Into to the Big Wide Open
Lough Neagh Canoe Trail Launch
When Irish Giant Finn McCool scooped out a lump of land to throw at a fleeing Scottish rival, little did he know that he was creating an exceptional venue for Canoeing in Northern Ireland.
Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Britain & Ireland will soon be home to the Lough Neagh Canoe Trail. Wednesday 30th April will mark the launch of the Trail creating a valuable Activity Tourism Product for the area. Canoeists will be able to explore the numerous bays and inlets around the Lough or the vast expanse of open water whilst observing the diversity of wildlife and historical sites.
Circumnavigating the Lough, the Trail offers a range of access points on the mainland and on both Coney and Rams Island. The Trail is suitable for Canoeists of all abilities. Experts can utilise the official Canoe Trail Guide - a comprehensive waterproof guide containing information on the 7 designated access points and useful content on wildlife, flora and fauna and camping etc. Beginners can take to the water for the first time by choosing from a wide variety of Canoeing providers offering a range of instruction, guided tours and canoe hire. All the information contained in the Canoe Trail Guide is also available in an interactive format on www.canoeni.com.
Lough Neagh was historically a major economic hub transporting linen, timber, coal and live stock, now it is a major canoeing and tourism hub as the Trail links the existing Blackwater Canoe Trail (launched in November 2007) flowing into the Lough and the Lower Bann Canoe Trail (launched February 2008) flowing out of the Lough. In the future the proposed reopening of the Ulster Canal may link canoeists to the Lough Erne Canoe Trail (launched in May 2005). The Strangford Lough Canoe Trail will complete the suite with a launch in late June.
The Canoe Trails have been developed by the Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), Lough Neagh Partnership and the Canoe Association for Northern Ireland (CANI). The quality of the Canoe Trail has been proven with the Lough Erne Canoe Trail recently winning the Innovation Category at the British Urban Regeneration Association Waterways Renaissance Awards becoming the first Northern Irish based project ever to receive such recognition.
The Lough Neagh Canoe Trail Project has been part funded by the European Union and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development through the Lough Neagh Partnership,Antrim Borough Council, Cookstown District Council, Craigavon Borough Council, Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, and Magherafelt District Council. The project has also been supported by Sport NI.
“The Trail has created a quality activity tourism product in the area which will not only benefit the local community but also generate tourism revenue; it is an outstanding example of partnership between a number of funders and councils.” Added Dr Caro-lynne Ferris, Director, CAAN.
CAAN is supported by Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Environment and Heritage Service, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Inland Waterways), and Sport NI.
The venue for the launch Ballyronan Marina is a perfect example of the infrastructure along the Trail and is one of the seven designated access points. Each access point will host an interpretive panel detailing information on the local area. A full range of Literature on the Lough Neagh Region is also available from local Tourist Information Centres or can be downloaded from www.discoverloughneagh.com. Jim Canning, Chairman, Lough Neagh Partnership said “Lough Neagh is really beginning to take off as a top site for water recreation – and the new canoe trail is another great step in the right direction.’’
The Trail certainly continues an exciting era for Canoeing in Northern Ireland and will be enjoyed by the local community and tourists alike.