Loughareema Sink - Vanishing Lake

Useful Information

Location: Near Ballycastle at the A2 to Cushendun.
(55.155705, -6.108588)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstBlindsee oder Karstsee
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: Loughareema, Tel: +44-28-2073-1855.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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30-SEP-1898 Colonel John Magee McNeille, his coachman, and two horses killed by the flooding lake.


Loughareema near Ballycastle is also called the Vanishing Lake or Loughareema sink. It is a typical karst lake which is directly connected to the karst groundwater. When the aquifer rises, the lake level raises too. The change in groundwater is generally caused by heavy rains.

The surrounding hills consist of impermeable rocks, the drainage is above ground. When the rivers reach the Cretaceous chalk, the water vanishes in sinks and forms caves. But the underground drainage is limited. Most descriptions tell about peat from the surrounding swamps, which tends to block the drainage. That's rather uncommon, as generally the drainage depends on the size of the caves. If the amount of water is bigger than the capacity of the underground drainage, the water continually floods the surface around the sink hole. Obviously this continues until some above ground drainage (dry valley) is reactivated or the inflow of water diminishes.

At Loughareema the coastal road between Ballycastle and Cushendun was built right through the sink. Probably not a very good decision from the engineering view. Now and then the road floods for some time after heavy rains. But the water rises only about 10 cm above the niveau of the road and the result are two parallel walls running through a lake. But many years ago, the predecessor of the modern road was built on a much lower dam. And more than 100 years ago a tragic accident happend. Actually this is the only place where a karst feature is responsible for a ghost story. And so the story goes:

On 30-SEP-1898 Colonel John Magee McNeille was leaving his cousin, Captain Daniel McNeill, after he had spent some days at his house. He planned to catch the 3 pm train from Ballycastle, so he was in a little hurry, when he was told that the road was impassable because of heavy rains. Anxious to catch his train he persuaded a coachman to drive him anyway. They started with a covered wagon pulled by two horses. When they reached the dam across Loughareema, the water had already flooded the road. He persuaded the nervous coachman to try anyway. When they reached the center of the lake, the cold water reached the bellies of the horse who became rather nervous. The coachman used the whip, the horse went rearing up on its back legs and turned to the side. When it slipped off the road the other horse and the carriage followed. The carriage was submerging, the horse were in panic, and the two men in their heavy winter clothes full of water were unable to swim to the high ground. Both men and both horses drowned. Since that fateful day there are stories by travellers who have seen a phantom carriage pulled by two horses and ridden by a military man.