Explore Lough Neagh with a trip to Rams Island
Join us at the Loughshore Park Antrim where you will be welcomed by your Skipper. After getting your lifejacket on, step onboard and relax. Getting onto Lough Neagh is a chance to leave your worries behind and immerse yourself in this expansive natural landscape. You’ll hear the stories of fishermen spanning generations and legends of Finn McCool who is said to have created Lough Neagh, the Giant’s Causeway and the Isle of Man in his endeavour to defeat the Scottish giant Bennadonner. You will be entertained by tales of magic cows and mermaids as you cruise South towards Ram’s Island.
On disembarking our first port of call is the floating barge moored to the island. Here you can learn about the history and environment of this intriguing place. Ram’s Island is an area of special scientific interest due to the wildlife and is protected and cared for by The River Bann and Lough Neagh Association. In the eighteenth century Ram’s Island was owned by a fisherman named David McAreavy who sold it to Lord O’Neill for 100 guineas in 1804. When O’Neill bought the island, the site covered just over 5.9 acres, but due to the four lowerings of the water level of Lough Neagh, the island has grown to some 40 acres. The O’Neill family employed the Cardwells to be caretakers on the island. Jane, an expert gardener, and her husband Robert, a fisherman, tended the island and kept the O’Neills summerhouse ready for use. Jane was somewhat of a local legend, known as “The Queen of the Island”, and when she died in 1933 at the ripe age of 99, eight Lough Neagh fishing boats formed a cortege to take her across the water to Glenavy where she is buried alongside her husband.
The island is also home to a 1000 year old monastic tower where brass fastenings from the cloaks of monks have been found. The tower is just over 40ft high and is constructed from rounded stones from the shore. The monks retreated to the top of the tower when the island was under threat from the various warring Irish kings and tribes. In front of it, the brick walls of the front of Lord O’Neill’s early 1800s summer house remain intact, the imprint of his coat of arms still visible.
The island also proved it’s value during World War Two when it provided a sheltered haven for the flying boat base at Sandy Bay, an important base used to facilitate bombing and gunnery practice. Due to it’s close proximity and privacy it became a favourite getaway for the American Eighth Army Airforce and often their sweethearts, the evidence of which can be seen where their names are carved into trees around Ram’s Island.
As you explore the island you will find these relics and ruins amongst carved wooden sculptures of the people, history and myths of Ram’s Island. They are all respected and cherished, tended and celebrated. There is a tangible connection to the people and stories of the past in this special place.
Rams Island can be toured on foot and there are many unique photo opportunities. It is truly a hidden gem of Lough Neagh and it’s secrets are only revealed to those who journey there to discover them.
This is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, just bring all your rubbish back onboard and we will dispose of it properly for you. Unfortunately Ram’s island is not the place for dogs, no matter how small or well behaved, as there are ground nesting birds who cannot be disturbed.