River to Lough Festival 2015

Chef James McIntosh who gave a cookery demonstration at the River to Lough Festival. INBT 37F- TOOME FISHERY 1.
Chef James McIntosh who gave a cookery demonstration at the River to Lough Festival. INBT 37F- TOOME FISHERY 1.

Love was definitely in the air at Lough Neagh last weekend as thousands flocked to the annual Lumarina and River to Lough Festival.

On Friday night, families came to Ballyronan Marina to see the hugely anticipated illuminated boat parade and firework display, with the loughshore and skyline lit up as young and old witnessed the spectacular late into the evening.

Saturday saw the global superstars of the Eel Fishery at Toome celebrated with a unique sold out ‘Taste and Dine’ pop up restaurant and cookery demonstrations by local and international chefs including TV chef James McIntosh, at the second annual River to Lough Festival.

In preparation for Saturday’s event, chefs were invited to an exclusive masterclass with James, where he imparted secrets of perfect eel cooking and shared specially created recipes.

The event was the brainchild of Eimear Kearney, Marketing Manager, Lough Neagh Partnership.

Eimear said: “Lough Neagh eel is celebrated across the globe so it’s important for me that chefs on our doorstep are expertly trained in preparing, storing and cooking the perfect Lough Neagh fresh and smoked eel.

“When I approached James to come along to the River to Lough Festival I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to create a masterclass and offer local chefs the chance to experience how this fabulous wild local product is both deliciously distinctive and versatile.”

While basking in the glory of the success of the inaugural River to Lough Festival, there was also immense pressure to ensure that this year’s event gave fishonistas and eel novices a day to remember at the fishery which doesn’t normally open the to the public.

Eimear added: “Our expectations for Lumarina were exceeded this year with record numbers coming out to enjoy the illuminated spectacle on the lough before the fireworks brought a really fun family evening to a close.

“After such a superb start to the weekend, we were cautiously optimistic that the second River to Lough Festival would exceed last year’s successes but we were overwhelmed that families were queuing up to get into the fishery before we even opened the doors.

“From the eel exhibition to the line demonstrations, storytelling and cooking demonstrations to the pop up restaurant and factory tours, we wanted to cater for the whole family and open the doors to the eel fishery for the whole community to enjoy an event that wasn’t weather dependent.

“We are thrilled with the turnout and are already planning River to Lough 2016.”

These events were made possible by Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative, Lough Neagh Partnership, Mid Ulster District Council, Tourism NI and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s NI Regional Food Programme and Bank of Ireland.

You can follow Lough Neagh on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loughneaghanditswaterways, call Lough Neagh Partnership on tel 028 7941 7941 or email at info@discoverloughneagh.com.