MAYO LAKES

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The lakes are numerous, and several are of large size: the principal lie in a direction north and south from the borders of Galway to Killala. A small part of the northern portion of Lough Corrib is considered as belonging to the county: this lake is navigable, unless in very dry seasons, for boats of from 10 to 20 tons to its most northern extremity at Cong, a distance of about 30 miles from the sea. A narrow isthmus of high and rocky land, about two miles across, here separates it from Lough Mask. This latter lake is 10 miles long by 4 broad, with two arms about a mile distant from each other, stretching into Joyces' country, the larger projecting four miles, the lesser three: the lake is navigable up the Ballinrobe river, within l ½ mile of Ballinrobe town.

The gillaroo trout, which is remarkable as having a gizzard larger than that of a turkey, but never any roe, is found in it: both red and white trout are also taken. The water of Lough Mask is 36 feet above the summer level of Lough Corrib; and the former pours the whole of its redundant waters into Lough Corrib, through numerous subterraneous caverns, beneath the isthmus above noticed: from these caverns the water emerges in numerous fountains near the village of Cong, whence it flows in a rapid stream, turning several powerful mills, until it mingles with the waters of the lower lake. Lough Carra is a very picturesque sheet of water, seven miles long by three broad, studded with woody peninsulas and islands: this lake assumes an appearance not observable in other collections of fresh water, its colour being greenish while that of others is invariably blue; a peculiarity attributable to the shallowness of its water, which covers a bed of pale yellowish marl. Lough Dan, the next in order, is much smaller than any of the others in the range: it is also called Castlebar lake, because its eastern extremity is close to the town of that name.

Lough Conn is a fine piece of water, fifteen miles long by five broad, interspersed with islands on which are ruins of castles and of monasteries, and having its borders fringed with woods and ornamented with mansions and villas: it communicates with the towns of Foxford and Crossmolina, and stretches within two miles of Ballina, and ten of Killala. At the southeastern extremity of Lough Conn is Lough Cullen, sometimes called the Lower Conn: it is separated from the lake of that name by a narrow strait, over which a bridge named Pontoon bridge was built, on the formation of the new mail line to Sligo. An extraordinary phenomenon is visible here in the alternate ebbing and flowing of these lakes: the water is seen sometimes rushing with great force through the channel beneath Pontoon bridge into Lough Cullen, while at others it runs with equal force from this lake into Lough Conn, and this is often observable when the waters of the upper lake are much swollen by floods from the mountains, while the lower lake, or Lough Cullen, is the natural outlet of the whole of this immense volume of water.

The shores of both lakes being composed in many places of a fine red sand, the line of high water mark can be distinctly traced several inches above the water, and then in the space of an hour, without any apparent cause, the water rises again to the higher level in the one lake, while it is low water in the other: numerous unsatisfactory conjectures have been stated relative to this extraordinary fact. Besides the lakes now mentioned there are many others; the principal are Upper and Lower Lough Aile, Lough Urlor, Lough Samore, Lough Skye, Beltra Lake, Kerramore Lake, and other smaller lakes near Foxford, Manilla, Ballinrobe, Shrule, Annagh, Ballyhaunis, Ballagh, and Kinturk. In this county, like that of Galway, there are numerous turloughs, which in winter and wet seasons cover large tracts of land, and at other times afford excellent pasture.

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