Exploring the Fermanagh Lakelands

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Fermanagh: Life on the Water

Welcome to a water wonderland

A magical place, a majestic history

County Fermanagh is a water wonderland. Strange, maybe, for a county without a coastline but here’s the thing: Fermanagh has an amazing abundance of lakes, rivers, inlets and waterways. Either island-hop your way via kayak or canoe, take a tranquil cruise, cycle waterside or trek the mountains. This is a place with a rich history, too. Think rock carvings dating from 3000BC, majestic estates and mysterious island sculptures.

And they know their food in Fermanagh. Take the 5-star luxury of Lough Erne Resort: winner of Northern Ireland Tourism’s Hotel of the Year 2014 and home to world leaders during the 2013 G8 Summit.

After all, this is a place where organic pigs live on their very own island. No, really. All sounds a little unusual, doesn’t it? Well, the Fermanagh Lakelands have always been a little different. Perhaps that’s why we like it so much…

Waterworld

County Fermanagh's liquid landscape

Eat

Fermanagh food is fresh and fabulous. Sit down to a seafood supper or a sizzling Ulster Fry and you can be sure that the food is free-range and locally sourced. Take Pat O’Doherty, whose black bacon sandwiches are legendary (check out the video above to find out more). Fancy whipping up your own gourmet meal? The stunningly located Belle Isle Cookery School boasts a state-of-the-art kitchen and private cookery lessons mean that you don’t just cook a culinary masterpiece – you eat it, too. Local specialities like champ (mashed potato with milk, butter and spring onion) and boxty (a starchy potato cake) are more must-tastes. 

Enjoy

Grand estates are key clues to Fermanagh’s aristocratic legacy. The elegant Florence Court in Enniskillen, for example, boasts the discovery of the first yew in Ireland, around 1760. Stay for a walk around the estate; the adorable thatched summerhouse and water-powered sawmill are just two highlights. Nature lovers should head to Crom Castle’s nature reserve to convene with rare butterflies and a small herd of fallow deer which were reintroduced here in the 1970s. Having vanished without a trace during WWII, they’re back home where they belong.

Explore

The UNESCO Marble Arch Caves are widely considered one of the finest show caves in Europe. Why? Situated at the foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain, this subterranean world is filled with rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers. Kids especially will adore the adventure aspect of it all. Just remind them that Batman operates from something similar. If you’re looking for an above ground adventure, we recommend Lusty Beg Island. Go off-road driving on the rustic terrain, learn to string a bow with archery lessons and spend a day canoeing and kayaking on Lough Erne. 

Beckett in Fermanagh

Did you know that Nobel Prize-winner Samuel Beckett was schooled in County Fermanagh? Long before penning Waiting For Godot, the Dubliner was a schoolboy at Enniskillen’s Portora Royal School. Quite rightly, the town celebrates this literary link with the annual Happy Days Festival, the world’s largest annual celebration of Beckett. The festival starts at the end of July and is a busy eleven days of theatre, music, visual art, talks, discussions, and plenty of Beckettisms.

Festival location: Enniskillen

Festival website: happy-days-enniskillen.com

Fermanagh Facts

  • Lough Navar forest in Enniskillen gives you a panoramic view of the whole of Lower Lough Erne, and on a clear day you can even see the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.
  • A collection of 154 islands and countless nooks and crannies make Fermanagh an explorer’s paradise.
  • Scenes from the film Miss Julie were shot on location in Castle Coole in Fermanagh, and starred Irish actor Colin Farrell along with award-winning actors Jessica Chastain and Samantha Morton.
  • Lough Erne Resort's Faldo Championship golf course is getting ready to host the Irish Open in 2017
  • Belleek Pottery was established in Fermanagh in 1857 and is made using traditional methods passed down from generation to generation. One of the most collectable and prized sets is the Black Mark range.
  • Oscar Wilde is a Portora Royal School alumni, having graduated in 1871 – 48 years before Samuel Beckett became a pupil.
Watersports

Sport + water = Fermanagh. Lough Erne’s open waters are a paddling paradise in a kayak or canoe. Row your own merry way or follow the Lough Erne trail which spans 31 miles/50km and links to the river Shannon. For a gentler paddle, Lower Lough Erne provides shelter with its maze of bays and narrow channels of slow-flowing water. For extreme water activities try Ultimate Watersports: water skiing, canoeing, kayaking and water trampolines are all on offer…you won’t want to get out of the water! Have your rod with you? Head for either Lower Lough Erne or Lough Melvin for an afternoon's angling. Spring salmon and trout are up for grabs.

Water Living

A stay in Fermanagh means you’re always going to be close to water. At the luxurious Lough Erne Resort hit a round of golf on the Faldo Course, nestled in a private 600 acre peninsula between Lower Lough Erne and Castle Hume Lough. The luxurious Killyhevlin Hotel commands stunning views of Lough Erne and you can even stay in their lakeside chalets. Fermanagh Lodges offer a wide selection of self-catering cottages and apartments – all water-adjacent. Take Cygnet Lodge: a cosy lakeside retreat offering fishing boat and engine hire, and even complimentary canoe paddles. Like home comforts? You need a B&B. If cute and quaint is your thing, a courtyard cottage at Belle Isle will fit the bill nicely. Meanwhile, Crom Castle's West Wing is a shot of old-school glamour.

Waterways

The Fermanagh Lakelands boasts Europe’s longest network of waterways – perfect for traffic-free cruising. Hiring your own boat is easy too. A Carrickcraft Cruising boat is like a cottage on the water, with all the modern conveniences you need on a luxury motor cruiser. And training is provided so no experience necessary. Check out the Erne Chart Boat Assocation for more boating options. Got the travel bug? A trip on one of Corraquill Cruising’s adorable Dutch Barges will take you the whole way to the River Shannon. Prefer paddle power? Canoeing and kayaking are always on the menu.

On Tour: Alternative touring options in the Fermanagh Lakelands

Don’t fancy rowing or paddling yourself around Fermanagh’s lakelands? Hop on a cruise. The luxury Inishcruiser tours Upper Lough Erne, taking in the likes of Gad Island, where you will find Crichton Tower, a stone folly built in the mid 1800s to serve as an observatory. The cruise alights at the Tudor-style Crom Castle Boathouse, allowing you to take a tour of the estate.

Walkers should head for Cuilcagh Mountain – the highest summit in the county and a part of the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. There are a vast array of terrains, including forests and castle walks, as well as a network of quality walking routes known as the Waymarked Ways, covering a total of 360km (225 miles)!

Good news cycling fans: Fermanagh is part of The National Cycle Network in Northern Ireland. Routes vary from traffic-free to more challenging long-distance routes. For a taster, try the Kingfisher Cycle Trail; a designated route of over 370km (230 miles) crossing a unique mixture of lakelands, canal sidetracks, and rolling hills.

Offers

Your trip to the Fermanagh Lakelands needn't cost you an arm and a leg. Check out these special offers for satisfying savings that could make your trip.

Itineraries

Enjoying your visit to Fermanagh? There’s a lot more to see in Northern Ireland, from the Causeway Coast Route to HBO’s Game of Thrones Territory. Explore Northern Ireland with these itineraries.

Getting Around

There are many ways of getting from a to b in Ireland, and we’ve got all the information you need.