LOUGH CARAGH, which is sometimes referred to as Glencar Lake, is located at the mouth of the Glencar valley two kiometres north east of Glenbeigh village and on the edge of the world famous Ring of Kerry.
The town of Killorglin is just a few miles away. The lake covers an area of 490 hectares, is over a mile at its widest point and over three miles long. Its average depth is 11 metres, however it is 4Ometres at its deepest.
There are a number of small islands in the lake, including Illaunbuddoga, Roberts Island and Sugarloaf Island. The Caragh River drains the southern slopes of the Macgilicuddy’s Reeks and half a dozen small loughs before it enters Lough Caragh.
A look at Caragh Lake on the 1894 Ordnance Survey map makes for interesting viewing. Located in the northern end of the lake is a small island known as Castle Rock. However, this doesn’t appear on the 1840 map or a current map of the lake.
The map also shows a number of country houses or hunting lodges. These include Caragh Castle, Glendalough House, The Hollies, Lake Field, Ripley House and Caragh Lodge. At least three of these had boat houses indicating the lakes recreational importance over one hundred years ago.
On the western shore of the lake, at the townland of Callàhaniska, is a children’s burial ground. The map also shows two sets of stepping stones over the small river joining Lough Caragh to the sea. Today the stepping stones are long gone and the same river is crossed by two bridges.
In the late 1800’s there were a number of railway companies in the country. The Great Southern and Western Railway company’s West Kerry branch line ran from Faranfore to Valencia Harbour. This line ran along the northern shore of Lough Caragh and there was a station called Caragh Lake at junction 16.
This station opened on 12th September, 1893, and closed on 1st February, 1960. The small wood/galvanised station still exists today as does the Station Master’s house.
There is an interesting sign in the vicinity or a gate at the side of the Station Master s house It reads:
Anyone leaving this gate open is liable to a penalty of forty shillings.
The railway companies also built a number of hotels in Kerry including the Caragh Lake Hotel which was demolished in 1955.
SOME OF the best views of Caragh Lake are from the many old country houses which are dotted along its shores. Ard na Sidhe country house and Carrig House are two of the more interesting of these houses.
Ard na Sidhe means ‘Hill of the Fairies’ and is situated on the eastern shores of Lough Caragh. It was built by Lady Edith Gordon, a keen gardener, traveller and writer, in 1913. She used a Killorglin-based builder and all the materials — bar the roof slates — were Irish. It is said that her ancestor, Bess Stokes, haunts the grounds.
The Tralee born poet Noel King penned a poem entitled My Aid na Sidhe Home. The first two lines go —Take me to my childhood of Ard na Sidhe, The Caragh Lake charm of serenity.
Carraig House, which is also even older. It was originally built in 1850 as a hunting lodge and has had numerous extension added over the years. Senator Arthur Rose Vincent lived here after the death of his first wife. WHEN HE left, the house was sold to Sir Aubrey Metcalf whohad served in the British Administration in India.
Lord Bracket bought the house from Sir Aubrey but he spent very little time there and eventually sold it. Today it is much sought after sixteen bedroom country house.
The rare Kerry Slug was first discovered at Lough Caragh in 1842. Since then it has been found in Spain (1868) and Portugal (1873). Nowadays the Kerry Slugs dominant location is North West Spain and Northern Portugal, however it can still be found in around seven locations in Kerry and Cork including the Caragh River catchment area.
Lough Caragh is noted for its spring salmon and grilse fishing. The best salmon fishing is at the southern end of the lake. Early season fish average l4lb, however the largest salmon caught was 241b.
A recent inland fisheries survey also revealed the lake to contain good quantities of brown trout, perch, artic char and eel. The largest trout ever caught in the lake was a 9lb specimen which was stuffed and displayed in the now demolished Caragh Lake Hotel.
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