here to meditate.