Lakes for Recreation, Living & Learning

Ireland’s lakes have great social values and, associated with this, a corresponding economic value. Local residents and visitors use the lakes for a wide variety of recreational and leisure activities, many of which bring income to the local economy. More importantly, their value as a significant part of natural and cultural heritage is underlined by the large numbers of people that enjoy using their multiple resources.

Tans Fish

Ireland has long been recognised as one of the finest angling venues in Europe. The huge number of lakes has provided a wealth of opportunities for both “coarse” and “game” anglers. Every year, tens of thousands of anglers visit Irish lakes (and rivers) to practice their pastime and enjoy the relatively unspoilt environment. A measure of the significance of this amenity value comes also from the statistics concerning anglers’ boats on the larger lakes: Lough Corrib, for example, regularly harbours well over a thousand, many of which are in frequent use.

Game angling targets the Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and the brown trout Salmo trutta (in its various forms, including sea trout), and coarse angling is for pike Esox lucius, perch Perca fluviatilis, roach Rutilus rutilus, tench Tinca tinca and several other species.

But it is not just anglers that use boats on our lakes: many of the larger lakes are heavily used for recreational boating (motor cruisers, dayboats, power boats, rowing boats, canoes, sailing boats and even jetskis).

Many of the lakes and lakeshores have been used traditionally in the summer for more informal leisure activities, including walking, picnicking and swimming. The lakeshore environment is often extremely attractive and relaxing and its value in this respect, although difficult to quantify, is certainly important to many local communities.

The richness and diversity of the fauna and flora of the lakes also attracts the attention and interest of many nature lovers, amateur naturalists and professional biologists. Birdwatching has become an increasingly popular activity and the wide diversity of bird species and the large numbers of wintering waterfowl are of great importance in this respect.

The value of the lakes for education and learning, although not yet fully utilised, is also a significant component of their value to local communities. Nature trails, “pond-dipping” and more serious scientific field studies are all important uses of this resource.

Finally, but by no means least, many of our lakes are the source of domestic drinking water, either through municipal schemes or via “Group Water Schemes”. Large lakes, such as Lough Mask in County Mayo, have sufficient volumes of relatively clean water to provide supplies for thousands of households, but even many of our smaller lakes are important through provision of supplies to smaller, local group schemes.

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