River Bann

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The Bann at Coleraine
The Bann at Banbridge

The River Bann is a river that flows through or borders four of the six counties of Northern Ireland, and with a length of 80 miles it is the longest river in Northern Ireland.

The Bann comes in two distinct section which conventionally are accounted one river: the Upper Bann rises in the Mourne Mountains of County Down and winds its way to Bannfoot in County Armagh where its waters are discharged into the vastness of Lough Neagh. The waters issuing from the northern point of Lough Neagh, marking the boundary of County Antrim with County Londonderry, become the Lower Bann, which flows due north to the Atlantic Ocean beyond Coleraine. Lough Neagh is thus considered part of the River Bann.

C Michael Hogan reckoned the Bann River Valley to be a settlement area for some of the first arrivals of mankind in Ireland after the most recent glacial retreat.[1] The river has played an important part in the industrialisation Ulster, especially in the linen industry.

Today salmon and eel fisheries are the most important economic features of the river. The river is often used as a dividing line between the eastern and western areas of Northern Ireland, often labelled the "Bann divide". Towns "west of the Bann" are seen as outside the economic heartland and the river is portrayed as a religious, economic and political divide, with Protestants and Unionists in the majority to the east and Roman Catholics in the majority to the west. The financial and industrial capital of Greater Belfast is to the east but west of the Bann the land is largely agricultural and rural.[2][3]


The Upper Bann enters Lough Neagh at Bannfoot

The Lough Neagh catchment drains 43%[4] of the land mass of Northern Ireland, as well as some border areas in the Republic of Ireland. The Rivers Agency manages the water level in the lough using a barrage at Toome. The current drainage scheme was engineered by Major Percy Shepherd and was enabled by the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Drainage and Navigation Act (Northern Ireland) 1955.[5] The levels are regulated between 40.8 feet to 41.3 feet above Ordnance Datum, as defined in the Lough Neagh (Levels) Scheme 1955 (as amended).[6]

Upper Bann

The Bann in spate near Banbridge

The Upper Bann rises in the Mourne Mountains in County Down and flows into Lough Neagh at Bannfoot in County Armagh. This stretch is one of the most popular coarse fishing rivers in Europe. Near Portadown it connects with the now disused Newry Canal, which once gave access south to the Irish Sea.

Lower Bann

Overlooking the River Bann at Coleraine and the Riverside Retail Park on the eastern banks of the river

The Lower Bann flows from Lough Neagh at Toome to the Atlantic Ocean at Portstewart. The river is 38 miles long and is a canalised waterway with five navigation locks at Toome, Portna, Movanagher, Carnroe and Castleroe. The river is popular with water sports enthusiasts, anglers and cruisers and has minimal commercial traffic. It acts as most of the border between County Antrim and County Londonderry until close to the mouth, which is all in the latter county (the Londonderry land east of the Bann are the Liberties of Coleraine).

The only commercial port on the river is at Coleraine. Ships from Londonderry Port and the Port of Belfast transfer coal and scrap metal.

The water level on the Lower Bann is controlled by Rivers Agency using gates situated at Portna (near Kilrea) and The Cutts at Coleraine.[7]

Outside links

The Bann at Portadown
("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about River Bann)