Cavan is a county with a lake for every day of the year, or so the saying goes. With 365 lakes to explore, which are full of adventure, charm, and stunning scenery, Cavan also has many beautiful park trails and historic castles to experience and discover, as Fran Brady reports.
County Cavan, known as ‘The Lakeland County’, is reputed to contain 365 lakes. Ireland’s two largest rivers have their source in the county and since 1994 the Shannon-Erne Waterway links the two. A highlight of the area’s geological treasures is the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
The site goes back about 340 million years to the Carboniferous period when the area was covered in a tropical sea. Whitefathers Cave, located outside the village of Blacklion on the N16 road, is an excellent example of the hundreds of kilometres of cave systems which lie beneath Cavan and Fermanagh and it gives visitors an insight into cave formations.
Cavan Burren Park, located in the Geopark, near Blacklion, opened to the public in 2014.
The Shannon, the longest river in Ireland, rises in the Shannon Pot on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountains. Here in the Cuilcagh Mountains the Claddagh River also rises before flowing into County Fermanagh. A proposed new development comprising a Shannon Pot Discovery Centre, as well as enhancement of Cavan Burren Park in Blacklion, has received the go ahead and was awarded funding by Fáilte Ireland.
These attractions will raise awareness of the natural beauty of North West Cavan and the neighbouring area of County Fermanagh. Cavan shares 70 kilometres of its border with Fermanagh. Counties Cavan, Fermanagh and Leitrim all border the shores of Upper Lough Macnean.
The River Erne, a river relevant to the ecological, economic and leisure interests of the county, flows through Lough Gowna, Lough Oughter, and Lower and Upper Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, before reaching Donegal Bay. The River Annalee begins at Lough Sillan, flows past Butlersbridge and through a series of lakes west of the village, before its confluence with the Erne.
The Shannon-Erne Waterway started life as the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal in 1846. At one stage 7,000 people were employed on the project which gave work and hope especially in the Famine years. By the time it opened in 1860, the railways had taken over most of the transportation trade and less than a decade later the waterway closed down.
Nature reclaimed this splendid engineering accomplishment, 62.5 kilometres of connecting waterway between Ireland’s two largest rivers. In 1989 the Irish and British governments decided to re-develop the waterway link as a cross-border project. Work commenced in November 1990 and the canal, with its sixteen locks, was opened to boats on 23 May 1994.