Discover the Beauty
I have fond memories of family trips to the lakes of Fermanagh as a child, heading out on the water with my grandad in his little boat, fishing for trout and exploring the islands. It felt like another world, an adventure and being here again takes me back to those times. The pace slows, the people somehow just seem friendlier, the grass a little greener, Fermanagh has a magical, almost medicinal property that leaves you feeling refreshed.
Our local host, Terry McCartney, certainly agrees. He's ready to show Eunan Sweeney, his guest from County Leitrim, the best of the Lakelands. Both men are photographers, so the beauty of Fermanagh is the perfect canvas.
Our first stop of the day is Crom Estate, set on the shores of Upper Lough Erne. Our guide for the day, Jon Sey, one of the rangers on the estate: “My family have lived here for 102 years,” he tells us, “I never get sick of it – it’s part of my life. I love the beauty of it, the woodlands, the waterways, the wetlands, the old buildings and all of the nature.”
The old Crom Castle now offers luxury accommodation and was recently used in the BBC comedy series Blandings, but it’s the Walled Garden that Jon really wants to show us:
“I remember the summers when I was wee, we used to live in the Walled Garden and pick fruit – raspberries and gooseberries – when we were off school. We’d get two shillings per stone. And they didn’t let us pick too many strawberries as they were afraid we’d eat them all!” Jon’s passion for the estate shines through, with his stories bringing the place to life at every turn.
Eunan has been enthralled by the landscape since we arrived and as we head out on the water to visit Devenish Island, the camera is out and he is snapping away, eager to capture the beauty of the lough. “I love that you can just hire a boat and explore it, it’s so close and feels a million miles away. I’ll be coming back with my better half and kids in tow!”
As we reach the former Monastic site, our tour guide, John Cunningham fills us in on the history of the island, “Lough Erne is a highway of history. From the stone age, to the Vikings and beyond, anyone who’s left a mark has been here”. During its history it has been raided by Vikings (837AD), burned (1157AD) and flourished (Middle Ages) as a parish church site and St Mary’s Augustine Priory. The round tower stands at 30 metres tall – internal ladders inside the tower allowing us to climb to the top and marvel at the spectacular views.
Our skipper, Frank Milne, from the Lady of the Lake Cruiser, ushers us back on board as we head towards Enniskillen, “The peace and the tranquillity are the hidden gems of the lakes, you come here and you are away from it all. I’ve been on the lakes for fifty years so I’d be a bit biased but really, look around you, it’s gorgeous.”
Blake's of The Hollow is one of the most famous pubs in Ireland and has proudly served visitors and locals alike for well over a century. Located in the heart of Enniskillen, with inglenook fireplaces and snug booths aplenty, it is the perfect place to end the day. Terry sums it up, “When people visit, the locals have a lot of stories to tell, but they also want to hear about you. We’re storytelling, inquisitive sorts”. And so it was, the craic continued over a pint of excellent stout and the stories flowed.
Fermanagh, you really are a treat.