Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Lake Locations:

United Kingdom - Northern Ireland - Antrim -

Also known as:  Lake Neagh, The Lough

Nestled in the heart of Northern Ireland, Lough (Lake) Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. Covering over 96,800 acres with beautiful water for exciting outdoor recreation and sightseeing, the lake is popular with tourists from around the world. In addition to tourism, eel fishing has been a major industry for centuries, and eel fisheries export the lake’s eels to fine restaurants throughout Europe. Sand is also a valuable lake product with tons of sand being extracted from the lake annually for use in the construction industry. The lake also supplies much of Northern Ireland with crystal clear drinking water.

Stretching over 18 miles long by nine miles wide at its widest point, Lough Neagh is a surprisingly shallow lake. The average depth in the main body of the lake is 30 feet with its deepest point measuring only 80 feet. The level of the Lough has been lowered four times, the first in 1846 and the last in 1959. The water levels are now managed by three sets of flood gates on the Lower Bann River in the city of Toome. Six major rivers flow into the Lough and only one, the Lower Bann River, flows out northward, eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near the city of Castlerock. In the late 19th century, three canals were constructed on the lake to link various ports and cities. Lough Neagh quickly became a major economic hub transporting linen, timber, coal, and livestock through the canals. The Lower Bann River was also made navigable to cities along the Atlantic coast. The canals were all closed by the mid 1950s and have been converted to scenic walkways and tourist attractions. Today, only the Lower Bann waterway remains open.

According to an old Irish legend, Lough Neagh was formed when Ireland’s legendary giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) scooped up a section of the land to throw at a fleeing Scottish rival. He missed, and the chunk of earth landed in the Irish Sea, thus creating the Isle of Man and Lough Neagh. Scientists tell a less interesting, but more probable story. In the early Tertiary period of the Earth’s history, a fault line occurred and the area of land sunk and slowly filled with water, creating what is now Lough Neagh.

Although important to the economy of Northern Ireland, Lough Neagh’s pristine beauty is a major draw for visitors. With nearly 78 miles of shoreline, many secluded and tucked away bays, and several large islands, Lough Neagh is a wonderful holiday destination. The area is also a haven for wildlife. The sparkling blue water attracts bird watchers from many nations due to the number and variety of birds which spend the winter and summer on and around the lake.

Vacation rentals and holiday accommodations on Lough Neagh are numerous. Bed and breakfasts, hotels, guesthouses, cottages, lodges, and private real estate can be found on and around the lake. Caravan parks and campgrounds are also available. The vibrant and historic city of Belfast is located 20 miles west of Lough Neagh, and the charming borough of Antrim is located on the northeast bay of the lake. Both towns offer a wide range of accommodations and tourist attractions.

Water-related activities on Lough Neagh are almost limitless. Paddlers can explore the numerous bays and inlets around the shoreline or the vast expanse of the open water. Motorboats, sailboats, banana boats, cruise boats, fishing boats, water-skiers, and windsurfer all share the massive body of water. Several marinas can be found on the lake which offer lake access for large boats as well as boat rentals of all sizes. The lake has two major Islands, Ram and Coney, both of which have significant historic interest and beautiful flora and fauna. Both islands can be visited by boat in the summer months. Sandy beaches, public parks, and picnic areas around the lake are available for daytime fun and relaxation. The Lower Bann River is also great for boating, fishing and exploring.

Anglers will find fishing Lough Neagh both exciting and challenging. Fish in Lough Neagh include roach, bream, perch, pollan, brown trout, dollaghan trout (a species specific to Lough Neagh), salmon and eel. The rivers feeding into Lough Neagh are popular spots for dollaghan trout which are a must-catch for visitors. Fly fishing is often the most successful way to catch these unique fish. Guides and fishing boats are available to take guests out onto the lake and to the best fishing holes. For those who prefer sea fishing, the ocean is just a half hour’s drive away.

For bikers, hikers, and walkers, numerous scenic trails surround Lough Neagh. Much of the lake’s shoreline is wooded and untouched and the perfect place for observing wildlife and waterfowl. Mute swans, great crested grebes and tufted duck are permanent residents of the lake. Over 100,000 wintering wildfowl fly in from as far away as Canada, Iceland, Greenland and Russia. The Lough Neagh Cycle Trail connects a number of parks, nature reserves, marinas, and major sites of interest to include the Lough Neagh Discovery Center in the Oxford Island National Nature Reserve, the second most visited tourism attraction in Northern Ireland. For golfers, there are several famous fairways near the shores of Lough Neagh and championship courses within a short drive of the lake.

Visitors to Lough Neagh will find the surrounding Northern Ireland countryside a remarkable place for exploration and sightseeing. Belfast is the largest city and the capital of Northern Ireland. Historical sites to see include the Belfast Castle, Stormont Castle, Inch Abbey, Bangor Abbey, Ballynoe Stone Circle, the Belfast Zoo and the Giant’s Causeway in nearby Antrim. Highlights of Northern Ireland not to be missed should include its stunning beaches, scenic walking trails, cultural museums, many historic landmarks, monuments, festivals, carnivals, and wonderful shopping and dining opportunities. For the more adventurous, a day of pony trekking along the seashore or backpacking in the Mournes might sound more appealing.

Despite its turbulent past, Northern Ireland and the breathtaking, rural countryside of Lough Neagh are today a fantastic place to visit. Beautiful emerald green forests, sprawling lakes, and dozens of charming towns and fishing villages all cater to and welcome tourists. Because Northern Ireland is only 5,500 square miles in area, you are never more than a half hour from the ocean. With rivers and lakes full of fish, friendly hotels and bed and breakfasts, and hundreds of places for a family adventure, consider a trip to Lough Neagh for your next holiday or vacation getaway.

Things to do at Lough Neagh

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lough Neagh

  • Brown Trout
  • Eel
  • Perch
  • Roach
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Lough Neagh Photo Gallery

Lough Neagh Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Northern Ireland Rivers Agency

Surface Area: 96,865 acres

Shoreline Length: 78 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 48 feet

Average Depth: 30 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

Water Volume: 2,860,196 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1940

Drainage Area: 1,757 sq. miles

Trophic State: Hypertrophic

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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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