With over 70 islands scattered about the lake -from tiny (50 m²) to substantial (2.5 acres)- the lake is a favourite among landscape painters with such a variety of vistas and reflections in the ever-changing light.
A small relatively shallow lake with a long limestone shoreline, Lough Carra’s myriad bays, inlets and peninsulas extend its perimeter to almost 70 kilometres. For peace and solitude, only 15km south of Castlebar, the gently lapping shores of this 4,000 acre lake lure the angler and pleasure cruiser alike. With over 70 islands scattered about the lake--from tiny (50 m²) to substantial (2.5 acres)--the lake is a favourite among landscape painters with such a variety of vistas and reflections in the ever-changing light.
Connacht Clergyman, sportsman and author W.H. Maxwell says of Lough Carra in his 1892 book Wild Sports of the West of Ireland, "as a sheet of water nothing can be more beautiful; and everything that the painter delights to fancy here can be realised."
Colourful boats are moored about the fringes of the lake, enticing not only the anglers and swimmers, but painters and photographers. The sight of livestock being brought by boat to the islands to graze was once common in summertime, but now the islands remain mostly untouched woodlands.
Together with Lough Conn, Carrowmore Lake and Lough Cullin, Lough Carra is considered a Special Area of Conservation or Special Protection area. Much of the lake shore is bordered with reed beds and strands of true bulrush, providing protection for birds. About 20,000 swallows roost on Lough Carra each autumn, with the locations differing year to year. The birds begin to swarm in the evening and within about 1 hour they settle in the reed beds around the lake.
Once part of the estate of the Moore family of Moore Hall, the best access points for anglers include Moore Hall, as well as Brownstown and Castleburke. Anglers are drawn to Lough Carra from April until October to fish for brown trout and pike. With such clear water, some report observing the trout in motion before it takes the fly.
Around the lake there is a wide variety of vegetation from woodland to grassland, fen, peat bog and heath with an abundance of flora and fauna as well as animal habitats. Of the 24 species of Orchid found in Ireland, 19 can be found in Lough Carra.
Boats are for hire at the Moore Hall access point near the ‘big house’ of the same name, which embodies an intriguing slice of Irish history, with a roster of notable visitors and residents over more than a century. But even without a boat or a fishing rod, sitting on a rock on the edge of the lake watching the reflective glow of a pink and orange autumn sunset, for at least a moment, you will want for nothing.