Lakes of Killarney

The Lakes of Killarney have been renowned for their beauty for centuries. They consist of three lakes – Lough Leane, Muckross Lake also known as the Middle Lake and Upper Lake as situated near Killarney, County Kerry. The area around the lakes itself is rich in both natural and cultural history. On the shores lie Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey and Muckross House. On Lough Leane is Innisfallen Island. The lakes and the mountains that surround them are all within the boundaries of Killarney National Park. The 10,236 hectare reserve is one of the most biodiverse areas in Ireland being home to ancient oak woodlands, herds of native red deer (Cervus elaphus) and white tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla).

The lakes lie in a mountain-ringed valley starting in the Black Valley at the foot of the McGillycuddy’s Reeks. The highest mountain range in Ireland. The mountains include Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil (1,038 m), Purple Mountain (832m), Mangerton Mountain (843m) and Torc Mountain (535m). The distinctive combination of mountains, lakes, woods and waterfalls under ever changing skies gives the area its special scenic beauty.


Lough Leane (from Irish Loch Léin, meaning “lake of learning”) is the largest of the three lakes. The River Laune drains Lough Leane to the north-west towards Killorglin and into Dingle Bay. Lough Leane, is only the place where the Killarney Shad (Alosa killarnensis) is found. It has been listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. Eutrophication and introduction of alien fish species such as common roach Rutilus rutilus and common bream Abramis brama are the most probable threats. The shad is also very sensitive to pollution.

Ross Island, a peninsula on the eastern shore of Lough Leane, is the site of copper mines dating back 4000 years to the Bronze Age, the earliest known copper mines in Ireland or Britain. The area was also extensively mined in the early 19th century by the Herbert family of Muckross House.

Muckross Peninsula, which separates Lough Leane from Muckross Lake, contains one of the few yew woods in Europe. The lakes are renowned for their trout fisheries.