Killone: the 'Enchanted' Lake

Adrian Donnelly

Killone Lake

Killone Lake (or Lough), is in the Barony of Islands’ located approximately three kilometres south-west of the village of Clarecastle, and 4km south of the town of Ennis, Co. Clare.  It derives its name from the Augustinian Convent and ‘Holy Well’ on its northern shoreline, which are both dedicated to St John the Baptist (Killone = Cil Eoin = Church of John).

Killone Lake ‘Data from the OSI 1820 Maps accessed through the Heritage Maps Viewer at, 18 June 2023’.

It is fed from ‘freshwater’ surface and underground sources.  It has a roughly ‘triangular’ appearance from the air, and nestles in a hollow between the townlands of Barntick to the east, Newhall to the north, and Feagh to the south.  It drains into Ballybeg Lake, which extends towards Clareabbey and the River Fergus.

‘Ordnance Survey Letters’ by John O’Donovan and Eugene Curry (1839), recorded that the lake was “believed by the natives to be enchanted”

The “Enchanted” Lake

I have found multiple references in folklore claiming that Killone Lake was a location for unusual phenomena, or perhaps could be described as ‘magical’ events.

Fantasy Mermaid

Thomas Johnson Westropp (1860-1922) was a folklorist, antiquarian and archaeologist who wrote extensively on County Clare.  In one article on the subject of Killone Lake, (The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Fifth Series, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Jun. 30, 1900) pg:127); he wrote that “this water is itself a centre of curious folk-lore”.  Furthermore “legends say, the abode of a mermaid, who, in O’Brien’s time, used to swim up a brook, and steal wine” from the cellars of nearby ‘Newhall House’.  He further wrote that “the butler lay in wait and stabbed her; her blood stained all the lake, and as she floated away, faint and weak, she prophesised that in like manner would the O’Briens pass away from Newhall”.

Westropp further documented that the lake “still becomes a rusty red, from iron mud in the shale” usually after a dry summer, and “it is believed to forebode a change of occupants to the neighbouring house”.  Westropp records that he was told “that the last time that it occurred was when Newhall was leased to the O’Briens”

The ‘Schools Folklore Collection’ dating from 1937-39 was an innovative project overseen by the ‘Irish Folklore Commission’, which recorded in excess of 750,000 pages of local history and oral tradition from across the 26 counties of the Irish Free State. In the Clare School’s Section of the Collection; there are 92 references to ‘Mermaids’.  Many relate to ‘Sea-Mermaids’, but 26 of the stories relate specifically to the ‘Mermaid of Killone’. (, sourced from collation by Eric Shaw ( 2nd July 2021; Accessed 17 June 2023

This offers a rich insight to the embedded nature and importance of this legend in the 1930s.


Shoreline at Killone Lake

Regarding the surrounding geology, Thomas Johnson Westropp (The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiqaries of Ireland, Fifth Series, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Jun. 30, 1900) pg:127) describes a pathway along a “thickly wooded ridge” and a stream “over a shelf of rock amid tufted ferns, losing itself in the reeds. At the eastern end, the river out of Killone Lake, banked on the farther shore by walls of rock capped with great boulders, flows through tangled masses of reeds and water-lilies towards Ballybeg Lake.

There are a number of notable caves documented in the area, which are protected habitats for the ‘Lesser Horseshoe Bat’ (Rhinolophus hipposideros).

Geological Map of Killone Lake
Thick red curvy line is a namurian collision of siltstone/mudstone overlaying older limestone
The cherty limestone is a mix of silica particles from sandstone in the limestone
Looks like a boundary zone.


Special Area of Conservation (EU-SAC)

Newhall and Edenvale Complex SAC ‘Data from the Habitats Maps accessed through the Heritage Maps Viewer at, 18 June 2023’.

The lake, its shoreline, and a significant area of land extending to the north-west is designated as an SAC in accordance with the provisions of the EU Habitats Directive.

According to the ‘National Parks and Wildlife’; the “overall aim of the ‘Habitats Directive’ is to maintain or restore the favourable conservation status of habitats and species of community interest”

Newhall and Edenvale Complex SAC is situated approximately 4 km south of Ennis in Co. Clare. It consists of three distinct locations which are used, at various times throughout the year, by the Lesser Horseshoe Bat.

The site is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) selected for the habitats and/or species listed on Annex I / II of the E.U. Habitats Directive (* = priority; numbers in brackets are Natura 2000 codes): [8310] Caves [1303] Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)

Newhall and Edenvale Caves are natural fossil limestone caves. Newhall is a narrow, dry passage formed along an inclined joint.  The bats have uninterrupted access to all sites.  In 1983 grilles were fitted to both caves.

‘Data from the Habitats Maps and NPWS SAC reports accessed through the Heritage Maps Viewer at, 18 June 2023’.

The surrounding areas of mature mixed woodland, parkland and lakes provide ideal foraging habitat and shelter for the bats throughout the year and are included within the site. Bats have been recorded at this site since 1983 and the population is estimated at more than 500 individuals. The site is of international importance for Lesser Horseshoe Bat, and ranks as one of the most important sites in Europe for the species

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