In the 18th century Lough Neagh became the focus of a commercial navigation network for the north of Ireland. Its relatively level topography and natural outlet to the sea via the Lower Bann rendered it ideal for the construction of an interlinked canal system. By the end of 19th century the Lough had been connected to Ballyshannon in the west coast, Limerick in the south, and Belfast and Newry on the east coast. The economy of the Lough’s hinterland boomed as the canal system provided a cheaper and quicker mode of transport and allowed for a greater volume in the import of raw materials and export of finished goods. However just as the network was complete the rise of the railways in the late 19th century saw the eventual decline and closure of the canals.