A tour around the largest lake in Great Britain

September 2002
165 km

Taken from Wikipedia: Lough Neagh (Irish: Loch nEathach, meaning Lake of Eochaidh) is a freshwater lake in Northern Ireland. 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 with an area of 392 square kilometres (151 square miles). 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.
Of the 4550 km² catchment area, around 9% lies in the Republic of Ireland and 91% in Northern Ireland; altogether 43% of the land area of Northern Ireland is drained into the lough, which itself flows out northwards to the sea via the River Bann. As one of its sources is the Upper Bann, the Lough can itself be considered a part of the Bann.

Please read the full article at Wikipedia. Some more tourist information about Lough Neagh and Northern Ireland.

Please note that the bad quality of the pictures is both due to my incompetence as a photograph and the bad quality of the camera.

I had some severe personal problems during the week leading up to this tour and the preparations was far from good. I did not sleep that well before I woke up to a perfect day. Nice sun and perfect temperature for a hard day on the bike. I took a map and my rucksack with me that day and went up in the direction of Lisburn via some small roads. The road was in some places pretty steep up to Lisburn. The road past Moira to Portadown was hilly too. Some hills was pretty vertical. It was pretty interesting cycling too, but with not much variations. Long stretches with boring flat road, only punctuated with some steep hills. The landscape was pretty boring and I chose not to waste any film on this. I had some food in this small town, I headed north-west to the small village of Maghery and over some small cycle roads towards and around the south-west corner of Lough Neagh. This included some pretty difficult to find small roads and crossing over a small bridge over a pretty big river. I saw the whole Lough Neagh from this bridge.

Looking north-east over Lough Neagh.

I was now heading straight north past Killeen and up the west shore of Lough Neagh through some farmlands.

Lough Neagh towards east.

I passed through some small villages. The landscape was quite OK. The lake was a bit smaller than I thought though......or I was cycling very fast. I prefer the last explanation. I was soon at the north end of it. So far, the tour had had some small hills and few technical difficulties. I was feeling OK..... but I was in for a rude awakening.

Lough Neagh from the north towards south-east.

The road from Toome to Randalstown included some nasty traffic and a big hill through the forest. The baking hot sun did not make my life easier too. The local midges and flies also came out to greet me. Not good and it tired me substantially. The terrain through Randalstown was also pretty technical with some nasty sharp hills through some sharp bends. A hill also made my life difficult and more or less finished me off. I finally reached the town of Antrim. I was supposed to find a back road to Belfast here. But the road was not signposted and I ended up on the road down the east coast of Lough Neagh towards the airport before a friendly local soul put me onto the right road again. That meant a detour through a hospital and up some steep hills before I finally found the back road to Belfast. This is a road I knew was very steep and boring. This road is named Seven Miles Straight and it goes straight up the big hill between Antrim and Belfast until it tops out around 250 meters above sea level. The road was very steep at some places. Mostly towards the top of the climb. In the hot baking sun, this hill really killed me and I was very happy that I was soon back in Belfast again.

Looking back towards Antrim and Lough Neagh from the top.

The views over Belfast from the top is stunning and worthy the whole climb. No photographs can give this view any justice whatsoever. It is a case of having to be there and experience it in person. I do not understand why this view is not regarded as a major tourist attraction. They should build a cafe and something good for the locals and the tourists here. With the end of the troubles, I hope this will happens. In this case; this will be a major goldmine for Belfast.

Overlooking Belfast from the top of the mountain.

The descent down to Belfast was pretty vertical and I was soon down in the town again and some tricky traffic machines and roundabouts. I got through them and back to the Botanic Avenue again where I stayed.

This is the final 100+ km cycle tour I did in Northern Ireland before I returned back to Scotland. It was probably the least interesting tour I did in Northern Ireland too. Most of it was very flat, with a long and pretty boring hillclimb at the end. It is nice to have done this tour because it is regarded as a classic bike ride. But it is too flat for my liking. Hours upon hours of just working the pedals along farmlands is not my type of cycling. The west side of Lough Neagh was very scenic though. I also think Northern Ireland is very underrated among cyclists and other tourists.

I am therefore happy to recommend this tour to anyone.