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Coordinates: 53°11′49″N 8°34′01″W / 53.197°N 8.567°W / 53.197; -8.567
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Baile Locha Riach (Irish)
Coat of arms of Loughrea
Irish: Dia d'ár Stiúrú
"God our Steerer"
Loughrea is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 53°11′49″N 8°34′01″W / 53.197°N 8.567°W / 53.197; -8.567
CountyCounty Galway
82 m (269 ft)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing key
Telephone area code+353(0)91
Irish Grid ReferenceM621163

Loughrea (/lɒxˈr/ lokh-RAY; Irish: Baile Locha Riach, meaning 'town of the grey/ speckled lake') is a town in County Galway, Ireland. The town lies to the north of a range of wooded hills, the Slieve Aughty Mountains, and Lough Rea, the lake from which it takes its name. The town's cathedral, St Brendan's, dominates the urban skyline.

The town has increased in population in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Although the town also serves as a commuter town for the city of Galway, it also remains an independent market town.[2] Loughrea is the fourth most populous settlement in County Galway, with a population of 6,322 as of 2022.


The town takes its name from Lough Rea, Loch Riach (Irish Riach being a variant of 'Riabhach' meaning grey/ speckled).[3] It is situated on the northern shore of the lake. The lake's Irish name is used in the name of the local Irish-language multi-faith primary school: Gaelscoil Riabhach.[4] The town is located within an area that was historically called Trícha Máenmaige.



The town is in an area that was historically called Trícha Máenmaige, which was under the control of Ui Fhiachrach Fionn, and later of the Uí Maine. The area contains many examples of Gaelic and Early Christian settlements. There is evidence of crannog settlements on the Lake of Loughrea, with up to 14 individual crannogs identified dating back to the 6th–7th centuries AD.[5]

Norman settlement[edit]

The modern town was founded in 1236 by Richard de Burgo, an Anglo-Norman knight who built a castle along an ancient route between the River Shannon and the west coast. Today the remains of the medieval town wall, medieval priory, moat and a town gate are all still to be seen. The De Burgo family adopted Irish names and customs and assumed the role of chieftains in the following centuries, until 1543 when Ulick "Bourck, alias Mac William", surrendered his lands to Henry VIII, receiving it back to hold, by English custom, with his new title, the Earl of Clanricarde.


By the 1700s, Loughrea was a regional market and garrison town. During the Williamite War in Ireland, an attempt by Williamite forces to take Galway was defeated in a short skirmish at Loughrea.


Loughrea was at the centre of the Gaelic Revival towards the end of the 19th century. The various elements of this revival in the town included Celtic Revival Art, the Irish Literary Revival, Gaelic Athletics and the Irish language revival.


Like many towns with garrisons, there was little support for the 1916 rebellion in Dublin, though some locals supported the rising in Galway. There was a Battalion of Irish Volunteers in Loughrea. They were not involved in any major battles and instead they mainly protected the local Sinn Féin Club members.[6]

20th century[edit]

From 1920 until 1960 Loughrea maintained its role as a market town. The town is also the cathedral town of the Roman Catholic diocese of Clonfert, and the 20th century saw a number of large-scale religious events. The 1960s brought industrial developments such as the Tynagh Mines.


Loughrea was historically a farming town that cut its industrial teeth with the Tynagh mines, 10 km (6 mi) to the east. There is now a gas-powered electricity power station on the site of the mines. As well as being a dormitory town for Galway, Loughrea now hosts a number of pharmaceutical and data-processing industries. Loughrea's tourist infrastructure is supported by several hotels, a country resort, as well as many bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, coffee shops and pubs.


Birthplace and nationality[edit]

4,270 of the population were born in Ireland, with 386 having been born in the United Kingdom, 245 in Poland and Lithuania, 190 in the rest of the EU and 414 in the rest of the world.

4,585 of the population are Irish nationals, with 143 British, 257 Polish or Lithuanian, 198 other EU 28, 217 rest of the world and 105 not stated.


White Irish are the largest ethnic group in Loughrea, with 4,011 of the population identifying as such, followed by Other White (703), White Irish Traveller (223), Asian or Asian Irish (189) and Black or Black Irish (77), with the rest identifying as other or not stating their ethnicity.


Roman Catholicism is the most predominant religion in the town, with 4,331 residents identifying as Roman Catholic, followed by no religion (534) and Other Stated Religion (533)

Places of interest[edit]

The Cathedral of St. Brendan on the lakeshore, in the town centre, is considered an important repository of Celtic Revival art and architecture.[13] St. Brendan's Catholic Cathedral was designed by William Byrne in 1897 and completed five years later. Its double transepts are an unusual architectural feature. Spring-fed Loughrea Lake (Lough Rea) is overlooked by Knockash and fished for brown trout, pike and perch.[14] There are also rudd, brook lamprey, three-spined stickleback, nine-spined stickleback and eels in the lake.[15][16] The lake is home to many waterbirds. Migratory species from Europe live at the lake during the winter, and it provides nesting grounds for other species during the summer. The lake is listed as a site of international importance for the shoveler and a site of national importance for the coot and tufted duck.[14] It is also used for water sports and swimming. Immediately behind the Loughrea boathouse are the remains of an old crannog. The Loughrea dwellers in ancient times would have sought protection from raiders by living in the comparative security provided by the lake.

There is a stone relief sculpture in town, on Millenium House, West Bridge, of Stoney Brennan's face. Brennan "according to legend, was hanged on Gallows’ Hill at Mount Carmel for stealing a turnip" during the 1700s.[17]


Loughrea is connected to the M6 Dublin-Galway motorway via the N65. The town was historically served by the Midland Great Western Railway and a railway branch from Attymon Junction,[18] in use until 1975. This line was Ireland's last operational rural railway branch line, having outlasted most other country railway lines of this type by 10–20 years, and even surviving to have diesel trains used on it. The link road from the Ballinasloe–Galway motorway to Loughrea removed most of the remains of the original track bed. Loughrea railway station opened on 1 December 1890 and finally closed on 3 November 1975.[19]

Sport and culture[edit]

Loughrea Lake

Loughrea GAA Club were 2006 winners of both the Galway and Connacht Senior Club Hurling Championships. They also reached the 2007 All-Ireland Club Hurling Championship final, losing out to Ballyhale Shamrocks. Loughrea has a rugby club, a soccer club, a Gaelic football club, a volleyball club, an 18-hole golf course, a cycling club and an athletic club. Loughrea cricket club is one of the leading clubs in Connacht.[citation needed] Actor Kiefer Sutherland has an affection for the town, twice visiting family as a young boy and is said to have been amazed at the skill of the players down at the handball alley.[citation needed]

Each year, in October, the town plays host to the BAFFLE International Poetry Festival.[20] Loughrea also boasts a Musical and Dramatic Society, historical society, and a community association. In the 2018 National Glór na nGael awards for "Irish language in local communities", Loughrea's "Gaeilge Locha Riach" was awarded best voluntary committee in Connaught. Gaeilge Locha Riach promotes the Irish language in Loughrea among the community and businesses.[21] There is also a Foróige Youth club in the town.

Each year the Local Triathlon club called Predator organise a junior and senior triathlon event. The race was created by French coach Sebastien Locteau in 2006 with Tony Daly. Loughrea Triathlon is part of the national event calendar under Triathlon Ireland rules.[22]

Loughrea Main Street.
The old and new priories in Loughrea.

Notable people[edit]

  • Mark Boyle (born 1979), Irish social activist and writer also known as "The Moneyless Man" owing to his choice in 2008 to stop using money, as he considers the concept of money harmful;[23] he also gave up modern technology in 2016 after deciding that it was also part of the problem.[24] Though not born in Loughrea, Boyle lives his moneyless, tech-less life near Loughrea.[25]
  • William Malachy Burke (1819–1879), Irish physician and Registrar General

Annalistic references[edit]

  • 797(802). The demolition of Loch Riach by Muirghius, son of Tomaltach.[citation needed]
  • 821. Fearghal, son of Catharnach, lord of Loch Riach, died.[citation needed]
  • 823. Fearghal, son of Cathasach, lord of Loch Riach, died.[citation needed]
  • 881. Cormac, son of Ceithearnach, Prior of Tir Da Ghlas and Cluain Fearta Brenainn, and the second lord who was over Loch Riach at that time, died.[citation needed]
  • 1408. O'h-Echeidhein was slain by the O'Dalys on the plain of Moinmoy.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Profile 1 - Population Distribution and Movement F1015 - Population: Loughrea, Co. Galway". Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  2. ^ "Ireland Mid-West Online - County Galway - Towns - Loughrea". www.irelandmidwest.com.
  3. ^ "meaning of Irish word Riach". www.teanglann.ie.
  4. ^ "Gaelscoil Riabhach". www.gaelscoilriabhach.ie.
  5. ^ Kinahan, G.H. 1861-4 On crannoges in Lough Rea. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 8 pp 4 12-27.
  6. ^ "Military Archives(Document)" (PDF).
  7. ^ Census for post 1821 figures. Archived 2010-09-20 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency - Census Home Page". Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  10. ^ Lee, JJ (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A. (eds.). Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
  11. ^ Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November 1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850". The Economic History Review. Volume. 37 (4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x. hdl:10197/1406. Archived from the original on 4 December 2012.
  12. ^ "Sapmap Area - Settlements - Loughrea". Census 2016. CSO. 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  13. ^ SchoolsWebsites.ie, Website design and hosting by. "Loughrea Cathedral - Home". loughreacathedral.ie.
  14. ^ a b "Loughrea Lake Loughrea County Galway Ireland Loch Riach Loughrea Lough Rea Galway". loughrea.galway-ireland.ie.
  15. ^ "Loughrea Lake Report" (PDF).
  16. ^ "Local expert on Loughrea Lake's website".
  17. ^ Brogan, Fergus (13 March 2018). "13. STONEY BRENNAN". Galway County Heritage Office. Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  18. ^ Photographs of Attymon Junction to Loughrea railway trackbed Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Loughrea station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
  20. ^ "bafflepoetry.org".
  21. ^ "Rannta Raifteirí 2019". Gaeilge Locha Riach. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Race History".
  23. ^ "Putting cash in the trash". The Irish Times.
  24. ^ "After two years off-grid, I'm embracing daily letters, good sleep and my DIY hot tub | Mark Boyle". TheGuardian.com. 30 March 2019.
  25. ^ "Insights".

External links[edit]