Exploring Enniskillen

Experience a thousand years of history in a day in County Fermanagh's lively island town

Nestled on a small island separating Upper and Lower Lough Erne, Enniskillen's beautiful waterside setting, bustling with cruisers in the summer, makes it the perfect base to explore the charms of County Fermanagh.

The town gets its name from its Irish-language designation: Inis Ceithleann – Cethlenn’s Island. Local legend has it that Cethlenn, a fierce warrior in Irish mythology, was struck by an arrow and tried to swim across the River Erne to escape. She never reached the other side, and the island was named in her honour.

Things to see and do

One of the most amazing things about Enniskillen is its rich history. Enniskillen Castle was first built in the 15th century and has played a key role in the town ever since. The castle holds two museums: the Fermanagh County Museum explores the county's traditional rural life and local crafts; the Inniskillings Museum covers the military history of the region, displaying memorabilia dating back to the 17th century.

Stretch your legs with a leisurely 5km cycle to Castle Coole, on the very outskirts of the town. The Castle to Castle path is a beautiful way to take in Enniskillen’s scenery and Castle Coole won't disappoint either. The 18th century neo-classical mansion was home to the Earls of Belmore and a tour of the house shows you the grandeur of the family's living areas and the spartan practicality of the servants' quarters. Stop for tea in the little café, browse in the second-hand bookshop tucked away in what used to be the stables, enjoy a wander around the spectacular parkland and then turn your bike in the direction of Enniskillen again.

Back in the town there is plenty to see. Like The Buttermarket, a collection of 16 studios, galleries, shops and cafés in the heart of Enniskillen. Don’t miss Headhunters Barber Shop and Railway Museum, which is surely the only place you can see one of the largest collections of railway memorabilia and get a trim at the same time.

Go beyond the town

County Fermanagh is renowned for its natural beauty, so no visit would be complete without a tour of the lakes. Lough Erne is the perfect place for angling and watersports – waterskiing, rowing and wakeboarding are some of the most popular. The lake even hosts stages of the World Waterski Championships each year.

Upper and Lower Lough Erne have more than a hundred islands dotted throughout their waters and the best way to see them is to set sail. Devenish Island on Lower Lough Erne has one of the most spectacular monastic sites in Northern Ireland and the 12th century round tower will catch your eye the moment you land. White Island features the haunting ruins of an ancient church. The walls are lined with incredible stone figures, believed to be over 1,000 years old, that were found buried inside the walls. And on Boa Island, the wonder continues with mysterious two-faced stone statues thought to represent some unknown Celtic deity.

Going underground

If you’re looking for a thrill, check out the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, where you can explore a underground system of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and cavernous chambers. When you emerge from the caves, take the short walk down the road to the start of the Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail, known as the Stairway to Heaven because of the wooden boardwalk that takes you right to the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain. Finish up your trip in the splendour of nearby Florence Court. The Georgian mansion sits among vast gardens and woodlands, and prides itself on being fully sustainable. 

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