Many of the 50-plus islands within Lough Ree were once inhabited by monks and their ecclesiastical treasures, drawing Vikings like bears to honey-laced beehives. These days the visitors are less bloodthirsty, with sailing, trout fishing and birdwatching the most popular pastimes. Migratory birds that nest here include swans, plovers and curlews.
Poet, playwright and novelist Oliver Goldsmith (1728–74), author of The Vicar of Wakefield, is closely associated with the area running alongside the eastern shore of Lough Ree. Known as Goldsmith Country, the region is beautifully captured in his writings.