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16 October 2014
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Lough Neagh

The largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, Lough Neagh is situated in the centre of Northern Ireland with five of the Province's six counties touching its shores.

Looking across Lough Neagh to Coney  Island

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Legend has it that the giant Finn McCool, in a fight with a rival giant, scooped up a vast handful of earth so creating Lough Neagh. Finn then threw the handful of earth towards England, but it fell short into the Irish Sea and became the Isle of Man.

Despite its size, Lough Neagh is not that easily accessed or viewed. Its marshy edge means roads seldom follow the lakeshore and you can drive quite close to the lough without seeing it. However, if some motorists have difficulty in locating it, not so millions of baby eels born in the Sargasso Sea, who swim across the Atlantic and find the lough without fail every year.

Vital statistics

Size:     Covers area of 400 sq km (153 sq miles) Approx. 20 miles long and 9 miles wide
Depth:   40-50 ft, except at the north end where there is a narrow gut' over 100 ft.
Origins: Formed by melting of glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age (c 20,000 years ago)

Did you know?

  • The name means the lake of the horse-god Eochu. He was the lord of the underworld, who was supposed to exist beneath its waters.


  • The lough is Europe's greatest source of eels.


  • 6 major rivers flow into the lough, but only one leaves it - the Lower Bann
  • .

  • It is a designated Ramsar site - a wetland of international conservation importance.


  • The level of the lough has been lowered on 4 occasions, the first in 1846 and the last in 1959.
Video Interview:
Watch John Toal's interview with Michael Crossan

Audio interviews

The Your Place & Mine radio team visited the lough in July 2004 for a special programme. Click on the pictures or text below to hear from some of the people they caught up with.

Ardboe cross
Listen to Mary McCann and Canon Moore chatting about Ardboe to YPAM reporters Mary Ferris and Paul Moore.

The sand dredger William James
Listen to Michael Crossan speaking about the sand dredging that goes on in the lough, with John Toal and Marie McStay.

Cyclists on the shores of Lough Neagh
The Lough Shore Trail is very popular with cyclists. Listen to Frank McGrogan and Jo Dixon of Sustran chat about the trail with John Toal.

Lough Neagh Rescue - Kinnego life boat station
Paddy Prunty talks to John Toal about this life saving service.

Bird's eye view of Ram's Island.  Photo taken by Michael Savage.
John Toal is given a tour of Ram's Island, in the company of Thomas Cardwell, Michael Savage and Seamus Burns.

Did you know?

  • Lough Neagh is an important source of water for Belfast.


  • The distance between waves on the lough is very short and this is known locally as the 'three sisters'.


  • Waterguns (as the fishermen call them) are booming noises sometimes heard on the lough and are associated with whirlwinds on the surface in sultry weather.


  • Pieces of petrified wood, altered by silica salts in the water, are sometimes washed up on the shore of the lough. They resemble pumicestone and used to be known as Lough Neagh hones and sold as knife and scythe sharpeners.

Wildlife

  • Eels, fresh-water herring (pollan) and dollaghan (salmon-trout) are caught commercially.
    (YPAM reporter Paddy O'Flaherty found out more about dollaghan at Ballinderry during the radio programme's Lough Neagh special. See further up the page to listen to this programme.)


  • The Lough Neagh fly (chironomid midge) may be harmless and non-biting, but when these midges descend in clouds during the spring and summer they can get into everything!!


  • Waterfowl number up to 100,000 in winter.


  • 6% of the world total of whooper swan visit the lough.


  • It has the largest concentration of diving duck in Britain and Ireland.

Useful web links

General

For basic facts and figures about the lough and its wildlife visit the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Wetlands website.

Plans are afoot to carry out restoration work on Ram's Island - the River Bann and Lough Neagh Association.

Keep safe while out on the water - read about the Lough Neagh Rescue service that operates on the lough.

Find out more about the Lough Neagh Partnership, which works on initiatives to improve the Lough Neagh area.

Leisure

Cycle the Lough Neagh region - on the Lough Shore Trail.

Find out more about the Oxford Island National Nature Reserve, including the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.

Walk through 2 national nature reserves - at Peatlands Country Park.

Soak up some history. These are just a few of the places you could visit - Antrim Castle grounds, Cranfield Church and holy well and Mountjoy Castle.

Councils

Websites of local councils whose areas border the lough, provide a useful range of information.

(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.)



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