Coomloughra Lakes – water on Tap

I first heard of Coomloughra when I set out to climb the “Coomloughra Horseshoe.” It’s one of the classic hiking and scrambling ridge routes in Ireland and takes in several mountain tops – Scregmore, Beenkeeragh, Carrantoohill and Caher. These have an average height of about 1,000 metres. Nestled several hundred meters below ,there are three lakes in a magnificent Coom – a remnant of the last Ice Age: Lough Eighter (Lower Lake), Coomloughra Lough (Glen of the rushes) and Lough Eagher/Uachter (Upper Lake) collectively – Coomloughra.
It’s been a while since the heady days of hiking the Coomloughra horseshoe. However, I’ve had many fine days hiking and exploring the lakes in their magical, amphitheatre setting.
The walk to the lakes is up a steep concrete road known as the “Hydro Road”, built as part of a Hydro Electric project. This is followed by a track which leads to a bridge across the (Cottoner’s) River which flows from Lough Eighter. Sometimes the river is low and other times white water gushes forth, splashing and frothing its way downwards. It’s fun to watch the torrent flowing and sparkling. When the water is very forceful, we know we probably won’t be able to cross the mouth of the lake, to ramble along the lakeside to Coomloughra Lough.
The alternative is to wade through the heather, rushes and the many streamlets which form a criss crossing watery web and hopefully arrive in one piece at the large bank of boulders that borders the second lake. It’s a lovely place to stop and gaze at the water, cliffs and the mysterious back of the Coom; or hiker watch as they traverse the ridges so they too can tick the box. There’s often mist wafting and wisping around the cliffs.
The third lake, Lough Eagher, merges with Coomloughra Lough when water levels are high – which can be confusing. Some maps show “Garraithe Neidi”on the north shore where there is a small stone structure. This might refer to a garden, farm, or birds, nead being a nest. A line of stones ascends the mountain side nearby. Mysteries to be solved.
The back wall of the Coom is a steep, almost vertical cliff known as the Black Mare. I read that it was so called because it resembled the tail of the favourite mare of a visitor. White streams rush down the cliff after rain, and set against the dark rocks could indeed resemble a mare’s tail. I remember once eating lunch below the cliff. We were in awe of its sheerness and couldn’t imagine climbing upwards. As we sat in our mountain gear finery; boots and walking poles at the ready, we noticed a farmer scrambling up in wellington boots and everyday clothes after sheep. Guess who felt overdressed!
When walking around the dark waters of the lakes, I was aware that they formed part of the Kerry water services. There are bits of equipment such as hissing valves and pipes to be seen. Imagine my surprise when I got a “boil water “ notice for the Breanlee water supply, a few years ago and realised that my supply comes from the Coomloughra Lakes that I had visited so often. The notice was due to snowmelt carrying down unwanted materials.
I never tire of exploring the Lakes of Coomloughra (and checking the water since I found I had a personal “interest” in it). I am looking forward to when we can walk further than 5kms and can visit again to wander and wonder about this intriguing place.