Lough an Leagh

Gorse on Lough an Leagh

Lough an Leagh Mountain is located in east Cavan between the towns of Bailieborough and Kingscourt. At its highest point it reaches 1,119 feet. It offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and on a clear day up to fourteen counties can be seen from the summit. The Ballyconnell windmills in west Cavan, located on Slieve Rushen, are also visible.


In recent years, a lot of forestry planting has taken place in the Lough an Leagh area. The Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce, Logdepole Pine and Japanese Larch are among the species of trees that have been planted. However, forestry has resulted in a loss of much of the heather that was once spread across the whole mountain. The remaining dry heath is very important to the ecology of the region, and is habitat to a variety of flora and fauna.

Lough an Leagh Mountain supports three species of heather. These are Common/Ling Heather, Cross-leaved Heath and Bell Heather. The Bilberry plant is also plentiful on the slopes of the mountain. It is a tradition to pick bilberries on Lough an Leagh on the second Sunday of July. This is known locally as 'Bilberry Sunday'. This used to be a common tradition throughout Ireland, but it is one that has now almost completely died out. It is possible that this tradition stemmed from the pre-Christian festival of Lughnasa, which was a harvest celebration on August 1st each year.

Many species of bird inhabit the Lough an Leagh area e.g. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon, Goldcrest. One of the most interesting bird is the Skylark, which is a very rare species in both Ireland and Britain. However, the Skylark is a common bird at Lough an Leagh, where it can nest peacefully amongst the heathers. Other animals such as hares, mice and a huge variety of invertebrates also inhabit the area.

Binary Goldcrest's Song
Binary Skylark's Song

Historical Background

Lough an Leagh owes its name to a lake, Lough an Leighis, or Lake of Cures. This lake used to occupy part of the mountain but it has now dried out. According to folklore the water and mud of Lough an Leighis had healing qualities. It is believed that the lake may have been a sacred Celtic pool in pre-Christian times.

In the later period of the Penal Laws in Ireland, another legend prevails. It is said that while a priest was saying mass at the nearby mass rock, he was warned of an army approaching. Before the army reached the congregation, he threw the chalice into the lake, giving it potent healing powers.

The original name of the mountain was Sliabh an Gaileng. This translates to 'Mountain of the Gailenga'. The Gailenga were an old tribe in Ireland.

Archaeological Interest

Placed on each of the three highest points of Lough an Leagh are prehistoric stone cairns. Often, such carins mark the burial ground of important Irish tribal chiefs during the Bronze Age.

One Irish legend tells of a witch of Slieve na Calliagh, or Mountain of the Witches, who dropped stones from her apron onto both Slieve na Calliagh (located in Co. Meath) and Lough an Leagh to form the cairns.

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