Ruth Flynn, Business Development Officer for River Bann Tours said “This sponsorship deal cements our commitment to give back into the local community. With our tours launching this Summer, it is set to be a very exciting few months for both River Bann Tours and Derry Camogie.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought a halt to the travel and tourism industry as well as the live sporting events and team sport practices and it is exciting to see these activities slowly but surely make a return to our lives. Therefore, we are delighted to be launching our summer programme whilst also supporting a fantastic team like the senior Derry camogie team.”
Derry camogie are delighted to have River Bann Tours on board as their main sponsor for the next 3 years taking over from the long serving H&A. It has been strange times for the world with the covid pandemic, so it’s good news all round for the county securing this amazing deal & with the league starting, things are looking up. Dympna Dougan county chair person said “there are exciting times ahead for the Derry county camogie, the club camogie and camogie in general.”
Their aim is to promote women in sport, strong women in sport and with River Bann Tours we believe we can do this. “It’s a new chapter for the county”.
If you’re thinking about a staycation in Northern Ireland and need some help with planning an itinerary and where to stay, we have some fantastic suggestions in the area surrounding the Lower Bann near Portglenone, Bellaghy & Toome – First on the list has to be a boat trip on the River Bann!
Plan your Northern Ireland Trip in Advance
It’s always a great idea to plan out your itinerary and book everything in advance, that way, you won’t be disappointed or spend time during your vacation trying to research and make reservations – you’ll be able to make the most of every moment. Take a look at the different River Bann boat trips HERE. If you’d like to take a short break and want some inspiration for accommodation nearby, check out our recommendations below, gathered from a social media poll.
Northern Ireland’s premier luxury Resort and Spa, situated only 15 minutes from Portglenone, is the perfect location to relax and get away from it all.
Set within 163 acres of lush parkland, with the spectacular River Maine flowing through the estate, Galgorm Resort has a truly unique setting. This Resort is home to 124 luxurious guestrooms including Deluxe rooms, Junior and Signature Suites, as well as Lodge accommodation, Red Oaks Residence and the unique Thermal Spa Village, the first of its kind in Ireland.
Guests will enjoy the tranquillity of nature and experience pure relaxation with an extensive selection of riverside hot tubs, indoor and outdoor heated pools, steam rooms and saunas. The Resort also boasts a selection of restaurants & bars and extensive conference and banqueting facilities. With luxurious facilities to enjoy and our renowned warm welcome, Galgorm is the perfect escape. Please visit their website for special offers and more detailed information: https://www.galgorm.com/
Tullyglass Hotel and Residences
Set in its own grounds on the outskirts of Ballymena, the hotel is an imposing country residence dating from 1890 which has been sympathetically converted to retain its former style and character. The purpose built conference and banqueting suite can accommodate up to 840 seated guests. The famous six course Carvery Restaurant and Bistro Menu are available everyday. Please visit their website for special offers and more detailed information: https://tullyglass.com/
Leighinmohr House Hotel
A stylish boutique hotel, with Cocktail Bar, designer Bedrooms, award winning Restaurant. The Leighinmohr House Hotel tastefully blends Georgian elegance with unrivalled service and the highest quality of food and beverages.
Leighinmohr House Hotel features free WiFi, on-site dining options and free private parking. Situated in the large town of Ballymena in County Antrim, the property also offers conference facilities.
Rooms at Leighinmohr offer en-suite bathrooms, a flat-screen TV and tea/coffee making facilities.
Private dining facilities for up to 40 guests are available, offering modern cuisine and an extensive wine list. There is also an on-site bar & bistro which serves homemade dishes made with locally sourced, seasonal produce.
Ballymena town centre can be reached within a 15-minute walk and features a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants. For more information visit https://leighinmohrhotel.com/
Adair Arms Hotel
Located in the centre of the bustling town of Ballymena, the Adair Arms Hotel was originally built in 1846 by Sir Robert Adair and was designed by Charles Lanyon, responsible for many well known buildings such as the prestigious Queen’s University in Belfast.
This bespoke property offers 41 ensuite bedrooms with a mixture of twin, double and single bedrooms, each with their own unique characteristics.
Unlimited complimentary WiFi access and car parking is available to all guests.
Guests and locals alike can enjoy the extensive menu offered throughout the day in the Adair Grill. With everything from light snacks to evening meals, there is something for everybody. Highly trained in allergy awareness, the chef’s source quality local produce to create all of their dishes. For more information visit https://www.adairarms.com/
Oranmore Guest House
Oranmore Guesthouse is located on the tree lined Galgorm Road with excellent parking and beautiful mature gardens.
Here you will find a little gem from the past, with great hospitality, comfort and excellent accommodation, accompanied with fine traditional home cooked cuisine.
With easy access to all major roads and within 10 minutes walking distance to our local railway, bus station and town centre. For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/OranmoreHouse
The O’Neill Arms Country House Hotel
The O’Neill Arms Country House Hotel based in the heart of Northern Ireland in Mid Ulster is under the management of husband and wife Barry and Amanda Dallat.
The O’ Neill Arms Country House Hotel is located in the heart of Mid Ulster on the shores of Lough Neagh, it is surrounded by a host of tourist attractions such as The Seamus Heaney Homeplace and much more. The O’Neills Arms Country House Hotel boasts elegantly decorated rooms, each providing a Complimentary wake-up call, Digital Flat Screen TV, Disabled facilities, En-suite Bathroom, Free car parking, Free WiFi, Hair Dryer, Residents lounge, Room service, Tea and Coffee Facilities, Telephone and much more. For more information visit http://oneillarms.com/
Ardtara Country House Hotel
Ardtara Country House is located in the heart of Northern Ireland near Maghera. Luxurious from inception, the Victorian property was built by one of Northern Ireland’s wealthy linen barons and is in a picturesque setting amid woodlands and lakes.
Ardtara has been lovingly restored, combining its romantic Victorian architecture with all the modern comforts you’d expect in top class hospitality. Its nine bedrooms are beautifully decorated and feature antiques and heirlooms alongside modern conveniences such as flatscreen TVs and Nespresso machines. The bedrooms, and indeed some of the en suite bathrooms, feature original fireplaces and working fires.
While the hotel is peaceful and secluded, there is that unmistakable buzz that comes from having a full-service restaurant on site, with extensive wine list and cocktail menu. Open to residents and non-residents alike, it’s a destination eatery that attracts gourmands from far and wide. For more information visit https://www.ardtara.com/
Walsh’s Hotel (formerly known as “The Inn of Maghera”) has been a feature of the town since 1760. It is the “cornerstone of the community” much like the ancient stone that has been in the same place outside the hotel since its opening also called the “cornerstone”. Walsh’s is a place where travellers from near or far find comfort and a warm welcome, where they can feel at ease but with a certain sense of occasion.
Rooms, Self-Catering Apartments and the Linen House
A small family run hotel full of warmth and character Walsh’s has 17 en-suite bedrooms, 8 self-catering apartments and Linen House has 9 bedrooms. Rooms include a beautiful bridal suite with jacuzzi bath, two double rooms and 14 triple/quad rooms.
Our modern, light and spacious self-catering apartments sleep from 2 to 10 people in single (or double on requests), these include one three-bedroom apartment, 5 two-bedroom and 2 one-bedroom apartments. For more information visit https://www.walshshotel.com/
The Inn Castledawson
If you’re staying in the Mid Ulster area and you’re looking for a hotel that offers wonderful service fabulous food and comfort your search ends here. Built onto the original site of the 200 year old Castledawson House the award winning Inn at Castledawson offers a break from the norm. Refurbished in 2009 comprising 12 bedrooms and over a 80 cover restaurant The Inn boasts a boutique wedding venue and exclusive dining in a beautiful setting overlooking the River Moyola. For more information visit http://theinncastledawson.co.uk/
The Terrace Hotel
Based in the heart of Northern Ireland, only 40 minutes from Derry, Belfast and The North Coast, The Terrace Hotel is an ideal base for touring. Our 16 bedrooms are contemporary and spacious, while quality and comfort abound. King-sized beds with crisp white linen, wall mounted plasma TVs, complementary WiFi, and hearty breakfasts will make your stay enjoyable.
The Front bar is a relaxing place to sit over a speciality coffee, fine wine or beer, or have a bite to eat. With our Bar, Evening and Sunday Lunch Menus offering the finest in fresh and locally sourced produce – no visit to Magherafelt is complete without sampling some of our fine meals.
The Sperrin Mountains are right on our doorstep-the largest and least explored mountain range in Northern Ireland. They have dramatic landscapes, rivers teaming with life, mountains, valleys, forests, lakes, outdoor pursuits, indoor pursuits! The largest lake in Ireland & Britain is also only a few minutes away – Lough Neagh captivates visitors with its tranquil atmosphere, un-spoilt scenery, secluded bays and skyward views. Lough Neagh is a haven for wildlife with many viewpoints around the shoreline.
With amazing scenery, bustling bars and restaurants, and some of the best designer shops in the country – Whatever your pleasure, you will find something to suit within the Magherafelt area. For more information visit https://www.theterracehotel.com/
Bellaghy is a quaint village in the heart of Mid Ulster, it has undergone significant transformation over the past 5 – 10 years with an abundance of places for visitors to immerse themselves in local culture, it is perhaps best known as the home of Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laurette. If you’re planning a boat trip on the River Bann, you might want to design an itinerary to take in the experiences and surroundings of Bellaghy whilst you are in the area.
Cookery School – Bakehouse NI
Bakehouse is a small cookery school just outside Bellaghy run by Bronagh, who is passionate about food, the local countryside and produce. Bronagh loves to turn our fabulous local, seasonal ingredients into delicious dishes and to share these skills in a fun, learning experience. Foraging for delicious local foods such as blackberries or sloes is an amazing opportunity to get outside and bring the tastes and scents into the kitchen table. Bronagh firmly believes the process of cooking and eating is one of life’s pleasures, which nourishes the body, sooths the mind and creates a great experience of community and fun.
There are a range of classes at Bakehouse, suitable for all levels of skill. The classes allow visitors to relax and have bit of fun while creating something tasty. Class sizes are small, usually no more than 12 people per class. Bronagh also offers 1 to 1 classes as well for private tuition. All the ingredients and equipment for the classes are provided, so just turn up and enjoy the experience. Visit Bakehouse NI for more details and to book a class.
Seamus Heaney Homeplace
Seamus Heaney HomePlace is a purpose-built arts and literary centre in Bellaghy, which celebrates the life and work of the late poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, and contributes to his legacy. Step into Seamus Heaney HomePlace, and discover the world-renowned poet in his beloved hometown. Journey through the life and works of this literary giant, greatly valued locally for his decency and humility, and experience the place, the people and the landscape that so inspired his work.
What’s inside Seamus Heaney Homeplace
Here, you will see Heaney’s leather school satchel and his wooden desk from Anahorish Primary School, handwritten transcripts from the poet, and books donated by the Heaney family. You will learn about the people who were integral to his life and poetry. Click here for more information and online tickets. Local tour guide, Brendan Adams would be delighted to escort you on a tour of the places that inspired Heaney’s work.
Bellaghy Bawn & Digging Statue
Built around 1619 by Sir Baptist Jones, Bellaghy Bawn is a fortified house and bawn (the defensive wall surrounding an Irish tower house) and one of the more famous historic houses in Northern Ireland. The Vintners Company fortified house and bawn was occupied until 1987. It was opened to the public in 1996. Inside there are exhibitions on local history, and on poetry by local Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, who grew up in Bellaghy and much of his work reflects life there. Visit:Bellaghy Bawn Website for more information
Digging Statue, Bellaghy
Make sure you pay a visit to the Digging statue outside Bellaghy Bawn. The life-size bronze figure is an interpretation of the Nobel Laureate’s work Digging. The sculpture, created by Scottish artist David Annand, was commissioned by the Bellaghy Development Association.
Church Island on Lough Beg
Church Island is located just a couple of miles from Bellaghy and can be accessed on foot during the summer months (in dry conditions), there is access via a style on the middle of the strand, just off the Ballydermot Road, the best route when conditions are dry is from this point, facing Church Island keep to the right and you will find a path which leads about half way to the island, the remainder of the walk is on marshy ground. Church Island, which is steeped in history, where you will find the ruins of the island’s old church with no spire! The spire was built beside the church for Bishop Harvey in the late 1700’s who wanted a view of a spire from his dwelling in Bellaghy.
National Nature Reserve
Nature reserves are chosen from among the very best examples of our wildlife, habitats and geology. They contain a wide range of species, communities and geology and their designation is a public recognition by Government of their importance. ‘The Strand’ on the west shore of Lough Beg is a large expanse of wet grassland that is flooded each winter. The nature reserve, with Church Island as its focal point, comprises 300 acres of important habitat.
In spring and autumn, migrating birds on their way through may pause on their journey to rest and feed. black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, greenshank and knot are seen every year. In early summer, the sky above the nature reserve is alive with the calls of breeding waders. It is possible to hear the drumming of snipe, the piping whistles of redshank and the peewit calls of lapwing, all of which depend on this soft, wet ground to rear their families.
Many rare plants including pennyroyal and the Irish ladies’ tresses orchid share this habitat with the birds. Winter brings floods and with them hundreds of wildfowl to feed on the inundated grasslands.
The Boardwalk at Church Island
Further along the Ballydermott Road is a new boardwalk which leads to a little wooded area with views across to Church Island. This boardwalk is a short walk and suitable for families with children.
Where to Eat / Drink in Bellaghy (Based on a local poll)
Toome is a thriving village on the northern shores of Lough Neagh, where the Lower Bann River meets Lough Neagh. It has been an important meeting place and crossing point for centuries. In recent years Toome has undergone a transformation and until now the locals have kept this hidden gem to themselves.
A boat trip from Toome to Lough Neagh is one of our signature tours, you’ll pass through the lock gates, which is a fascinating experience watching the lock keeper open the gates the old fashioned way, you will see the water levels rise or fall and hear all about the heritage of the gates. The boat will continue along the canal before opening out onto Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Britain & Ireland.
Lough Neagh is an important industrial resource, operating commercial fishing, sand extraction and is also the biggest source of drinking water in Northern Ireland. But Lough Neagh is also brimming with folklore, flora and fauna, all of which you’ll hear about on the trip. You’ll be captivated by the regions’ heritage and culture, as evidenced by the array of ancient religious sites, medieval ruins and historic houses. At the end of the boat trip, you will certainly want to explore further on foot! Full details of the tour can be found HERE.
Toome Canal Walk
This is a 1.2-mile, off-road walk on paved pathways along the banks of Toome Canal. During the walk you’ll see the remains of the Carlisle bridge from the old railway, closed in the 1950’s, looking across to your right, you should be able to see the sluice gates, which control the level of Lough Neagh – there are three sets of flood gates which allow the water to remain navigable during periods of dry weather and drain excess water during wet periods to prevent flooding of surrounding farmland.
Continue walking until you reach the shores of Lough Neagh, where a viewpoint provides wide panoramas across Lough Neagh. You will discover the remains of the late 17th century Toome Castle. It was one of several defensive castles constructed around the Lough shore during the 1600s. Click for more details
Parts of the worldwide phenomenon “Games of Thrones” was filmed on the river adjacent to the Lock Keepers Cottage, so why not complete your visit with a photograph taken where Tyrion Lannister travelled through!
Canoeing / Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Toome is a popular location for watersports and is located along the Lough Neagh canoe trail, which cover approx 90 miles of shoreline, it also links to the Lower Bann canoe trail – all the way to the Atlantic ocean. During the summer months there are various opportunities to try canoeing or stand up paddle boarding , fully guided with all the equipment provided. Click HERE for full details about the canoe trail.
Toome Fair is the oldest horse fair in Ireland, it takes place annually on Easter Monday along the main street in Toome. It is the highlight of the year in Toomebridge with people travelling from far and wide to join in with the festivities. When the fair opens again in 2022 it will be extra exciting, a day jam-packed full of activities for all. Everything from amusements to stalls and horses, this past few years have seen the one and only Hugo Duncan from BBC Radio Ulster take to the stage, keeping everyone entertained with local acts and live music.
A boat trip from Portglenone is a fantastic way to explore the River Bann. Our 90 minute boat trip from Portglenone to Lough Beg and back will take you south on the Lower Bann River on a scenic journey, our local guide will share their knowledge and stories of the local area to keep you entertained along the way.
Places of Interest along the Lower River Bann
Along the relaxing journey you will pass under the stone bridge of Portglenone, built in 1853, it was designed by Charles Lanyon, who also designed Queens University, the stones came from Esler’s Quarry in the Largy, just a few miles down the road.
Just beyond the bridge you will see the recently installed fishing stands along the Fishermans Walk, which is across the river from Portglenone Forest – a great place to visit after your boat trip. Portglenone forest has a number of short walking trails and is very well known for its spectacular carpets of bluebells during the month of May, well worth a visit.
Church Island on Lough Beg
As the boat leisurely cruises along the river, you will pass through Newferry, and into Lough Beg, where you will see Ballyscullion Park in the distance. The final point of interest along the journey is Church Island, which is steeped in history, our guide will share details of the ruins of the island’s old church with no spire! The spire was built beside the church for Bishop Harvey in the late 1700’s who wanted a view of a spire from his dwelling in Bellaghy.
It is thought that the ruins of the church date back to the time of St. Patrick who used the River Bann to navigate the island to meet with Taoide to found an early Christian settlement. On the island is a stone known as the Bullaun Stone featuring a hole that holds water. The Bullaun Stone is most likely associated with the first monastic settlement, however local anecdote has it that the hole in the stone was made by St. Patrick as he knelt to pray.
The boat will make its way back to Portglenone where you will disembark. Portglenone is a bustling town with lots of places to enjoy great food and hospitality.
Where to Eat & Drink in Portglenone (based on a local poll):