Lough Owel

Lough Owel

In Brief

Milly's letter to her father mentions two Mullingar attractions. She reports that "There is to be a concert in the Greville Arms on Saturday," and that she and the Coghlans, her employers at the photo shop, are "going to lough Owel on Monday with a few friends to make a scrap picnic." The Greville Arms is an upscale hotel in the center of Mullingar. Lough Owel is a glacial lake about four miles long, lying about four miles northwest of the town.

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The Greville Arms hotel, built in 1869, was originally the home of Lord Greville, an Anglo-Irish baron who served as a Liberal MP from Westmeath and was Gladstone's Lord of the Treasury for two years. One of only a handful of Irish hotels mentioned in Joyce's fictions that is still in business, it boasts a James Joyce Restaurant and a Ulysses Pub. The hotel is still luxuriously appointed, and still hosts concerts.

Lough Owel offers opportunities for swimming, boating, trout fishing, and birdwatching. Gifford quotes "Black's rather outspoken Tourist Guide to Ireland (Edinburgh, 1888)" as saying that it is "attractive but not overwhelming." He notes also that "Picnics in the late nineteenth century were more formal and elaborate than they tend to be today; so a 'scrap picnic' is an exception, an informal, last-minute outing."

Lough Owel and Lough Ennell, which is similar in size and lies at a similar distance southwest of Mullingar, are both part of the River Shannon drainage. Water from the lake flows into the Royal Canal.

JH 2017
The front of the Greville Arms Hotel in Mullingar. Source: www.hotel-r.net.
The coffee shop in the Greville Arms. Source: www.grevillearmshotel.ie.
Pier with diving board in Lough Owel, in a 2007 photograph by sarah777. Source: www.geograph.ie.