Family festival celebrating Lough Neagh Pollan

River to Lough Festival on Saturday 28 September. Pictured are: Cathy Chauhan of Lough Neagh Fishermans Co-operative Society, Macy Raphael (6) from Antrim, and Eimear Kearney of Lough Neagh Partnership.
River to Lough Festival on Saturday 28 September. Pictured are: Cathy Chauhan of Lough Neagh Fishermans Co-operative Society, Macy Raphael (6) from Antrim, and Eimear Kearney of Lough Neagh Partnership.

Family fun returns to the shores of Lough Neagh later this month as the River to Lough Festival celebrates Lough Neagh Pollan, the first product in Northern Ireland to be awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.

On Saturday 28 September the hugely popular food festival will showcase the unique cultural heritage of Lough Neagh and Its Waterways with an event suited to an audience of all ages who can experience the ancient fishing tradition associated with the area.

See the work of Lough Neagh fishermen at River to Lough Festival on  September 28.

See the work of Lough Neagh fishermen at River to Lough Festival on September 28.

With funding support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund the festival begins at 11.00am at the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-op where tickets can be purchased providing access to all venues and activities. Visitors will meet the fishermen and learn how they prepare and fish for pollan, scientists will explain the process while showing off many fascinating creatures from the lough, including live species in aquariums.

A treasure trove of local delicacies will be available to sample and buy in the Food Pavilion and Ruairidh Morrison from North Coast Smokehouse will prepare and hot smoke pollan to whet the appetite. There will be food demos from celebrity chef Paula McIntyre and local chefs creating dishes with Lough Neagh Pollan, other fish from Lough Neagh and a range of local ingredients to inspire the inner foodie and The Elk Complex and O’Neill Arms Hotel will be serving pollan on their menu throughout the day.

At the Lock Keepers Cottage, visitors can enjoy food and craft demonstrations before trying their hand at canoeing from Toome Canal jetty or taking a leisurely stroll along the Canal Walk and hopping on a RHIB for a short cruise up the Lower River Bann and onto Lough Neagh.

Cathy Chauhan, Product Development & Marketing Manager at Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative said: “The River to Lough Festival has gained a reputation as being one of Northern Ireland’s most unique food festivals. The popular, award winning event, will this year centre around the new Lough Neagh Fisheries Visitor Centre and the factory will house an array of activities associated with fishing on Lough Neagh, with particular emphasis on pollan. Visitors can follow the pollan life cycle trail, find out what they eat, where they breed and what makes them so special. And we are waiving the usual £13 admission fee to the Visitors Centre for visitors to The River to Lough Festival which we firmly believe will be the ultimate Taste The Island food festival.”

Gerry Darby, Lough Neagh Partnership, said: “The River to Lough Festival has become a key annual event in the Lough Neagh calendar. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to make the lough and its cultural heritage accessible to everyone and this year it makes sense to honour the PDO status achieved for Lough Neagh Pollan. We are spreading the fun packed day over various locations on the shores of the lough so visitors can see at first hand the traditional fishing methods handed down through generations and still employed today for capturing pollan, sample the locally produced food which we are immensely proud of and which is world renowned, experience the newly opened Lough Neagh Fisheries Visitors Centre and enjoy the uniqueness of our destination on a cruise of Lough Neagh. Previously the event has welcomed thousands of visitors and we expect a similar success for this year’s River to Lough Festival.”

Pat Close, Chairman of the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society (LNFCS), said: “We are excited to be showcasing Lough Neagh Pollan at this year’s River to Lough Festival following its PDO accreditation which is just reward for the fishermen of Lough Neagh who work diligently using sustainable, traditional fishing methods to maintain a viable future for the species and the industry.”

Gary Quate, Food and Drink Experience Development Officer at Tourism NI said: "As part of the Taste the Island celebrations, we are pleased to offer support to The River to Lough Festival through Tourism NI's Taste the Island Events Scheme. The unique festival is a celebration of NI heritage, fishing and the celebrated lough Neagh Pollan. Visitors can explore the new fisherman's cooperative visitor centre and taste smoked and battered Pollan with demonstrations from some of the finest local chefs. I would encourage visitors to Taste the Island at this unique foodie event and we wish all the organisers, producers and visitors an enjoyable and memorable experience".

Admission to River to Lough Festival is priced at £2 for adults and under 16s go free. For more information on this unique event including the programme for the day, visit www.rivertolough.co.uk