Lough Ree lies on the River Shannon between Lanesborough and Athlone, and is the fourth largest lake in Ireland, after Lough Neagh, Lough Corrib and Lough Derg. It spreads across the borders of three counties: Roscommon, Westmeath, and Longford. There are many islands dotted across Lough Ree, some of which sustained small communities into the last century. Only one island is inhabited today and while some of the others are still farmed, the owners live on the mainland.
The name originates from the Irish language and translates to ‘Lake of Kings’. The ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy marked a placename ‘Rheba’ on his map of Ireland close to the present day lake, which is most likely derived from the old Irish ‘Rib’ or ‘Ribh’.
The basin of the lake was formed at the end of the last Ice-Age as a result of glacial movement. The various habitats that have developed around Lough Ree, such as wet grasslands, support the rare plant species of Alder Buckthorn, Marsh Pea, betony, stonewort and Bird Cherry. It is also an important area for wintering waterfowl as the surrounding grasslands provide plenty of feeding ground for the birds. Whooper, Mute Swan, Little Grebe, wigeon, lapwing, teal, and Greenland White-fronted Goose are just some of the numerous bird species that occupy the Lough Ree area.Read more about Lough Ree in our Physical Landscape section.
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