Turlough Park, Castlebar, Mayo

The Irish magic behind disappearing lakes


Turlough Park, Castlebar, Mayo

Cases of disappearing lakes have been reported around the world, from Chile to Russia. The phenomenon shocks onlookers and bemuses many, but in the West of Ireland there is a very good explanation.

In fact, Ireland has its very own kind of disappearing lake, the turlough.

Lakes, such as Turlough Lake in County Mayo (pictured above) or Lake Funshinagh, County Roscommon, which are found in the limestone areas in the West of Ireland, have a tendencies to drain into the ground. The limestone is cracked and porous and the water simply drains away.

In Irish, the name, turlough, means a dry place. The lakes are found in the karst landscape, most famously in the Burren, County Clare. There’s only one known example of a turlough outside Ireland and that’s in Llandeilo, Wales.

Though the idea of seeing a lake completely disappear might seem completely off the wall, for turloughs it is historically and geographically normal that they seep into the ground.

During the fall the turloughs flood, usually in October. Then between April and July and turlough becomes very dry often disappearing completely.

Just five kilometers outside Galway City is the most dramatic turlough. The Caherglassaun Lough has been known to flood and empty again twice every 24 hours.

Rest assured that disappearing lakes are not caused by global warming or the fairy people instead it’s simply excessive rain and a leaky floor.


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