Ireland » Lagan Canal & Lagan River / Ireland

The old link between Lough Neagh and Belfast

Lagan Canal & Lagan River / Ireland: Characteristics & Overview

Rating of waterway

Length of waterway: 60 km
Number of locks: 13
Degree of difficulty: no rating
Requirements: no rating
Character of waterway: old waterway, to be rediscovered
Profile of waterway: Not navigable all through
Facilities groundside: Not sufficiant

Weitere Informationen

Waterway has access to:

Ulster Canal & Blackwater River | Ireland
North Sea

Lagan Canal,
the link between Belfast and Lough Neagh, was, together with Ulster Canal, a connection to central and northwest Ireland. In the 19th century it was a heavily frequented canal, first of all for the transportation of coal from the new coal fields of Tyrone to the very fast growing city of Belfast.
Works for it started in 1756, because of financial problems the took entire 46 years! In 1958 it was given up.
Places along the water
Aghagallon / Soldierstown / Lisburne / Edenderry / Belfast


When coal was discovered in Co Tyrone in the 1690s, the idea of creating a navigable link with Belfast became attractive. The building of the Newry Canal in the 1730s, to whisk that coal by sea to Dublin, added a new urgency to the situation if Belfast was to develop as a competing port.

Work commenced in 1756 under the direction of Thomas Omer. In September 1763, amid scenes of great enthusiasm, the first boat made the passage from Belfast to Lisburn. Work continued to Sprucefield during the following four years, but by 1768 had stopped completely because of lack of funding.

In 1779 a private company was formed in which the Marquis of Donegall held a controlling interest. An English engineer, Richard Owen, was employed to oversee the works and the navigation was carried up through four locks (the Union locks) to a summit level that extended for four miles to Aghalee. From here the canal dropped approximately 70ft over a distance of 3.2 miles through ten locks, each 70ft X 16ft, and in December 1793 the route was driven through to the shore of Lough Neagh at Ellis's Gut.<

In 1810 control of the company passed to a group of Belfast businessmen and merchants. Improvements were made and traffic increased, particularly between Belfast and Lisburn. In 1842 legislation was passed creating a new private Lagan Navigation Company.

Steady improvement in trade continued, competing successfully with both the Ulster Railway and the new roads of the Lagan valley. During the latter part of the 19th century the Lagan Navigation flourished, transporting coal, grain and general merchandise upstream from Belfast with sand, native timber, fireclay goods and bricks being the main cargoes to Belfast.

By the mid-1930s competition from road and rail brought a decline in tonnage and revenue. Despite government subsidies, the post-war years saw only negligible traffic and in 1958, after the Lagan Navigation Company had been dissolved by the Inland Navigation Act (NI) 1954, the route was officially abandoned.

Welcome to the website of the Lagan Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.

The focus for the Lagan Branch is the restoration of the Lagan Navigation from Belfast to Lough Neagh.

Stretching for 27 miles the navigation covers sections of the River Lagan, the Broadwater and artificial cuts of canal.

Today the Lagan is no longer navigable and it is the hope of the Lagan Branch to one day see boats make the journey from Belfast through Lisburn and Aghagallon to Lough Neagh.