Top five places to walk around Lough Neagh
One of the most easily identifiable monuments along the shoreline of Lough Neagh, the Ardboe Cross is a treasure whose significance can easily be missed.
Attending the Western Forts Tour was the first time, much to my own shame, that I visited the Ardboe Cross. It’s something I’ve always held off on visiting all whilst venturing further afield; Only now having visited the cross can I truly recognise why the site is so highly revered and what a true treasure there is right on my own doorstep.
The first glimpse of the cross, a hulking mass of cut stone standing over 5 ½ metres tall, caught me rather off guard. I had anticipated that the cross was going to be simply an old celtic cross; I had no expectation of just how large the cross was. It’s remarkable that approximately 1000 years after it’s erection, the cross today stands as not only Northern Ireland’s largest cross but has also somehow managed to retain the detailing on the cross as well as along the 22 panels it features. The delicacy of the intricately designed panels that adorn the cross almost belies the nature of the huge body that the panels lay inscribed upon. despite their resilience, the 22 panels which depict stories from the old and new testament are now in a deteriorated state, making some of the panels quite difficult to make out. I was lucky enough to have James Walshe as a guide on the Western Forts Tour on my first visit to the site as he provided a full reading of the 22 panels, bringing the cross to life in a way which may be missed by the average visitor to the site.
Ardboe Cross also stands guard to the ruins of a cemetery and a monastery which were built in the 17th century, though the site has been inhabited a lot longer having been established in 590 by St Colman. The ruins were a welcome surprise with the roofless building which has now been overrun in places by ivy, standing on a hill which provides a breath-taking vista over Lough Neagh. A bench overlooking the lough also invites visitors to take a moment to reflect on the charm beauty of the incredibly peaceful surroundings.
The Ardboe Cross is included on the Western Forts Tour.