Magazine

My Ireland: County Fermanagh

Emer Taaffe delves into the depths of County Fermanagh's mystical underworld and ascends to new heights of breathtaking beauty on a mountain trail fittingly known as "Ireland's stairway to heaven"

Marble Arch Caves

Otherworldly – that’s what it’s like inside the Marble Arch Caves. There’s a chill in the air. Bright sunlight fades to darkness. The sound of water is everywhere… dripping, trickling, gushing. I board a small flat-bottomed boat and we set off, ducking to avoid rocky outcrops, as our guide shows us weird and wonderful geological phenomena – stalagmites sitting like melting candles atop bare rock; the curving drape of a cave curtain. In a perfectly still pool of water I see what appears to be a city of tiny spires beneath the surface. But appearances can be deceiving. “Look up” our guide says, pointing to the stalactites hanging directly above the pool, “it’s just a reflection”. Tour ended, I climb the steep steps towards the surface, blinking in the sunlight and leaving this strange subterranean world behind.

Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail

Just down the road from the Marble Arch Caves is something wonderful. Officially known as the Cuilcagh Boardwalk (Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail), this 4.6-mile path takes you from the undulating foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain to just below its distinctive flat-topped summit. The meandering farm track climbs steadily to a stepped boardwalk that protects the rare blanket bog. In front of me, the rocky face of Cuilcagh looms, colours and textures crystal clear in the blazing sunshine. When I stop for a break and turn around, what I see is simply breathtaking: tobacco-coloured bog, distant blue hills, the glistening waters of Lough McNean. But I’m not done yet. At the boardwalk’s end a steep wooden stairway takes me to the mountain-top, offering views of Lough Atona, a scooped out glacial lake that reveals itself like a prize for making it this far. They call this the Stairway to Heaven. Standing at the top, I can see why.

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Fermanagh's Lakelands