Kinlough, Co. Leitrim

Cionn Locha, Co. Liatroma

Site Under Construction

Kinlough (from Cionn Locha = head of the lake) is a pretty village in the north of County Leitrim, Ireland at the junction of the R280 and R281 regional roads.  It gets its name from its position at the head of Lough Melvin. It is situated about 2 miles from Bundoran, County Donegal, about 13 miles from Manorhamilton.  

Kinlough parish is the modern equivalent of the ancient Dartry territory of the MacClancys chiefs, which, according to John O’Donovan (1836), ran “from Glack townland on the east to Bunduff townland on the west, a distance of about six miles, and from Mullinaleck townland on the north to Aghanlish townland on the south, a distance of around three miles”.

The district name Cenn Locha is mentioned as early as the 8th century. The population in 1659 was 10. The village grew up alongside the Johnston Estate.  In 1815 the old Catholic parish of Rossinver was divided into the parishes of Kinlough, Glenade and Ballaghameehan. The Church of Ireland parish retained the old name.  The main residence of the area was Kinlough House, seat of the Johnstons.  The Johnston’s personal demesne took up over 220 acre in Kinlough townland. The rest of the estate, which was composed of 12,175 acres: 471 in Donegal, 739 in Fermanagh, 10,633 in Leitrim and 332 in Sligo, was let out to tenants.   In 1857 Kinlough townland contained a Graveyard, R.C. church and yard, police barracks, courthouse, dispensary, Church of Ireland church, male and female Protestant schools.  The village had a fair on the 6th of every month.  

Following over a century and a half of decline (from 1851), the population of Kinlough village began to grow at the beginning of the 21st century, as can be seen from the Census statistics: 305 (1991); 286 (1996);  335 (2002);  690 (2006);  1,018 (2011);  1,032 (2016). Tullaghan village also grew during this period: 216 (2016); 228 (2011);  253 (2016).  With the collapse of the “Centic Tiger” the population growth has tapered off.

The region is separated from the rest of Co. Leitrim by Arroo Mountain (Aradh = a hill or ladder) ,one of the Dartry range of mountains which stretches westwards and includes Ben Wiskin (514 m / 1,686 ft), Truskmore  (647 m / 2,123 ft) and Ben Bulben (526 m /1,726 ft).   The highest point on Arroo, marked by a small cairn of stones locally referred to as the “Sappers’ Mark” is 523 m /1,716 ft above sea level. The Dartry range include the glaciated valleys of Glencar, Glenade and Gleniff.  

Arroo Mountain  is sometimes confused with the Dartry Mountains (this confusion can be seen in the Wikipedia entry for Kinlough). To clarify: Arroo refers to the Mountain peak above Kinlough while the Dartry Mountains is the geographic name for the entire mountain range, including Arroo and the other mountains named above.

Lough Melvin runs from Kinlough to the Fermanagh village of Garrison. An older name for the lake is Lough Melve.  Folklore has it that a woman from Belleek came to Kinlough to draw water from a well. When she was leaving she forgot to replace the lid on the well.  As a result, the water followed her back towards Belleek, thus forming Lough Melvin.  There is also reference to Maolbhean (The Bald Woman). The lake is 7 miles long, and 1.5 miles wide at its widest point.  One sixth of the lake is in Co. Fermanagh, the remainder is in Co. Leitrim.  1,460 acres of the lake are in the parish.   There are four main islands on the lake: Inisheer Island (Inis Thiar: the west island), area 20 acres, is the most westerly of the islands; Inishkeen Island (Inis Caoin: beautiful island)  area 32 acres, also called the Woody Island or Maguire’s island; Inishmean Island  (Inis Meán: the middle island),  area 23 acres, the middle of the three western islands on Melvin;  Inishtemple Island (Inis Teampuill: the church island)  area 35 acres,  with a ruined church which was probably built around the fourteenth century, and was associated with the MacClancys.  MacClancy’s Castle, the main seat of the local MacClancy chieftains, lies on a small man-made crannogue about 20 metres from the southern shore of the lake.

There are two major rivers in the parish - the River Duff which separates Co. Leitrim from Co. Sligo and enters the seas at Bunduff, and the River Drowes which runs from Lough Melvin to the sea at Bundrowes. Some stretches of the Drowes form the boundary between Co. Leitrim and Co. Donegal. The 2½ mile stretch between the mouths of the Duff and Drowes gives Leitrim the shortest coastline of any county in Ireland.  Many features of the coast retain their Irish names: