For a county so steeped in water and water activities, you’ll be surprised at the huge range of things to do in Ireland’s ‘Lake District’, writes David Tucker.
From clifftop views to bridal veils and castle walls, Discover Northern Ireland says there’s heaps here in County Fermanagh for everyone to get stuck into and draw inspiration from – these are just a few favourites.
Lough Erne’s vast expanses of water are one thing, but its plentiful islands are a whole other experience. They’ve drawn pilgrims, visitors and the plain curious for centuries, which means that a trip to them today is more rewarding than you might think.
The cemetery on Boa Island is home to two unique stone idol carvings dating back to Celtic times. The larger is a fascinating Janus figure; the smaller, known as ‘Lustyman’, is thought to be a female. Both nearby White Island and Devenish Island are also filled with Celtic mythology and early Christian symbols, including a very well preserved round tower and cloisters on Devenish Island. Explore it all via a pleasant boat trip from Castle Archdale or hire your own kayak or canoe and paddle across.
Any Fermanagh local will recommend the seven-mile drive through Navar Forest. The view from the car park at the top of the cliff looks over Lough Erne from Enniskillen to Donegal and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one of the most amazing views you will ever see.
Alternatively, you can walk along the boardwalk trails in the forest as they loop around the lakes before they begin the steady ascent up the slopes past the remains of ancient Irish crannógs and native forest up to the Magho Cliff.
Fermanagh has castles aplenty – proper castles, with turrets, follies and expansive gardens. Get your medieval tabard on and explore the hidden castles of Tully and Monea. Alternatively book a stay in the unbelievably beautiful Belle Isle Castle, or live like a lord and lady with afternoon tea at Crom Castle. Enniskillen Castle sits right on the edge of the Erne guarding the town and is worth exploring – especially when its hosting one of the town’s many festivals.
Unexplored until little over a century ago, the Marble Arch Caves feature stalactites, cavernous passages, underground pools and streams which have been formed and reformed as the water slowly dissolved the limestone bedrock over countless millennia. Go and explore the extensive caves on foot and by boat with one of the popular guided tours and you’ll discover a mind-boggling amount of fascinating facts about geology, geography and archaeology.
Enniskillen’s Blakes of the Hollow hosts one of the Doors of Thrones, unique doors carved from fallen trees at the Dark Hedges near Ballycastle, County Antrim. But that connection isn’t the only reason to visit these welcoming watering hole as it’s also one of the most famous and well recognised Victorian pubs in Ireland.
Filled with carved wood, stained glass, ornate details and hidden nooks and crannies, Blakes of the Hollow has snugs that are crowded with groups of people looking for a famously poured pint of Guinness or a delicious Irish coffee. Live traditional music is played every Friday creating a genuine Irish pub atmosphere that is not to be missed.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own