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The largest lake in Britain, and Northern Ireland's centrepiece

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Cycling Trail
Discovery Centre
Coney Island
Ram's Island
Kinnego Marina
Ardboe Cross
Maghery Country Park
Look at any map of Northern Ireland and you'll notice Lough Neagh, right in the middle. At 150 square miles, it's the UK's largest lake, even bigger than Windermere, or Loch Ness. Nearly half of the rain that falls on Northern Ireland ends up in Lough Neagh, which in turn supplies drinking water to the Belfast area. The lake's shoreline is shared by 5 of the country's 6 counties!
With such a key geographical location, it's no surprise that this is a popular destination for day-tripping locals. The lengthy shoreline is filled with interesting sights, from pretty towns to dense forests.

A Boat Trip on Lough Neagh.
Photo NITB
A good way to see the lake's varied features is to bike along the Lough Neagh Cycling Trail, which mostly follows the water's edge in a complete circle. It passes through all sorts of villages, parks and nature reserves. Keep an eye on the sky as you ride, because you might spot one of the 100,000 birds that travel here from such far-flung places as Canada, Iceland and the Arctic Circle.
You can find out more about the area's abundant wildlife at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, a beautiful building surrounded by water. As well as the various exhibits, there's also a craft centre and restaurant. Just to the west of here is Peatlands Park, where visitors can fully explore the sights - and smells - of natural marshland.

Lough Neagh Centre

The Lough Neagh Centre is on the southern shore of the lake at Oxford Island and is a sprawling nature reserve with lush reed beds,verdant woodlands, and gorgeous wildflower meadows. The center has historical and geographic exhibits, walking trails, bird-watching observation points, and bucolic picnic areas. For a closer look at everything in sight, the center has binoculars for hire.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Despite containing enough liquid to fill 7 million swimming pools, Lough Neagh is relatively shallow, with an average depth of just 9 metres. Nevertheless, you can still take boats on to the water. Over the last few centuries, large transport vessels used to carry products like coal and timber across the lake to the various connecting canals. There were also plenty of eel fishers, who still exist today. Their catches are served in restaurants across the globe. Nowadays, there are all sorts of craft on the Lough, from huge pleasure cruisers to a novelty pirate ship! You can hop on board at one of the four marinas, spread out along the shore. Adrenaline fans will find plenty of distractions at the various watersports centres, which offer such speedy activities as water-skiing and banana boating.

Windsurfing on Lough Neagh.
Photo 88rabbit
As the lake is a sizeable 20 miles long, it's not surprising to find several islands scattered along its length. The only one with permanent inhabitants, Coney Island, offers some spectacular views from its circular footpath. The largest is Ram's Island, a mile or so from the lake's eastern shore. Its most eye-catching feature is the round tower, a remnant of the area's rich Christian history.

Rams Island in Lough Neagh.
Photo L_J

Ardboe High Cross

One of the finest examples of the Irish High cross in Ulster, can be found in Ardboe and is located on a small hillock close to the shores of Lough Neagh. Ardboe High Cross, which dates to the 9th/10th century, is all that now remains of a 6th century monastery, which was established by Saint Colman mac Aed. The Cross, made of sandstone, stands about 18 feet high.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
According to science, Lough Neagh was created when an earthquake created a hole for water to flow into. The locals, however, have a much more interesting story. In the distant past, a giant called Finn McCool scooped the land up himself, to throw at his Scottish rival. The makeshift projectile landed in the Irish Sea, creating the Isle of Man.
Strangely, neither of these stories explains the lake's name. "Neagh" is actually an ancient horse god, who's said to lurk beneath the waves. To this day, some fishermen can still hear his hooves, galloping through the water to the underworld.

Kinnego Marina

Kinnego Marina is the largest marina on Lough Neagh. Situated in the Oxford Island National Nature Reserve it also has a fully serviced caravan park and is home to Lough Neagh Sailing Club, one of the oldest sailing clubs in Northern Ireland, established in 1877.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Maghery Country Park

These 30 acres of pretty woodland are sat on Lough Neagh's south-west corner. There are over 3 miles of trails to explore, which makes for a pleasant hour or two. After that you can go fishing, or look out for rare birds. Most visitors end up taking the boat across to Coney Island, less than a mile offshore. It's the only inhabited island on the lake. In fact, people have been here for thousands of years. You can see evidence of their existence, from Norman castles to Victorian summer houses. These sights are enclosed by hordes of dense trees. A path around the perimeter is a good way to see both the island, and the views back towards the mainland.

Photo Stephen McKay
Visitor Information
Maid of Antrim departs from Antrim Marina on the North East shore line every Sunday on the hour from 12 noon to 5pm and from Ballyronan Marina on the North West coast shore line on Thursday evenings at 7:30pm from Easter to Halloween. Booking. Cruises are subject to weather and demand, so please phone to confirm availability to avoid disappointment. Tel: 028 2582 2159
Maghery Country Park is open daily 9am-5pm. Admission is free. It's 8 miles east of Dungannon, signposted from exit 12 of the M1. Lough Neagh Discovery Centre: 028 3832 2205

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