It’s not a place I’d been in much before but Co Fermanagh has more to it than meets the eye.
With the pandemic putting a hold on many of our international travels, holidaying at home is the new normal, and where better to do it than in Ireland.
The exciting launch of Belfast Live’s sub-brand MyFermanagh has shone a light on the stories, and there are plenty, that are waiting to be told from the county.
Last week we stayed in Enniskillen for two days full of outdoor activity, beautiful food and stunning scenery.
I’d been to Fermanagh to walk the Stairway to Heaven before, and although views were stunning, the trip was breathtaking in more than one way.
This time round, my trip was a lot more relaxed and less sweaty, even with the 30C heatwave.
Arriving on the Monday, we were welcomed to Castle Coole by the National Trust.
The impressive Castle Coole
Castle Coole is one of Ireland’s finest Neo-classical houses, allowing visitors to glimpse what life was like in the home of the Earls of Belmore and we were given a tour round the impressive home by National Trust staff member Ryan.
Not only was it fascinating to hear the history of the house, the interiors and grounds surrounding the mansion were beautiful.
Leaving here, we headed to the next castle – Enniskillen Castle.
On a day of temperatures in the early 30s, the outdoor tour of the castle, which can be seen from across Enniskillen, was enjoyable. There was a great buzz about the courtyard with views over the lough making for perfect pictures.
Having planned our trip in advance, with the help of the Tourism Northern Ireland team, the one adventure which made me most nervous was our water activity experience.
I’ve grown up with a fear of water, despite being raised less than a mile away from a beach in Co Down. I took private swimming lessons as a child but nothing seemed to shift the fear.
Nevertheless, given the strange year we had had, I told myself I’d conquer some challenges in 2021, running my first 5K in April and now as I walked on to the jetty to Blue Green Yonder it was time for my next ‘let’s do this’.
Views from Killyhevlin Hotel
Blue Green Yonder provides the “adventurous spirit access” to the outdoors of Fermanagh.
It is based at the Waterways Ireland Water Activity Zone in Enniskillen, a part of the Blueways Ireland.
Met by Amy Fitzpatrick, who runs many sessions ranging from young children to older adults, I was about to put my trust in a complete stranger. Before heading out into the kayak, I explained to Amy my fear of water and she made me feel at ease right away.
I was suited up in my safety vest and given significant advice before taking to the lough. After 10 minutes I felt like a pro – Amy’s joy for me made the experience really enjoyable. My partner, a water fanatic, opted for the paddle board)and was away like a champion, leaving me to fend for myself.
The hour-long tour on the lough took in the views of Enniskillen, including the castle we had just visited an hour prior. We passed many boats, small and big, and other kayakers. There was a sense of friendliness on the water similar to that in the town centre.
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Blue Green Yonder offer canoe, kayak and SUP hire for all ages, and can be found here.
Leaving the waterfront, we travelling a few minutes to the Killyhevlin Hotel on the Dublin Road for check in.
It’s been over a year since we stayed in a hotel, so it was slightly strange arriving for a night away – a good strange though.
On arrival, our temperatures were taken at the door through an impressive handsfree stand, and we were showed to our room, which when standing on the outdoor balcony, had the most incredible views across the waters we had just paddled on.
The grounds surrounding the hotel are beautiful, with families and friends enjoying the sun while walking through.
We washed off our suncream and got ready for dinner which was booked at the Kove Restaurant.
We both opted for the soup as starter, with one (or three) Strawberry Daquiris, followed by the steak and spiced prawn and crab linguine with the chocolate brownie for dessert.
The food was second to none, with our service being the main topic of conversation for our table that evening. Each member of staff made us feel welcome and at ease, with a great sense of humour about them all.
Views from Enniskillen Castle
Afterwards, we sat in the courtyard and watched as young children who were in the hotel for a wedding, played on the grass, fascinated by the robot grass trimmer. Views, like throughout the trip, were stunning.
The next day, our last day in sunny Fermanagh, we had two main attractions planned – the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and a trip to Florence Court.
The Marble Arch Caves is a major tourist attraction, set in the picturesque foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain. The landscape encompassing the cave system was formed over 340 million years ago. Today this natural environment of caves, rivers, mountains, ancient woodlands and waterfalls.
Our tour guide Ross, warned that we may need our jackets for the trip down under, and he wasn’t wrong. We soon got used to the temperature and darkness of the caves. Ross had a brilliant way of working with our group, which ranged in ages. His humour in how he told the history of the caves made it feel fun, rather than a strict classroom setting.
After the tour, which lasted one hour, we took off for Florence Court – located eight miles from Enniskillen. Met with friendly staff at the information centre, we took out bikes and went on our our tour of the grounds, taking in the most incredible scenery. The walled garden was our favourite.
The stunning walled garden at Florence Court
Florence Court Forest Park also provides visitors with access to 15 km of trails which have easy-to-understand signage. The trails suit a variety of abilities and there is also a bridle trail for horse riders.
We left after a few hours on the bikes and began our trip back home.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re back in Fermanagh.
For more information, visit Discover Northern Ireland here or search the hashtags #DiscoverNI #EmbraceAGiantSpirit
Experiences were courtesy of Discover Northern and our hotel stay was courtesy of Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel and Lodges