Broad Water – Aghalee village to Moira Railway Station

This pleasant route begins in the village of Aghalee and follows the line of the towpath of the old Lagan Canal to Moira Railway Station.

A concealed entrance is located just off the Soldierstown Road. From here one can see the surviving lock-keeper’s house of No.18 lock. As you proceed along the old towpath, watch out for moorhens and mallard duck. If you are lucky you might see one of a number of sparrowhawks that regularly hunt this area.

Since the canal was officially abandoned in 1954 the banks have become overgrown and an array of colour is provided by a variety of tree, shrubs and wild flowers.

After a relatively short distance you come to a large expanse of water, known as the Broad Water. Here we find a small property that was formerly owned by the Lagan Navigation Company and was occupied by a bank-ranger. In the distance, on a clear day, you can see Slieve Croob Mountain.

The Broad Water is a man-made feature, built in a natural valley in order to retain a sufficient head of water to accommodate the navigation. Today, this area acts both as a breeding and wintering ground for a large variety of wildfowl, including tufted and mallard duck, great crested grebe, coot, moorhen and swans. Take a seat and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, set against the background of a thin belt of mature woodland.

As you walk around the next corner, note the picturesque Soldierstown Church up on your right, where the engineer responsible for the Lisburn-Lough Neagh section of the canal, Richard Owen was buried in 1830.

On passing under Soldierstown Bridge we find a car park and picnic area connected directly to the towpath by a small footbridge.

The final section of the path takes us to Moira Railway Station with the canal and towpath passing under the Railway Bridge, which was built in 1833. Note the unusual “skew brickwork” used to add strength to the bridge and how the strain of the tow rope cut notches in the iron guard at the foot of the bridge.

Moira Station itself is the oldest surviving building from the original Ulster Railway, the first section of which was opened between Belfast and Lisburn on the 12th August 1839. The section between Lisburn and Lurgan was completed two years later in 1841. Today the station is a “request stop” only, however in 1945 it had a staff of fifteen, including stationmaster, clerks, porters and signalmen.

For those who wish to continue their journey towards Lisburn, then you can either take the train or simply follow small country back roads, joining the towpath of the Lagan Valley Regional Park at Moore’s Bridge on the Hillsborough Road. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in this area where the nearby village of Moira offers a number of fine eating establishments and places to stay.