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Lough Neagh

Situated in the centre of Northern Ireland, Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the British Isles.The Special Protection Area includes three eutrophic water bodies, Lough Neagh and two related loughs, Lough Beg and Portmore Lough, together with surrounding swamp.

Lough Neagh, sometimes Loch Neagh is a large freshwater lake in Northern Ireland. Its name is derived from Irish: Loch nEathach, meaning “Lake of Eathach” .With an area of 392 square kilometres (151 square miles), it is the largest lake in the British Isles and ranks among the forty largest lakes of Europe. Located twenty miles (30 km) to the west of Belfast, it is approximately twenty miles (30 km) long and nine miles (15 km) wide. 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. Five of the six counties of Northern Ireland have shores on the Lough (only Fermanagh does not), and its area is split among them.

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.

Traditional working boats on Lough Neagh include wide-beamed 16-to-21-foot (4.9 to 6.4 m) 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 Belfast, the Newry Canal linked to the port of Newry, and the Ulster Canal led to the Lough Erne navigations, providing a navigable inland route via the River Shannon to Limerick, Dublin and Waterford. The Lower Bann was also navigable to Coleraine 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).

Official Website : www.discoverloughneagh.com

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