When it comes to undiscovered slices of paradise, the Lough Neagh coastline comes up trumps time and time again. Just head south from Toomebridge to be confronted by a series of panoramic views to die for and the kind of gentle living that Ireland is famed for.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the small Tyrone village of Brocagh. ‘Where?’ seems to be a common response when Brocagh is mentioned. It's one of those places that has kept a remarkably low profile, despite its wealth of natural riches.
This low profile means that the village has an unassuming air, almost unaware of the beauty of its surroundings, but it was always seen as somewhere special. Head down to the Lough Shore here and the waters are reputed to have healing powers for bathers. The views from Castle Bay certainly have some restorative powers for motorists…
Although if you venture a little further down the Lough Duckingstool Point is the place where those suspected of being witches were tried. Hapless suspects were tossed into the Lough here and if they floated they were obviously possessed of evil powers and were put to death. If they sank then they were not thought to be possessed but had, by definition, drowned already. It's not known if witchcraft was a major problem here, but I doubt if sales of brooms and pointy hats were too high!
On the outskirts of the village, to the West, is Belville House. Belville is of architectural importance due to its timberwork – oak beams here have been dated to 1675 and they retain their original carpenters markings. There is also evidence of a secret tunnel linking the house to the nearby Mountjoy castle, which may reflect the importance of the house in the village.
However, Belville is of more interest to many visitors because of its other wordly connections. The house was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of one of its former owners, a Lady Morris, who hanged herself in the house in the seventeenth century. The Plaque on the house bears the Morris family crest. Lady Morris’ ghost stalked the house until a priest exorcised her spirit into a bottle, which is now built into the attic of the house.
It’s a great story about a lovely place but despite exhaustive efforts, the only bottled spirits to be found on Brocagh lately have been in the bar at Castle Bay…