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Northern Ireland's loughs: Make a splash with the family this summer

We spy them from the road on our family trips and see them feature across the map, but how many of us have really experienced Northern Ireland’s loughs?

As we enjoy long daylight hours and bursts of glorious sunshine this summer, now is the time to plan a detour off the beaten track and delve into Northern Ireland’s waters.

Soaked in history, wildlife and calming beauty, Northern Ireland’s loughs host hidden ecosystems of adventures and activities to explore.

Lough Neagh

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Picture courtesy of Lough Neagh Partnership

Touching five of Northern Ireland’s six counties, Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. Head to Oxford Island and camouflage yourself in the five bird hides where you can spot Mute Swans, Mallards and Grey Herons.

If you prefer a more hands-on adventure, the Lough Neagh Tours’ Wilderness Tour allows you to learn how early man survived on Lough Neagh and unleash your inner Bear Grylls. Forage the hedgerows where you will find dandelions and elderflower, and cook them up with locally caught fish on the campfire you will have built and lit. You will be escorted and entertained by tour guide, James Walshe, who is a historian, amateur archaeologist and story teller.

Nearby attraction:

Drum Manor Forest Park

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The attractive eighteenth-century demesne is now a forest park with way-marked trails and forest plots exhibiting a wide range of tree species. Come see the contrast in colours during spring and autumn and go wildlife spotting all year long.

Lough Erne

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Lower Lough Erne.

In the famous Fermanagh Lakelands, Lough Erne is renowned for its beautiful setting - 300 miles of uncongested freshwater, dotted with 160 green wooded islands.

Corralea Activity centre has a fantastic waterpark where the whole family can enjoy thrills and spills on slides, trampolines and floating walkways.

The 4*Crom Estate is a great base with family glamping pods and canoes and rowing boats for hire, as the Upper Lough’s sheltered bays are great for beginners.

Or visit Castle Archdale Country Park in Lower Lough Erne, where you can hire a boat for the whole family and explore the islands. Devenish Island is famous for its turbulent history and 12th century round tower.

Nearby attraction:

Marble Arch Caves

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Marble Arch Caves

Explore a fascinating, natural underworld of rivers, winding passages and lofty chambers. Glide through the huge caverns along a subterranean river on-board an electric boat and see why the caves are one of the key sites within the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.

Strangford Lough

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Strangford Lough makes a perfect family short break, not least because the little ones just love taking the ferry between the harbour towns of Strangford and Portaferry.

Take a diver’s view of marine life at Exploris Aquarium to see the native fish of Strangford Lough, playful seals and energetic otters.

Across the ‘Narrows’, Clearsky Adventure Centre at Castle Ward has regular family adventure days where you can try archery, canoeing and orienteering. Or hop on board the Sea Safari, a thrilling sightseeing RIB boat voyage on Strangford Lough.

Nearby attraction:

Castle Espie

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This WWT wetland centre is the perfect place to spend some quality time with your family in tranquil surroundings. Hides and nature walks allow you to get close to the wild birds and collection of endangered birds from around the world.

Visit DiscoverNorthernIreland.com to plan your family’s visit to Northern Ireland’s scenic loughs this summer.

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