Lough Neagh sits as Ireland’s eye, clearly visible from space at the top right of our island. It is a vast place, largely undiscovered but by those who make a living on it and on its shores. There are many historic places to be discovered around its 90 mile (130km) shoreline, with one such being the wonderful Cranfield Point. Off the Beaten Track – Cranfield Point, visits once such historic place in our occasional series on unique Irish journeys.
Disused Railway Bridge at Cranagh
The Belfast and Ballymena Railway ran from Cookstown Junction to Cookstown in Northern Ireland. Here the great locomotives would have passed under the Cranagh Road at Staffordstown.
Disused Railway Bridge at Cranagh
You will just have to imagine the great locomotives thundering under this country road. The railway was shut forever in 1959, leaving many of these magnificent structures hidden throughout the Irish landscape.
Pump in the Yard
A typical water pump like this one would have feature in most farms and rural dwellings right up until recently.
Thatched Cottage at Cranagh
This lovely cottage sits pristine close to Cranfield and is still lived in as a home today.
Tranquility of Lough Neagh from Cranfield Point
Yes, blue skies do appear in Ireland and when they do, we can enjoy scenes like this one across Lough Neagh's vast waterway.
There's not often many boats in this jetty, but it still a lovely place to take in the view from the shore.
Waymarker on Lough Neagh
One of the many markers to guide boats into the jetties and harbours around the Lough shore.
Church of St Olcan at Cranfield Point
Built in the 13th century, the church is now in disrepair but is kept as an historic monument by the government.
Slipway at Cranfield Point
Not many boats visiting this day, but small craft can be launched onto Lough Neagh from here.
Stonework at St Olcan's
13th century Stonemasons knew their job as their handiwork remains almost intact today.
The weatherbeaten headstones surrounding the church are completely illegible, but a record of each will exist in the parish files.
The cemetery remains a burial place right up to the present.
From Inside the Church
This entrance is only 5 foot (1.5m) high, so either the people were small or they entered on bended knee!
Final Resting Place
These graves look toward the tranquil waters of Lough Neagh but are completely illegible.
Through the Altar Window
This window would most likely have had stained glass, as with all Irish churches.
In the Shadows
The church was incredibly small, holding a tiny congregation with the priest with his back to them.
Detail showing the stonework used to make the side windows.
Cranfield Point is one of those places that you will visit once and be drawn back to, time and time again.
From the Holy Well
The path to the Holy Well where the ill or their families go to seek cures.
St Olcan chose this site for his monastic settlement well. Sitting on a height just metres from the Lough Neagh shoreline, the old ruin has long fallen into disrepair and is maintained by the NI Department for Communities as an historic monument. It is testament to the quality of our 13th century stonemasons that the walls of the old church remain standing after more than 700 years. Lough Neagh can be a wild place, with sea conditions often taking sailors by surprise despite it being totally landlocked.
You might come along this tranquil place by accident, the rather dilapidated tourist sign at Toome being your first cue to its existence. If however, you find an hour to spend on your journey between Belfast and Derry, it might form an interesting detour. The old church is surrounded by a well maintained cemetery, with many headstones long ago obscured by wind and rain – although it remains a place of repose today.
A short walk away is the famous ‘Holy Well’, with old rags and relics hanging from the branches of an overhanging tree. It is said to be a place for curing illness and disease, where you touch the affected area or person with a piece of rag, then hang it off the tree to pass the illness onto the spirit world. Does it work? Well, personally I haven’t tried it, but many who have swear by it!
What can bring you up short in this area are the remnants of the once great Belfast and Ballymena Railway which ran from Cookstown Junction to Cookstown. Closing to rail passengers in 1950 and totally in 1959, the railway served the region for over 100 years. The craftsmanship of the railway’s builders is astonishing, as their structures remain dotted along the length of the line that ran through Staffordstown between Randalstown and Toome.
InSite Tours Ireland offer guided tours of Lough Neagh and its surrounding countryside. If you would like a guided tour of Cranfield point, call Fergal on 02879 386638 now, or use the form below:-