Covering 383 square kilometres and its shores touching 5 of the 6 counties in Northern Ireland, Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles offering catch raginf from Salmon, Pollen and Dollaghen. It is one of the earliest known inland sites of prehistoric man in Ireland. It is generally shallow with an average depth in the general body of the Lough of 9 metres (30 feet). The area around Lough Neagh is one of the most important bird habitats in Western Europe. A haven for wildlife and home to a wealth of flora and fauna, Lough Neagh provides a unique and valuable natural resource, offering a very productive ecosystem, which supports thousands of wildfowl and a large-scale eel fishing industry.
Situated within the breathtaking Oxford Island Nature Reserve lies the Oxford Island Discovery Centre. This informative and interactive centre provides visitors with a wealth of information regarding the wildlife, history and the future plans for this beautiful lough.
The reserve consists of scenic walks and exciting nature trails accessible in all seasons, five bird watching hides, picnic areas, a paddling pool and children's play area. The richness of the wildflower meadows, woodlands, shoreline and open water means that there is always something special to see.
How to Reach
Two airports provide air access to the city of Belfast; which one you land at depends on where you originated from. Belfast City Airport (BHD) is the smaller of the two and the closest to the city centre, but it serves a smaller number of destinations than the bigger Belfast International Airport (BFS), which is situated 30kms away. Both airports can be reached easily by car, train or bus and both have efficient facilities with good passenger services and amenities.
Belfast can be reached easily by ferry from two mainland UK ports and also from the Isle of Man. From Liverpool Birkenhead, Norfolk Line Irish Sea provide twice daily crossings, with a journey time of 10 hours. From Stranraer in Scotland, Stena Line provides six crossings a week, with a journey of 2.5 hours. Finally, from Douglas in the Isle of Man, there are three crossings per week operated by Steam Packet Ferries and the journey time is 2 hours, 45 minutes.
Belfast is linked by rail to major destinations across Northern Ireland, with services commencing from or terminating at either Central or Great Victoria Street stations. From mainland Britain, it’s possible to buy a single ticket, which includes a rail journey to Holyhead, Stranraer or Liverpool, followed by a ferry crossing then a rail journey onto Belfast. Services between Northern Ireland and destinations in the Republic of Ireland are also readily available.
Bus services running from major Northern Ireland cities connect with Belfast’s Europa Bus Station or Laganside Bus Station, depending on what part of the city you are travelling to. The western part of the city is served by the Europa Bus Station, while the eastern area is served by the Laganside Bus Station. From mainland Britain, it’s possible to buy a bus ticket that includes a ferry crossing and an onward bus connection to Belfast. You can also access Belfast from some EU cities via a combination of bus and ferry; all-in-one tickets are available.
Key places to visit
River Bann, Mourne Mountains, Newferry Watersports Centre,Rams Island, Randalstown Forest
Places to Visit
River Bann, Irish An Bhanna, River Bann at Coleraine, N.Ire. [Credit: Daniel Keenan]river, the largest in Northern Ireland, falling into two distinct parts. The upper Bann rises in the Mourne Mountains and flows northwest to Lough (lake) Neagh. The lower Bann flows northward through Lough Beg and carries the waters of Lough Neagh to the sea below Coleraine. The total length is 80 miles (129 km). The lower river occupies a peaty depression in the basalt plateaus of Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, and Magherafelt districts. Upstream the waterpower from the river played an important part in the industrialization of the Ulster linen industry. The river has valuable salmon and eel fisheries, and its valley contains prehistoric remains of the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. The chief town on the upper Bann is Portadown, near Lough Neagh.
Mourne Mountains, Irish Beanna Boirche, Part of the Mourne Mountains astride Down district and Newry and Mourne district, Northern Ireland. [Credit: G.F. Allen—Bruce Coleman]mountains astride a corner of Down district and Newry and Mourne district, formerly in County Down, Northern Ireland, a compact range of granite peaks rising abruptly from the Irish Sea at Carlingford Lough (inlet of the sea) and extending for 9 miles (14.5 km) between Newcastle and Rostrevor. Their oval outline reflects the extent of five overlapping granite intrusions into Silurian shales in the Neogene Period (i.e., 23 to 2.6 million years ago). Slieve Donard rises to 2,789 feet (850 metres) within 2 miles of the sea. A dozen other peaks, including Slieve Bearnagh and Slieve Binnian, exceed 2,000 feet. The hills are used as reservoirs that supply Belfast, Portadown, and Banbridge.
Newferry Watersports Centre
Newferry is used as a major venue for water sports including canoeing, powerboating, jet skiing and waterskiing. Situated on the banks of the Lower Bann there are also Bar-b-que and picnic facilities available. Any person wishing to register their boat should contact Ballymena Tourist Information Centre. Opening Times: Free access all year round.
Rams Island, the largest island on Lough Neagh is located approximately 1 mile offshore from Sandy Bay on the Eastern Shore of the Lough. The island is steeped in history and heritage, featuring the ruins of the 19th Century O’Neill’s summer house and round tower. The island was last permanently inhabited in the 1920’s by the Cardwell family who were caretakers for the O’Neill’s. The island is also blessed with an impressive array of flora and fauna among the dense woodland. A weekend ferry service to the island departs from Sandy Bay Marina and can also be booked for private charter.
Randalstown Forest stretches north from the north shore of Lough Neagh to the west of Randalstown. The Forest is made up of mixed conifer with some broadleaves. Near the entrance there is a deer enclosure with a herd of wild fallow deer. A small area at the loughshore is designated as a National Nature Reserve where you will find a birdwatching hide overlooking the Lough. This is an excellent point to view many of the wetland birds typical of Lough Neagh.
Right Time to Visit
January - March
June - August -> 17(°C) - Summer November - February -> 3(°C) - Winter