Lagan River Path

From: February 14th.LaganPath14Feb16

Belfast is, in Irish, the fort on the river Farset , and if you had been there 300 years ago you would have seen ships docked in the Farset, just like in the Fleet in London or the Ouseburn in Newcastle; but now like small rivers in many cities it is largely underground (under High St, in fact). Belfast is now definitely on the River Lagan. In recent years, the weir that marks the divide between the tidal and non-tidal Lagan has been moved downstream from the Gasworks to where the Liverpool and Heysham ferries used to dock near the city centre. The next weir up is at Stranmillis, and marked the start of the Lagan Navigation, which used the river and bypassed the weirs with locks with canal sections. About 10 miles upstream, in Lisburn, the canal left the river and headed towards Lough Neagh, from there, in the heyday of canals, you could have gone, via rivers and canals, all the way to Limerick in the south-west of Ireland.

Although the canal fell into disuse in 1958, there is still a path following the canal or the river from Stranmillis (about 1 mile from the centre of Belfast) to Lisburn. You can have a nice Sunday walk along a section of the river. Stranmillis to Shaw’s bridge is close to city buses at both ends and the ‘The Lock Keeper’s Inn’ café (involved in a political scandal about 5 years ago) makes a pleasant stop.

But we, Barbara & I with a local friend as guide, decided to walk the next section up, from Drumbeg to Shaw’s Bridge. A bit of shuffling left a car at each end, included a detour by car to local Neolithic fort, the Giant’s Ring, and a coffee at the Stables near the Drumbeg Bridge. So refreshed we walked downstream to Shaw’s Bridge, keeping an eye out for the cyclists who also use the path. The left bank skirts Malone Golf Club, whereas on the Co Down (right) bank it is completely rural except for the former mill village of Edenderry (footbridge from the path).

This all forms part of the Lagan Valley Regional Park http://www.laganvalley.co.uk/PDFs/Finaltowpathwhite.pdf and at intervals you can find QR codes (see picture) that should give you access to audio commentary. However, the one I tried was in a spot without much Vodafone signal, so it only downloaded and played some minutes later, as we continued on our way. A very nice outing, within 6 miles of the centre of Belfast.

There is, in quite a lot of versions, a mock heroic ballad about a disastrous barge journey to the canal, with the crew rescued by use of a scarf or braces. The links take you to 2 versions:

http://www.kinglaoghaire.com/lyrics/736-the-good-ship-calibar

http://www.waterwaysongs.co.uk/lagan_canal.htm

Their voyage from the Docks didn’t even take them to Stranmillis! Of course, the Clancy Brothers have recorded the ballad.

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