Lough Beg, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Lake Locations:

United Kingdom - Northern Ireland - Antrim - Londonderry -

Also known as:  Loch Beag

Lough Beg, a freshwater lake in the northeastern part of Northern Ireland, is located near the center of the province of Ulster and straddles two counties, Londonderry and Antrim. Londonderry has become a Catholic majority county since the 1980s, while Antrim’s majority is Protestant. Belfast, the largest city in Northern Ireland and its capital, is located to the southeast of Lough Beg, about 40 miles (64.3 kilometers) away. Lough Beg’s proximity to Belfast makes it a destination worth visiting, as does its close relationship to Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles.

Lough Beg, which means “Little Lake,” is a glacial lake about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) long by 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, running south to north. This natural lake is located to the north of Lough Neagh and is part of the Lower Bann River Basin catchment area. The river enters Lough Neagh from the south, exits it from the north, then enters Lough Beg as its primary water inlet at the south end of the lake. The water again exits from the north end of Lough Beg and continues on as the Lower Bann River. The towns of Castlerock, to the west, and Portstewart, to the east, bookend the river’s exit point into the Atlantic Ocean at the northern coastline of Northern Ireland.

Portglenone is a market center and traffic junction just to the north of Lough Beg. With a population of 2,900, the town, located in County Antrim in the Ballymena district, is known for the Portglenone Forest Park. Nature trails meander through the undisturbed wooded lands here, and the Lower Bann River courses through the park, which is designated an ancient woodland.

Although it is designated a lake unto itself, Lough Beg, in topographical terms, is an area of the Lower Bann River that widens out after the river exits Lough Neagh. Lough Beg is a shallow lake, averaging between 3.3 and 6.6 feet (1 and 2 meters). This shallow depth, in combination with the wide and fairly flat and level valley floor, has allowed the lake to regularly flood the grasslands that exist near the western shore of the lake. This 300-acre unmodified area, which is known as “The Strand,” has been designated the Lough Beg National Nature Reserve and is an Area of Special Scientific Interest (deemed so in 1965) for its diversity of plant and animal life. In 1985, the Ramsar Convention fortified the protected status of the Lough Neagh/Lough Beg wetlands by addressing some of the finer points of the area’s protection that the original 1965 document only touched on or did not discuss at all.

Within the nature reserve is Church Island, also called Inish Toide, the prominent and popular ruins of a pre-Viking monastery. Although the area is often flooded, careful and prepared visitors who are interested often try to reach Church Island on foot in the summer. The wealth of history there makes the often-treacherous journey worthwhile: Besides the remains of the medieval church, an ancient graveyard and a spire built in the 18th century are wonderful architectural and historical glimpses that few people get to see up close due to their fairly inaccessible location.

Over the years, the Rivers Agency of Northern Ireland has put into place several drainage schemes that have consequently lowered the overall water levels of Lough Beg. Because it is low-lying grassland in a seasonal state of flooding, the area has evolved into an important wetlands area–the second largest wetlands in the United Kingdom, specifically, and boasts the highest number of birds ever recorded in one location in the U.K.–more than 60,000–in the winter seasons over five consecutive years during the mid-1980s.

Outdoor activities in the area near Lough Beg are popular, including canoeing, water skiing, and cruising on the lake. Travelers also enjoy walking and biking, both of which allow a leisurely pace to take in the scenery and engage in bird watching. An incredible array of bird species is present in the local habitat and during migration. Gulls, terns, waders, swans, diving ducks, geese, grebes, dabbling ducks, pochard, and other species make their homes here.

In summer, snipe, lapwing, and redshank settle in for the season. In the fall and spring, migratory species such as the black-tailed godwit, greenshank, knot, green sandpiper, and wood sandpiper are very common sights on Lough Beg. Being an important stop on these migrating birds’ seasonal journeys has contributed to the recognition that this lake and its environs are ecologically important. The many rare species of invertebrates and insects that live in the area also make the protection of these wetlands important.

Fishing on Lough Beg is popular year round, including fly-fishing, with perch, roach, dollaghan, rudd, trench, bream, gray mullet, salmon, brown trout, and sea trout as the popular catches. Pike are plentiful and are known to grow especially large, possibly due to the lake’s slow-moving waters and numerous shallow bays. Much of the land surrounding the lake is used for grazing and agricultural purposes. Plant species like northern reed grass, pennyroyal, Irish lady’s tresses, and orchids are relatively rare and grow natively here.

The area around Lough Beg is undeveloped and, being a wetland, makes human access by car or on foot problematic. The best way to access this lake is through boating. Safe boating on this lake means sticking to the navigation channel that runs through it; the channel is deeper and allows a wider variety of watercraft to enjoy the waters without worry of grounding. Because the lake’s shore is difficult for revelers to access, most other outdoor activity, on the water and off, does not conflict with anglers’ need for undisturbed waters. The areas for each type of water-based recreation are distinct, for the most part, with each pastime holding its own favored and most logical areas for use.

Vacationers who crave a trip to Northern Ireland will enjoy the options available for vacation rentals and self-catering holiday cottages. Many choices of accommodations are available, from renovated historic stone cottages to large and luxurious rental properties. Anyone can find the perfect site for a holiday–from singles to small families to a dozen people traveling together. Self-catering rental apartments and cabins are plentiful, as are fully staffed and catered hotels, bed and breakfasts, and lodges. Real estate on offer is also filled with options. Lakeside cottages compete with apartments and single-family homes for buyers’ attention. For those looking to start from scratch, undeveloped land is also available for building a dream vacation home.

Things to do at Lough Beg

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Lough Beg

  • Brown Trout
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Roach
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Lough Beg Photo Gallery

    Lough Beg Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

    Surface Area: 1,178 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 33 feet

    Average Depth: 5 feet

    Water Residence Time: 13 months

    Lake Area-Population: 2,900

    Drainage Area: 1,757 sq. miles

    Trophic State: Hypereutrophic

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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