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Folk, fables and foibles the guidebook forgot to mention
  • Fergus Manor

9. Sourcing the source ...

Updated: May 31, 2021

Ardilaun guests are fortunate in that, just a few steps from their bedrooms, they can get up close and personal with the river Fergus. It’s hard not to be captivated by the quiet murmur of this ever-present gem as it wanders by at the bottom of the garden. And of course guests can always try their hand at catching their own dinner from the adjacent decking ... several guests have done so. But if you’re staying at Ardilaun and have developed an irrational attachment to the Fergus and you feel the need to experience the river in all its incarnations, then this Blog (travelling north from Ardilaun to the river’s source, the curiously named Lough Fergus) and the next one (south to the Shannon) are definitely for you. As the crow flies, Lough Fergus, is about 17km to the north-west; were the crow to meander alongside the river, it’s closer to three times that. At its widest, Lough Fergus is less than 200 metres across, more of a large pond than a lough and, if the intrepid explorer in you impels you to experience the source for yourself, then, be warned, it’s well off the beaten track. Just up from Ardilaun is the Fergus’ immediate source, Ballyallia Lake and its attendant amenities. The river enters the lake almost out of sight, having gurgled under a small bridge on the Templemaley road—the left turn at the end of the long stone wall that starts round the corner from Ballyallia Lake. Having passed through another small expanse of water, Cloonleen Lough, it turns up again alongside the road to Ruan which crosses it 4km north of Ardilaun en route from Dromore Lough and Woods, probably Clare’s most popular and organised area for walkers (see Blog 7, A Walk on the Wild Side). The next major landmark, en route back to the source, is Corofin but, between here and Dromore, the Fergus indulges in some almost clandestine lough-hopping into and out of Loughs Atedaun, Keagh, Garr, Ballyteige, Hennessy and, finally, Dromore. Irrespective of the Fergus, Corofin itself is worth a visit, especially if you’re an angler, and there are some fine hostelries and other local attractions, not least of which are the views from the late-18th-century, stone bridge spanning the river. The Fergus’ route back to its source is via Lough Inchiquin where, at its southernmost point, the river exits the lake and where once a mill, powered by the Fergus, ground the local grain into flour. Some ruins of the mill remain and you can still get close enough to photograph. To view the Fergus and the mill near Lough Inchiquin you have to head north-west out of Corofin and take the road to the left signposted to ‘Lake Inchiquin’ but drive past the next sign to the lough (which leads to a pleasant lakeside picnic area) and take the next right, almost 1km further on. (The narrow stream which runs close to the road around Willbrook is incorrectly labeled on Google Maps as the Fergus; it is a tributary of the Fergus and joins the main flow about 800 metres due south of Lough Inchiquin. MapQuest and Mapcarta get it right.) The last leg, the route by car to Lough Fergus is back south across the bridge at Corofin and via the country road due west to Willbrook (where the road crosses the aforementioned tributary) followed by a fork north (8.4km from Corofin Bridge) and a slower 2.8km drive to Kylmore North along a narrow road-cum-track. Kylmore North is a typical Clare townland in that there is no obvious road sign or habitation to confirm that it even exists. So, bearing in mind the paucity of road signs, keeping an eye on the distance from the bridge at Corofin might be your only insurance against getting lost in the Clare countryside. The goal, the first bridge over the Fergusl is a diminutive affair with overgrown stone abutments linked by a metal guardrail, spanning what is no more than a small stream and, visible in some lights on the left (the west), lies the short, shimmering expanse of Lough Fergus a few fields back from the road. That stream, a mere shadow of what it will become, is of course the Fergus in full trickle.

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