Lough Beg

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Lough Beg on a misty morning
Lough Beg shore

Lough Beg is a freshwater lake on the course of the River Bann just north of Lough Neagh, with the border of County Antrim with County Londonderry running south to north through it.

Despite its name, which means "Little Loch", this is a large lake, hard to measure as its size varies substantially depending on how much water the Bann is carrying out from Lough Neagh, but it over three miles long and a mile to a mile and half wide, depending on the height of the river. It is however small in comparison to the mighty water of Lough Neagh to the south, which extends over 151 square miles.

The River Bann flows out of the northernmost point of Lough Neagh, heading north (its course marking the county border of Antrim to the east and Londonderry to the west for its whole course until the Liberties of Coleraine near the sea). The river has its liberty for just a mile to a mile and a half before it is swallowed into Lough Beg. It flows out again at the foot of the lough, three and a half miles northwards.

Like its vast neighbour, Lough Beg is spread shallowly over the land. Its shores are irregular and are often marshland. Its size varies with the season, depending on how much water is flowing in the Lower Bann.

Church Island

Church Island

There is one notable half-island in the lake - Church Island, on the Londonderry side. Once an actual island, it is now separated from the shore by marshes, though after heavy rain is an island once again as the Bann surrounds it. During the summer the island is normally reachable by foot. This was the site of a pre-Viking monastery and later a church was built.

Today the church is in ruins. There is a church spire standing prominently on the island, but it is a spire without a church. This was built for the Bishop of Londonderry, Frederick Augustus Hervey, Earl of Bristol, in the late 1700s as he wanted a view of a spire from his dwelling in Bellaghy.[1][2]


Cattle Grazing in the Lough Beg National Nature Reserve

The lake is rich in wildlife, in particular wading birds, and is a stopping point for migratory birds. Its shores have many rare plants.[3]

By reason of its biodiversity, the lough and the area around it is now protected as the 'Lough Beg National Nature Reserve', and the Lough Beg Area of Special Scientific Interest, covering 2,780 acres.[4]

The lough is also part of the Lough Neagh and Lough Beg Ramsar Site, intended to protect the nature of wetlands.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Lough Beg)