According to legend Lough Neagh was created by Irish giant Finn McCool when he scooped out the basin of the lough to hurl it after a rival Scottish giant (the earth eventually forming the Isle of Man when it landed!). The name itself means the 'lough of the horse-god Eochu'. There has been human settlement around the lough since the prehistoric era and a number of religious sites indicate its significance in early Christian times.
As industries developed in Ulster from the 1700s onwards, the building of canals such as the Newry Canal (the oldest in the UK or Ireland) and the Lagan, Ulster and Coalisland canals ensured Lough Neagh became a major economic hub. At the recently restored Moneypenny's Lock on the NewryCanal, for instance, barges carrying linen, peat, timber, coal and livestock would have been a common sight from the 18th century onwards. During the Second World War Lough Neagh became a landing base for flying boats.
The lough has long provided sustenance for the people of the area, including early Christian monks, through its plentiful supply of fish. As well as salmon, bream, perch and brown trout, the lough is famous for its eels. In fact eel fishing is thought to go back to the Bronze Age in the area and commercial eel fishing remains an important local business. As well as fishing, Lough Neagh has also become one of Northern Ireland's major visitor attractions in recent years with nature reserves, boat trips, sailing and all kinds of water sports on offer.