Lakelands of Westmeath

Westmeath is located in the heart of the Irish midlands. Writing about the assets of the county in 1682 Sir Henry Piers claimed that "It is watered every where with plenty of springs, rivulets, brooks, lakes ... and a few large rivers, whereof the chief are the Shannon..."

Another local author John Tormey (c1860-1939) who was a regular contributor to The Westmeath Examiner wrote a book on the places of historic interest in the county. He called it 'Westmeath: the Lakeland of Ireland'. This was an inspired title as Westmeath has the largest number of lakes of any county in Leinster and Lough Ree, one of the three great Shannon lakes, defines its western boundary.

The waterways of Westmeath still include the various types described by Sir Henry Piers with the addition of a number of canals. Water is the single element which has helped to give a unique environmental advantage to our county - the archaeology, history and mythology of Westmeath have all been influenced by it. Westmeath is famous for its crannogs, its Viking invasions, the Children of Lir who (according to legend inhabited Lough Derravaragh for three hundred years) and today for several blue-flag beaches found along its lakeshores. The lakes of Westmeath have inspired both artists and writers and have acted as a recreational amenity for locals and tourists alike. The islands on our lakes have had settlements on them ranging from early Christian monastic settlements to thriving local communities earning their livelihoods through fishing and farming - one island even had its own national school.

In this site we will introduce you to some of the lakes of Westmeath as researched through the riches of the local studies collections held in County Library HQ, Mullingar and the Aidan Heavey Library, Athlone. The site is illustrated with details from maps, books, photographic and post-card collections held by the Library Service. Our aim is to lead you into the great wealth of literature which exists on the Lakelands of Westmeath.

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