Saturday, 31 May 2014

A weekend on the shores of
Lough Ramor near Virginia

The sandy shoreline of the Blessington Lakes ... almost like taking a walk on a beach (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

It was a pleasure to see my photograph of the Blessington Lakes being used by Ryan Turbidy in a quiz on the Late Late Show last night ... even if it was in connection with the launch of a new boy band being promoted by Louis Walsh.

The photograph was taken four years ago. This weekend, I am by another lake, staying for the weekend with friends at the Lakeside Manor Hotel on the shores of Lough Ramor, on the outskirts of Virginia, Co Cavan, close to the borders of Co Meath and Co Cavan.

A view of Lough Ramor at the Lakeside Manor Hotel, Virginia, Co Cavan (Photograph: Jim Brady/Cavan Living, June 2013)

We are just an hour north from Dublin, on the borders of the provinces of Leinster and Ulster, and the Lakeside Manor Hotel is in a wonderful setting, with panoramic views of and shore-side access to Lough Ramor.

Lough Ramor is five miles long and two miles wide, and has a surface area of 800 hectares. The lake is fed by the Murmod river, which rises near Bailieborough and flows under the bridge beside Virginia, and is drained by the River Blackwater. It is quite shallow at its southern end but depths in excess of 15 metres have been recorded around the northern end of the lake.

The lake is referred to as Loch Muinreamhair in early in Irish history, and the Martyrology of Donegal, dating from the 5th century perhaps, refers on 6 February to the festival of Saint Brandubh and Saint Coluim of “Loch Muinreamhair.”

In the early 1800s, a beautiful brooch, now known as the Virginia Brooch, was discovered along the shores of Lough Ramor. It is said to have been a Viking brooch, and dates from 850 to 1000. It belongs to the same period as the high crosses in Kells and the Book of Kells.

In 1826, Thomas Tayor, 1st Marquess of Headfort and 2nd Earl of Bective, claimed the rights and royalties of the lake, the islands and its water. The Taylour or Headfort family built a shooting lodge in Virginia which is now the Park Hotel, and I have fond memories of staying there in my teens in 1967, learning to row on the lake.

Lough Ramor has huge stocks of coarse fish. This is an excellent coarse fishery and it regularly produces large catches of bream, roach, roach-bream hybrids and some perch.

The lake has 30 to 40 islands, some of them inhabited in the past. The islands have interesting names such as Great Island, Crane Island, Scabby Island, Sloo Island Woodward or Tighe’s Island, George’s Islands, Corronagh Islands, Porter’s Islands, Crossafehin Islands and Stoney Islands.

Hopefully, there will be time to enjoy the lakes of Co Cavan and some of the islands, and perhaps even spend a little time on a boat on the water, without being too entusiastic about long-forgotten rowing skills.

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