Lough Neagh Day Trip
Lough Neagh is a large freshwater lake in the centre of Northern Ireland. It is the largest lake in Ireland or Britain, with a surface area of 151 square miles (392 square kilometres). A number of well-known rivers flow into L Neagh, including the Moyola, the Ballinderry, the Blackwater and the Upper Bann. The Lower Bann river flows out of L Neath northwards towards the Atlantic Ocean. The lough averages 15 miles (24 km) wide, is 18 miles (29 km) long, and is for the most part only 40 feet (12 m) deep.
Its name comes from the Irish Loch nEachach, meaning ‘Eochu’s lake’ and there are a great many legends associated with its origin. One story tells us that the lough started as a magic well which Eochu kept covered with a capstone to prevent it overflowing. One night by mistake the capstone was not replaced and the well overflowed, flooding the whole of the area and drowning Eochu and his entire settlement. Thus, Lough Neagh was formed. Another version puts the blame (or the credit) on a woman who was fetching water but ran to comfort her crying baby and forgot to replace the stone. The well overflowed, covering the land and drowning both the women and her child. Yet another legend tells how the lake was formed when Ireland’s legendary giant Finn McCool scooped up a chunk of earth and tossed it at a Scottish rival. It fell into the Irish Sea, forming the Isle of Man, while the crater left behind filled with water to form Lough Neagh.
Whatever its origins, Lough Neagh and it’s surroundings is an area rich in culture, history and wildlife. It has a tranquil atmosphere, un-spoilt scenery and secluded bays. The shoreline is a beautiful mix of woodland, bogs and fascinating wildlife. It is a real paradise for nature lovers. The lough is famous for Lough Neagh Eels which in 2011 was awarded a PGI by the EU, recognising the heritage, tradition and authenticity of the Lough Neagh Eel and distinguishing it as a unique food item alongside Palma Ham, Champagne etc. Much of the eel fishing takes place out of small harbours around Ardboe on the western store and this area is renowned for its rich and very distinctive culture and for it’s friendliness. The lough is surrounded by some of Northern Ireland’s most charming villages, Ballyronan, Toome, Maghery and Coagh among them.
With a circumference of just over one hundred miles, the area around the Lough is ideal for a day trip. Game of Throne fans will want to see Toome Canal. In the show this is the Old Valyrian Canal. This is where Tyrion Lannister was kidnapped by Jorah Mormont and taken prisoner in season five and also where the two were attacked by the Stone Men. Nature lovers meanwhile can visit Oxford Island National Nature Reserve and Peatlands Park or birdwatch at Lough Beg, a Ramsar wetland site of international importance, just a few miles from Laurel Villa. For history lovers the tenth century Ardboe High Cross is a must-see, as is Antrim Round Tower and there are a number of wonderful National Trust properties nearby.
For anyone wanting to get out onto the lough itself there are a number of companies offering boat trips and we can put you in touch with these during your stay. Some of these trips include a visit to Coney Island, a short distance from the southern shore and owned by the National Trust.