Exploring Oxford Island: A Guide to the Natural Beauty of Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland has some of the world’s most stunning natural beauty spots. Among the gems in this part of the world is Oxford Island National Nature Reserve, which offers a breathtaking view of the countryside and the Lough Neagh shoreline. This guide is designed to help you explore this beautiful part of the world and uncover everything it offers.

A Brief History of Oxford Island

Oxford Island National Nature Reserve has a deep-rooted history that dates back several centuries. The island played a significant role in the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the many burial sites discovered there. The ancient inhabitants considered the island sacred and believed it was a gateway to the afterlife. They buried their dead on the island, and it was believed that the spirits of the departed would be guided to the afterlife by the island’s mystical energy.

Recently, the island has been used for various agricultural purposes, including grazing, haymaking and farming. The fertile soil and abundant water supply made it an ideal location for farming, and the island was home to many small farms and homesteads. The island’s strategic location on Lough Neagh also made it an important centre for trade and commerce, with boats and barges transporting goods to and from the island.

Today, however, Oxford Island is primarily known for its conservation efforts and commitment to preserving the area’s natural beauty. The island is home to diverse flora and fauna, including many rare and endangered species. The island’s wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands provide vital habitat for many birds, mammals, and insects.

The Formation of Oxford Island

The island was formed during the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. During this time, the ice sheet that covered much of Ireland began to melt, causing rivers and lakes to form. Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in Northern Ireland, was formed around this time. The melting ice also caused the sea level to rise, leading to the gradual sediment build-up around the lake. Oxford Island was then created as a result of this process. The island has since been shaped by the forces of nature, with the shoreline constantly changing due to the ebb and flow of the water.

The island’s geology is also of great interest to scientists and geologists. The island is made up of a variety of different rock types, including granite, basalt, and sandstone. The rocks on the island provide important clues about the area’s geological history, and they have been studied extensively by scientists and researchers.

Human Impact and Conservation Efforts

Humans have significantly impacted the island over the centuries, with agriculture being the most visible example of this influence. The island’s rich soil and abundant water supply made it an ideal location for farming, and the island was home to many small farms and homesteads. However, the intensive farming practices of the past have harmed the island’s environment, with many of the island’s wetlands and woodlands being destroyed or degraded.

Recently, there has been a concerted effort to preserve the area’s natural beauty, with various conservation efforts being put in place. The nature reserve is now part of the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Special Area of Conservation, which is a testament to the area’s value to local environmentalists. The conservation efforts have focused on restoring the island’s wetlands and woodlands and protecting the island’s rare and endangered species from extinction.

The island is now a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, who enjoy its natural beauty and learn about its rich history. The island’s visitor centre provides information about the island’s geology, ecology, and history, and there are many walking trails and nature reserves that visitors can explore.

Getting to Oxford Island

By Car

If you’re travelling by car, the island is easily accessible from the nearby towns of Lurgan and Portadown. Follow the signs for Lough Neagh, and you will eventually arrive at the island itself. There is ample parking available.

By Public Transportation

If you’re travelling from further afield, you can take a train to either Lurgan or Portadown and then catch a bus to the island itself. Several bus routes serve the area, so be sure to check the timetable before you travel.

Nearby Accommodations

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the area, several options are available. The nearby towns of Lurgan and Portadown have several hotels and bed and breakfasts available. At the same time, camping is also an option if you want to stay closer to the nature reserve.

The Natural Beauty of Oxford Island

The island is a haven for nature lovers, with its stunning flora and fauna and its scenic walking trails. It’s the perfect place to unwind and get away from the stresses of city living.

Flora and Fauna

One of Oxford Island’s biggest draws is its diverse flora and fauna. The island is home to various species, including otters, badgers, foxes, and numerous bird species. Keep an eye out for the elusive kingfisher, which can often be seen darting along the shoreline.

Scenic Walking Trails

The island is also popular for hikers and walkers, with several trails to explore. The Kinnego Trail is particularly popular, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the Lough Neagh shoreline. Several shorter walks are also available for those looking for a more leisurely stroll.

Birdwatching Opportunities

Birdwatchers will be in their element on Oxford Island, with numerous species to look out for. The island is particularly popular with bird enthusiasts during the winter months when large geese and swans can be found on the nearby lough.

The Lough Neagh Shoreline

The island offers a stunning view of the Lough Neagh shoreline, with its sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. It’s the perfect place to relax and take in the area’s natural beauty.

Recreational Activities on Oxford Island

While the area’s natural beauty is undoubtedly the biggest draw of Oxford Island, the island also offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy.

The Kinnego Marina

The Kinnego Marina is a popular destination for watersports enthusiasts, with various activities available, including jet skiing, windsurfing, and kayaking. The marina is also a great place to relax and take in the stunning views of the lough.

World exclusive play park

The play park at Oxford Island Nature Reserve is a delightful haven for children and families. Nestled amidst the breathtaking natural beauty of the reserve, this play park offers a range of exciting and imaginative play equipment.

The park provides endless entertainment for young ones, from swings and slides to climbing frames and interactive play structures. Surrounded by lush greenery and ample space for picnics and gatherings, it’s the perfect spot for families to relax and enjoy quality time together.

With its safe and enjoyable environment, the unique play park at Oxford Island is a cherished attraction that adds joy and laughter to every visit.

Watersports and Fishing

Fishing is another popular pastime on Oxford Island, with a variety of fish species to be found in the nearby lough. Permits are available to purchase from the local authorities, and fishing equipment is available to rent from the Kinnego Marina.

Guided Tours and Educational Programs

The island also offers a variety of guided tours and educational programs, perfect for those looking to learn more about the area. There are several tours available, including guided walks and boat tours of the lough.

Lough Neagh discovery centre

The Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, nestled within the enchanting Oxford Island Nature Reserve, offers a captivating experience for visitors. Surrounded by the expansive beauty of Lough Neagh, it serves as a gateway to explore the reserve’s stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife.

The centre provides an array of engaging exhibits, informative displays, and interactive activities, allowing visitors to delve into the region’s natural wonders. Whether it’s learning about the fascinating flora and fauna, uncovering the history of the area, or simply immersing oneself in the tranquillity of the surroundings, the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre is a haven for nature enthusiasts and seekers of serene experiences.


Oxford Island is a true gem in Northern Ireland’s natural landscape. Its stunning beauty, diverse flora and fauna, and variety of recreational activities make it the perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Whether you’re looking to unwind, explore, or simply take in the natural beauty of the area, Oxford Island has something for everyone.

About the author

Originally from Scotland, Colin now resides near the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart on the Causeway Coastal Route. By day he works in IT and by day off he spends much of his time travelling around the Island with his young family, writing about his experiences for many sites both locally and nationally.