We were delighted to be asked to provide taster boat trips for the 2019 River to Lough Festival and excited to hear it was all taking part on our own doorstep at Toome.  Based at 5 different locations around Toome village meant there was a wide range of activities and great collaboration between local businesses and community groups.

The weather was on our side and the sun shone on Saturday 28th September.  Visitors made their way to the Eel Fishery Visitor Centre to get a ticket, explore and learn about the eels, fish and local fishing industry.  There were many experts available to chat to and great displays including local live fish and eels and the traditional fishing boat built by the Traád community group.  Locally made arts, crafts and food were available at the Eel Fishery with the smoked fish and aromas of barbecue wafting across the Bann.  Fishermen and Lough Neagh Rescue showcased their boats and skills.

Just across the bridge tasty and free battered Lough Neagh Pollan samples were available at the Fried Fish Warehouse as well as their usual range of delicious food for sale.

Cookery demonstrations scheduled at the Elk restaurant and O’Neill Arms Hotel showcased the local food and access was easy via the coach service organised for the festival.

More fantastic foodie treats were available at the Lock Keepers Cottage with Bronagh from Bakehouse who provided a bakery demonstration.  There was a busy atmosphere at the Lock Keepers Cottage with visitors inside enjoying Una’s hospitality, buns and tea.  Outside traditional Lough Neagh crafts were on display and demonstrated; basket weaving, boat building, wood turning.  Ben’s Ice-cream provided welcome treats for children and adults.

Mid-Ulster Canoeing and Kayaking (M.U.C.K.) were on hand all day providing paddle-boarding sessions, kayaking and canoeing for everyone.  Toome Canal rang out with laughter as a group of kids played water polo from paddle boards whilst mums and dads enjoyed tea at the Lock Keepers cottage.

Just a little walk further along the canal to the Lock Gates, Abhainn Cruises Skippers Tim, Ben and Steve were providing banter and boat trips along the canal and into Lough Neagh.  The 6 hours from 11am to 5pm flew past as an unending stream of passengers got to experience our stunning canal and Lough. Our Skippers enjoyed meeting so many people who came from far and wide to enjoy our local heritage.

This great event wouldn’t have been possible without all the local businesses and community groups who worked hard to make it happen, especially Catherine Chauhan from the Eel Fishery and Una Johnston of Tidal Toome .  Hopefully it won’t be long before we are celebrating our local area and heritage again.

Toome Canal