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Lough Neagh ( ) — ( ) — is a freshwater lake in Northern Irelandmarker.


With an area of 392 square kilometres (151 square miles), it is the largest lake in the British Islesmarker and ranks among the forty largest lakes of Europe. Located twenty miles (30 km) to the west of Belfastmarker, it is approximately twenty miles (30 km) long and nine miles (15 km) wide with an area of 392 square kilometres (151 square miles). It is very shallow around the margins and the average depth in the main body of the lake is about 9 m (30 ft); although at its deepest the lough is about 25 metres (80 ft) deep.



Of the 4550 km² catchment area, around 9% lies in the Republic of Ireland and 91% in Northern Ireland; altogether 43% of the land area of Northern Ireland is drained into the lough, which itself flows out northwards to the sea via the River Bann. As one of its sources is the Upper Bann, the Lough can itself be considered a part of the Bann.

Towns and villages

Towns and villages near the Lough include Craigavonmarker, Antrimmarker, Crumlinmarker, Randalstownmarker, Toomebridgemarker, Ballyronanmarker, Ballinderrymarker, Moortown, Ardboemarker, Magherymarker, Lurganmarker and Magherafeltmarker.


Counties of Northern Ireland
Districts of Northern Ireland


Five of the six counties of Northern Ireland have shores on the Lough (only Fermanagh does not), and its area is split among them. The counties are listed clockwise:

  1. Antrim (eastern half of the lake)
  2. Down (small part in the southeast)
  3. Armagh (south)
  4. Tyrone (west)
  5. Londonderry (extreme northwest)

Local Government Districts

The area of the lake is split between six Local Government Districts of Northern Irelands, which are listed clockwise:


Although the Lough is used for a variety of recreational and commercial activities, it is exposed and tends to get extremely rough very quickly in windy conditions. It is also used as a source of fresh water by Northern Ireland Water. Plans to increase the amount of water drawn from the Lough, through a new water treatment works at Hog Park Point, have long been planned but are yet to materialise.

Lough Neagh and settlements surrounding it

Traditional working boats on Lough Neagh include wide-beamed 16–21 ft clinker-built, sprit-rigged working boats and smaller flat-bottomed "cots" and "flats". Barges, here called "lighters", were used up to the 1940s to transport coal over the lough and adjacent canals. Up to the 17th century, log boats (coití) were the main means of transport, some of which are as old as 6,400 years. Few traditional boats are left now, but a community-based group on the southern shore of the lough is rebuilding a series of working boats.

In the 19th century, three canals were constructed, making use of the lough to link various ports and cities: the Lagan Navigation provided a link from the city of Belfastmarker, the Newry Canalmarker linked to the port of Newrymarker, and the Ulster Canalmarker led to the Lough Ernemarker navigations, providing a navigable inland route via the River Shannon to Limerickmarker, Dublinmarker and Waterfordmarker. The Lower Bann was also navigable to Colerainemarker and the Antrim coast, and the short Coalisland Canal provided a route for coal transportation. Of these waterways, only the Lower Bann remains open today, however a restoration plan for the Ulster Canal is currently in progress.

Lough Neagh Rescue provides a Search & Rescue service twenty-four hours a day. It is a voluntary service with funding being provided by the District Councils bordering the Lough, its members are highly trained and are a declared facility for the Marine Coastguard Agency who co-ordinate rescues on Lough Neagh Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Lough Neagh attracts bird watchers from many nations due to the number and variety of birds which winter and summer in the boglands and shores around the lough.

Eel fishing has been a major industry in Lough Neagh for centuries. Today Lough Neagh eel fisheries export their eels to restaurants all over the world.

Lough Neagh was widely assumed to be owned by the state, but in 2005 it publicly emerged that it is the ancestral property of the Earl of Shaftesbury. This may have serious implications for planned changes to state-run domestic water services in Northern Ireland, as the lough supplies 40% of the region's drinking water and is also used as a sewage outfall (in a system only permissible through British Crown immunity).


An old Irish story tells how the Lough was formed when Ireland's legendary giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) scooped up a portion of the land and tossed it at a Scottishmarker rival. He missed, and the chunk of earth landed in the Irish Seamarker, thus creating the Isle of Manmarker.


File:Loughneagh.jpg|Lough Neagh at Killywoolaghan.Image:Lough-Neagh.svg|The location of Lough Neagh within Ireland.

See also


  1. Deirdre Flanagan and Laurance Flanagan, Irish Placenames, (Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 1994)
  2. Official Tourism Ireland site
  4. Environmental Change Network
  5. Northern Ireland Rivers Agency
  7. Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association
  8. BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Sudden death may impact NI water

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