08/08/2006

Lough Neagh island opened to tourists

Rams Island, the largest island in Lough Neagh, has seen around 2,500 visitors thanks to a combination of funding focused on protecting, promoting and enabling the island to be accessed by local and international visitors.

A redevelopment programme has seen the island receive funding from the Lough Neagh Partnership (LNP), which is supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), to finance the provision of a ferry to carry visitors to Rams Island. A new jetty, an interpretative centre and environmental works are also planned.

The new ferry, called 'The Island Warrior', has opened up the island and visitors can now see at first hand many of the unique features of this nature lover's paradise including its vast bird population, its unique collection of mature trees and the remains of an ancient monastic settlement including a round tower.

Michael Savage, Project Manager from River Bann and Lough Neagh Association (RBLNA), who are carrying out the re-development work, commented: "Our role is focused on protecting and also promoting the island. This is the first year the island has become truly accessible to people, and many locals, having seen the island from afar on the shores of Lough Neagh, are now using the 'Warrior' to visit Rams Island and discover first hand what it has to offer.

"So far, our new visitors have blended in with the unique biodiversity on the island, and we have seen no negative impacts, but as the island becomes increasingly popular we will keep a close watch on our role as guardians.

"The mix of funding for Rams Island has helped us carry out a diverse range of actions, from removing predators from the island which has helped local birds to flourish, to increasing accessibility by boat, and when on the island, by foot."

Vince McKevitt of DARD said: "The Island is a really beautiful place. With financial support from DARD and the Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity through the LNP, and the hard work of the RBLNA, I can see the island becoming an important recreational facility for local people and visitors to Lough Neagh. The work on Rams Island is a good example of how Rural Development funding can contribute to the development of rural areas."

The island has an ongoing events programme and anyone interested in visiting Rams Island should log onto www.ramsisland.org for details of the ferry times.

(SP)

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