Loch Lao (Irish)
Bilfawst Loch (Ulster-Scots)
|Designated||5 August 1998|
Belfast Lough is a large, intertidal sea inlet on the east coast of Northern Ireland. At its head is the city and port of Belfast, which sits at the mouth of the River Lagan. The lough opens into the North Channel and connects Belfast to the Irish Sea.
Belfast Lough is a long, wide and deep expanse of water, virtually free of strong tides. The inner part of the lough comprises a series of mudflats and lagoons. The outer lough is restricted to mainly rocky shores with some small sandy bays. The outer boundary of the lough is a line joining Orlock Point and Blackhead.
The main coastal towns are Bangor on the southern shore (County Down) and Carrickfergus on the northern shore (County Antrim). Other coastal settlements include Holywood, Helen's Bay, Greenisland and Whitehead.
Belfast Lough is known in Irish as Loch Lao, which was Anglicised as 'Lough Lee'. Earlier spellings include Loch Laoigh and Loch Laigh. This name means "sea inlet of the calf". The River Lagan, which flows into it, was also historically known as the Lao. It is believed that the lough and river were named after a "bovine goddess". In the 2nd century, the Greek geographer Ptolemy referred to it as the Logia.
Before Belfast grew into a city, the lough was known in English as 'Carrickfergus Bay'. In Ulster-Scots it is called Bilfawst Loch or Craigfergus Loch.
In 1689 during the War of the Two Kings the Williamite expeditionary force under Marshal Schomberg landed at Bangor, after the lough had been cleared of French shipping by George Rooke. Schomberg occupied the towns of Bangor and Belfast, before successfully laying siege to Carrickfergus. The following year William III also used the lough as a safe anchorage when he arrived in Ireland with reinforcements for Schomberg in the run-up to the victory over the Jacobite army at the Battle of the Boyne.
The reserve is situated within the Belfast Harbour Estate on the shores of Belfast Lough. The RSPB manages some mudflats in Belfast Lough, together with an area of grassland with a pool and ditch complex near Belfast City Airport, and a lagoon with a hide and viewpoints. The mudflats are important feeding areas for a variety of wading birds and wildfowl. At high tide, flocks of wading birds, such as redshank, oystercatchers and black-tailed godwits, can be seen from the hide and viewing points. The "inner lough" was made an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) in 1987.
Recorded wildlife includes Crepidula fornicata Lamarck (Slipper Limpet).
The Belfast Lough Ramsar site (wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention), is 432.14 hectares in area, at latitude 54 38 00 N and longitude 05 54 00 W. It was designated a Ramsar site on 5 August 1998.
In the outer lough, the Ramsar boundary entirely coincides with that of Outer Belfast Lough Area of Special Scientific Interest but within the immediate harbour area the boundary has been redrawn to take into account permitted port related development and landfill which has taken place since the Inner Belfast Lough Area of Special Scientific Interest was declared in 1987. Marine areas below mean low water are not included. The Ramsar boundary entirely coincides with that of the Belfast Lough Special Protection Area. The site qualifies under Criterion 3c of the Ramsar Convention by regularly supporting internationally important numbers of common redshank in winter. The site also regularly supports nationally important numbers of common shelduck, Eurasian oystercatcher, purple sandpiper, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit, Eurasian curlew and ruddy turnstone.
Popular for sailing, the lough has three marinas: one at Bangor, one at Carrickfegus and a third located at Titanic Quarter. Belfast docks at the head of a lough contain the famous shipbuilder of the RMS Titanic fame, Harland & Wolff, who are no longer building ships for the foreseeable future and has shed most of its workforce and diversified into repairing and refitting large tankers and oilrigs. Coastguard offices for the lough, although referred to as Belfast Coastguard, are in the town of Bangor by the marina. In 1912, the RMS Titanic sailed down the lough from Belfast to the Irish Sea for its sea trials.
The lough hosts two Royal Yacht Clubs. One at Cultra just outside Holywood, The Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club , and the Royal Ulster based from Bangor. There are also several other clubs spread around the lough: Ballyholme Yacht Club, Carrickfergus Sailing Club, Cockle Island Boat Club, County Antrim Yacht Club, Donaghadee Sailing Club and Holywood Yacht Club.
For racing sailors, this is a competitor's dream, giving 30 square miles (78 km2) of open water and enough coastline to make short inshore races day-long affairs. Three main arteries serve the lough close to Belfast: the Herdman Channel on the County Antrim coast side; the Victoria Channel, the central and longest route; and the Musgrave Channel on the County Down side.
The Belfast-Larne railway line skirts the north shore particularly from Carrickfergus and then Downshire to Whitehead and northwards then alongside Larne Lough to Larne Harbour. Trains connect Belfast Great Victoria Street and Belfast Central to Larne Harbour.
The Belfast-Bangor railway line skirts the south shore at Holywood railway station to Marino railway station and Cultra railway station. Trains connect Belfast Great Victoria Street and Belfast Central to Bangor.
Cultra railway station is the home of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
County Antrim is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 3,046 square kilometres (1,176 sq mi) and has a population of about 618,000. County Antrim has a population density of 203 people per square kilometre or 526 people per square mile. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland, as well as part of the historic province of Ulster.
County Down one of the six counties of Northern Ireland, It covers an area of 2,448 km2 and has a population of 531,665. It borders County Antrim to the north, the Irish Sea to the east, County Armagh to the west, and County Louth across Carlingford Lough to the southwest.
Larne is a town on the east coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, with a population of 18,755 at the 2011 Census. It is a major passenger and freight roll-on roll-off port. Larne is administered by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. Together with parts of the neighbouring districts of Antrim and Newtownabbey and Causeway Coast and Glens, it forms the East Antrim constituency for elections to the Westminster Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly. The civil parish is in the historic barony of Glenarm Upper.
Bangor is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a seaside resort on the southern side of Belfast Lough and within the Belfast Metropolitan Area. It functions as a commuter town for the Greater Belfast area, which it is linked to by the A2 road and the Belfast–Bangor railway line. Bangor is situated 13.6 miles (22 km) east from the heart of Belfast. The population was 61,011 at the 2011 Census.
North Down Borough Council was a Local Council in County Down in Northern Ireland. It merged with Ards Borough Council in May 2015 under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become North Down and Ards District Council.
Holywood is a town in the metropolitan area of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a civil parish and townland of 755 acres lying on the shore of Belfast Lough, between Belfast and Bangor. Holywood Exchange and Belfast City Airport are nearby. The town hosts an annual jazz and blues festival.
Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. Besieged in turn by the Scottish, native Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Northern Ireland. It was strategically useful, with 3/4 of the castle perimeter surrounded by water. Today it is maintained by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency as a state care historic monument, at grid ref: J4143 8725.
Lough Foyle, sometimes Loch Foyle, is the estuary of the River Foyle, on the north coast of Ireland. It lies between County Londonderry in Northern Ireland and County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Sovereignty over these waters has been in dispute since the Partition of Ireland.
Carlingford Lough is a glacial fjord or sea inlet that forms part of the border between Northern Ireland to the north and the Republic of Ireland to the south. On its northern shore is County Down and on its southern shore is County Louth. At its extreme interior angle it is fed by the Newry River and the Newry Canal.
Larne Lough is a sea lough or inlet in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The lough lies between Islandmagee and the mainland. At its mouth is the town of Larne. It is designated as an area of special scientific interest, a special protection area, and a Ramsar site to protect the wetland environment, particularly due to the presence of certain bird species and shellfish.
Greenisland is a town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It lies 7 miles north-east of Belfast and 3 miles south-west of Carrickfergus. The town is on the coast of Belfast Lough and is named after a tiny islet to the west, the Green Island.
Whitehead is a small seaside town on the east coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, lying almost midway between the towns of Carrickfergus and Larne. It lies within the civil parish of Templecorran, the historic barony of Belfast Lower, and is part of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. Before the Plantation of Ulster its name was recorded as both Whitehead and Kinbaine.
Glynn is a small village and civil parish in the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It lies a short distance south of Larne, on the shore of Larne Lough. Glynn had a population of 2,027 people in the 2011 Census.
Cultra is an affluent residential neighbourhood near Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland. It is part of Greater Belfast. It is in the Ards and North Down Borough Council area.
The Belfast–Larne line, or Larne line, is a railway line in Northern Ireland, operated by Northern Ireland Railways. It runs as double track along the majority of its route north along the scenic east Antrim coastline from Belfast to the coastal seaport town of Larne, serving commuters and ferry passengers.
Cultra railway station is a railway station in the townland of Ballycultra in Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland. It serves the Cultra residential area and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
The Belfast suburban rail commuter network serves the metropolitan area of Greater Belfast and some of its commuter towns with three lines. The network is owned by Translink and operated by its subsidiary NI Railways.
Belfast Lough Yachting Conference (BLYC) is a group that encompasses all the yacht clubs on Belfast Lough and Larne Lough.
Transportation systems in the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland include road, air, rail, and sea. It is still a relatively car dependent city however it is also served by a comprehensive rail and bus network. Belfast also ran electric trams prior to 1954. The city has two major airports and the Port of Belfast is the busiest ferry port on the island of Ireland.
Ulster railways, present and past, include:
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