Meet your Skipper at Newferry on the River Bann. This quiet marina has ample car parking. Here your group will be welcomed onboard the boat, given a safety briefing and have life jackets fitted. From the moment you set foot onboard you can relax and sit down to enjoy a peaceful cruise along the Lower Bann and into the scenic nature reserve of Lough Beg. Here you will see Church Island and hear tales of mesolithic finds and standing stones. You will travel under both bridges at Toome and past the Eel Fishery. When you reach The Lock Keeper’s Cottage, a Waterways Heritage Centre and cafe, you can disembark for a comfort break before cruising along Toome Canal.
You will cruise south through Toome Canal and the historic Lock Gates where you will see dragonflies, herons and water fowl.
You will journey through Toome Bay where 9000 year old human artefacts were discovered, some of the oldest in Ireland, and pass Ballyronan Marina where you may see sand barges or Lough Neagh fishermen.
Here you will cruise south with the expanse of Lough Neagh before you. You can view the western shoreline taking in the sights like the High Cross at Ardboe (Irish: Seanchrois Ard Bó). Made from sandstone and stretching some 18 feet high, it has 20 Old Testament scenes carved into its shaft that are still visible after centuries of weathering. In the early days of the Church, when few villagers or farmers could read, these bible scenes on the cross illustrated the lessons of the new Christian religion.
Your Skipper will entertain you with Lough Neagh folklore of mermaids, magic cows and giants. You will also learn about the history of the 16th century church at Ardboe, and the overlap of paganism and christianity.
Irish writer, Polly Devlin, who grew up near Ardboe wrote about the church site in the 1950s…
“The position of the small primitive group of holy buildings silhouetted against water and sky affects us, and most visitors, to initial stillness and silence. The crumbling arched windows frame the perpetual movement of the small crested waves of the lough”.
Your group will disembark at the Battery Harbour, a quiet but working fishing harbour. The diverse range of fish within Lough Neagh are a valuable resource and have been caught ever since humans arrived on its shore. Early Christian monks used the Eel for food and extracted its oil for lamps and local people have fished the Lough and made a living from fishing for generations.
Here you can enjoy a pleasant walk around the quay where Lough Neagh Rescue is stationed and visit the locally popular Battery Bar to avail of refreshments. Take time to savour the views of Lough Neagh from the harbour and listen to the gently lapping water and birdsong. This is a quiet place for reflection and renewal before your return journey to the village of Toome.