Take a trip to Oxford Island, Lough Neagh
Written by Guest Blogger Alan Shanley, March 2016
Like us all, I’ve been longing for spring to finally spring; to wake up to a beautiful clear blue sky and sunshine. So when it finally did, I decided to finally do what I had been planning to do for ages, and pay a visit to Oxford Island, Lough Neagh.
Extremely conveniently located at Exit 10 off the M1, (just over 30 minutes from Belfast in fact), it’s simple to find with extensive signposts as you approach. But convenience aside, what was really exciting was the realisation that Oxford Island is actually a really fun place to visit for all the family; it’s so tranquil and relaxing, (the therapeutic sound of bird song is everywhere you turn), and there are lots of lovely natural attractions and activities to enjoy for adults and kids alike.
To quote Patrick Kavanagh, it’s the kind of place where one could “grow again with nature as before I grew”.
What to do:
So here is a list of things that I would recommend you do at Oxford Island – and if you do all of these, you are guaranteed to have a fun, healthy, memory filled day out:
1. Visit the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre
Car parking facilities are plentiful (and free!) and the long meandering and scenic drive from the entrance gates leads you to the Discovery Centre. A beautiful wooden building, built right on the waters of Lough Neagh, you can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of Lough Neagh simply by taking a walk around the perimeter before even heading inside:
I was greeted by a very friendly receptionist who was very forthcoming with advice and helpful hints about not just the centre itself, but rather about Oxford Island as a whole; I found out everything I needed to know from a quick 5 minute chat with her: Wi-Fi is freely available with excellent reception, the toilets are spotlessly clean which is always nice.
(Oh and there’s also a very impressive visitor information area where you can find out everything you need to know about what Oxford Island has to offer, which is always nice to see!)
2. Explore the many different Walking Trails
Walking is the best way to explore nature and here you will find lots of great little walks, all following beautiful clean trails. All of the walking trails here are family oriented and so perfect for everyone – whether you just want a 10 minute stroll or something longer and more challenging.
Great signage is offered throughout the forests so you can find out all about the wildlife and the origins of each walk – literally, learning as you go.
3. Enjoy a really picturesque playground!
Now you won’t often find me talking up a play area and summer paddling pool (perhaps I’ve visited so many that I’m immune to them?) but this one is actually incredibly relaxing for both kids and parents alike! Situated overlooking the Lough, it’s completely enclosed which means that with the safety box ticked, parents can have a seat, read all about the human sundial and simply relax and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.
4. Experience amazing views of Lough Neagh
The views across Kinnego Bay are truly something to behold on a clear sunny day, such as the day I visited. Both the discovery viewing area, situated close to the Discovery Centre itself, and the Waterside viewing area, located further up the bay, offer panoramic views which are breathtaking.
5. Learn Survival Skills
After you’ve taken in all of the spectacular views across the Bay, take a break from your scenic endeavours and pop into the Bushcraft Centre where you can enjoy a spot of archery, foraging and survival skills. What better way to enjoy some family bonding – as well of course as the opportunity to compete with your family for the bragging rights! Make sure to book in advance with the Bushcraft centre
6. Stay at Kinnego Marina
As you continue your exploration of Oxford Island, Kinnego Marina offers plenty more attractions in the way of walking, (Kinnego meadows and the Bushcraft Wildflower Meadow are beautiful to walk through), kid play area, and even accommodation.
Yes, why not stay over and make your day trip into a little mini break that you’ll remember? Here you will find a range of accommodation options – from a picturesque little caravan and camping site, to a set of 4 wonderful little self contained wooden pods which offer the perfect alternative accommodation option.
7. Enjoy great food and some end of day relaxation
After a full day’s activities out in the fresh air, you’ll have earned your lunch…so head back to the centre from where you started your day and relax with a nice (and of course hard earned) cup of tea. There’s an extensive (and very tasty) menu to choose from so my advice would be to get your activities in first!
And finally, before hitting the road back home, make sure you pay a visit to the centre’s large gift shop where you’ll find an array of gifts to help you (and in particular, your kids) remember your visit. Because, as you know, no visit is complete without a few little souvenirs to take back home with you!