The River Ilen is at the heart of Skibbereen, the largest settlement on the river. The Ilen rises five hundred metres up on Mullaghmesha Mountain and flows into the sea at Baltimore. It has five main tributaries- the Saivnose, Coarliss, Achrinduff, Glounaphuca, and Clodagh. The river is especially scenic, perhaps due to its extremely low levels of pollution (ranked Quality A, meaning its pollution levels are significantly lower than the Irish average for rivers). The river is home to several species of fish (brown trout, sea trout, Atlantic salmon) and its banks also host several species, from ducks, swans and otters, to seals (at high tide).
The River Ilen Anglers Club regularly make use of the river, regarded as one of the best rivers for salmon fishing in Ireland. The Ilen is the ideal choice for disabled anglers, as the Disabled Anglers’ Stand at Ballyhilty Bridge provides a more accessible angling experience. This stand is free to use for any disabled angler, but a club ticket must first be procured to comply with insurance requirements.
Skibbereen Rowing Club also make use of the river. Founded in 1970, the club is regarded as the best rowing club in Ireland, with 163 Irish National Rowing Championship wins. The club fields rowers at all levels, from domestic regattas to the Olympic level (Gary and Paul O’Donovan, silver medal winners at the 2016 Olympic Games, are members of the Skibbereen Rowing Club).
By Emma O’Donoghue