River Bann, County Armagh | County Down
Lough Neagh is the largest lough in Ireland, and also the largest lake in the British Isles with 153 square miles of surface area. A discovery at Toome Bay represents the oldest human artefacts ever discovered in Ireland, at about 9000 years old.
The source of the Bann is found among the Mourne Mountains of County Down. From here the river flows on to feed Lough Neagh at Bannfoot in County Armagh. At Portadown the river is joined to the Newry Canal to connect it to the Irish Sea. The canal is now sadly no longer navigable. This stretch of the river is known as the Upper Bann, one of the most popular stretches for course fishing in all of Europe.
The Lower Bann is the name given to the section from below Lough Neagh. This section of the river runs from Toome all the way to the Atlantic Ocean at Portstewart . Here the 38 mile stretch of the Lower Bann is canalised and includes five locks. While commercial traffic still uses this stretch, once very important to the industrial economy of Northern Ireland, it is now mainly serving leisure traffic. A commercial port is still in operation at Coleraine where ships from Londonderry and Belfast still dock to transfer coal and scrap metal.
Lough Beg is on the Lower Bann. The small freshwater lake is the site of a National Nature Reserve. Apart from a navigation channel the lake is very shallow at an average of only two meters deep. The wet grassland is widely flooded during the winter and this provides an important natural habitat for wintering wildfowl. As spring approaches and the winter floods recede and large numbers of breeding waders enjoy the sanctuary, including redshank, lapwing, curlew, snipe and occasionally dunlin. Lough Beg is protected as an Area of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar Site.
Pleasure cruises are an excellent way to see the river. The fully enclosed 60 seater Waterbus, ‘The Lady Sandel’ is a 50 foot, fully-enclosed waterbus capable of accommodating up to 60 passengers and is an excellent platform to view the natural beauty of one of Ulster's finest rivers. It is just one of many such craft offering trips on the river.
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