Co. Antrim – NI
would make a great – ‘sympathy’ or ‘friendship’ card
!Lough Neagh is not only the largest lake in the British Isles, it is also the oldest. Many millions of years ago, long before the lce Ages, the Tertiary basalts of The Antrim Plateau, with the underlying chalk, sagged into a great basin lake which slowly filled with Lough Neagh clays, over a hundred feet thick at Washing Bay. As the glaciers melted, Lough Neagh was again a large lake, outflowing to the Newry River and the Lagan valley before resuming its outlet down the Lower Bann.
By the time Ireland’s first human inhabitants crossed from Scotland it was much its present size and shape, at least in summer months. By about 2000 BC people had penetrated up the Bann to Lough Neagh, leaving the Bann flints as evidence of their culture. They probably used skin-covered boats resembling the curraghs of the west coast, as dug out canoes would be unsuitable for the choppy waters of the Lough. Later ages have left their mark, from the cross at Arboe, the churches at Cranfield or Rams Island round tower, to the Salters Castle of the Plantation or John Nash’s unfinished Shanes Castle.
There are many legends about the origins of Lough Neagh. Some say it was the Irish Giant and famed warrior Finn McCool who created Lough Neagh when he scooped out the Lough basin to toss it at a Scottish rival that was fleeing Ulster by way of the Giants Causeway. Fearing he would lose him, Finn scooped up a mighty handful of earth and rocks and hurled it far into the sky towards the fleeing giant. But not knowing his own strength, he overthrew his target and the Giant Scot made his escape. Finn had missed the target and in doing so the piece of land fell into the Irish Channel and formed the Isle of Man. In the place from where the rocks where taken, there remained a giant hole. Gradually, in time, it filled with water to become what we know now as Lough Neagh.
Lough Neagh is of course a geological wonder and is the largest body of freshwater in the British Isles covering 150 square miles / 300 square km’s and is one of the earliest known inland sites of prehistoric man in Ireland. It stretches approximately 32kms North to South and 16km West to East and contains over 800 billion gallons of water.
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 eco-system, which supports thousands of wildfowl and a large-scale eel fishing industry. Fishing still represents one of the major industries on the Lough and it famous not only for silver eels but for the indigenous species of freshwater herring known as the pollan. It is however the eel that acts as the main commodity, supporting many families around the Lough, employed by a local co-operative based in Toome where eel traps can be seen in the Lower Bann. The lifecycle of the Lough Neagh eel from its spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea to their 10 – 12 year tenure in Lough Neagh can be explored in Kinturk Cultural Centre at Ardboe. Eel suppers are also served regularly at a number of local establishments around the Lough, however the majority of eels are exported live to markets throughout the UK and Europe.