Categories: County Fermanagh

If it’s a short break you’re looking for, you couldn’t pick a better place than County Fermanagh, especially if you’re a fan of water and all things that happen on and in it. What’s more it’s just 90 minutes from Belfast and two hours from Dublin by road, so it’s a very doable place while feeling very much away from it all. A weekend is all it takes to get the measure and the flavour of the place. 

Begin by checking-in in Enniskillen 

Enniskillen is where Lower and Upper Lough Erne meet so it makes sense to check in here as it gives you easy and fast access by car, bicycle, bus and even water taxi to the rest of the county’s delights, from beautiful Belleek in the north-west to the bountiful Crom Estate in the south-east corner. 

You’ll find plenty of accommodation options in the Enniskillen area, including at the stunning 5* Lough Erne Resort. Set on a 600 acre peninsula in the glorious Fermanagh Lakelands, this luxurious hideaway was the meeting place for the world’s leaders at the 2013 G8 Summit. Suites and lodges are all lavishly appointed, including self-catering houses in the private Golf Village. This place has the 'Global Spa of the Year' (World Luxury Hotel Awards, 2017) so check in here for pure luxury. 

Alternatively, base yourself in luxury in the lakeside Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel and Lodges, (4*) set on the idyllic shores of scenic Lough Erne and just one kilometre from Enniskillen. Bordered by private grounds and gardens, guests can enjoy a dip in the outdoor hot tub or indoor swimming pool or pamper themselves in the on-site spa. 

For something a bit different, sleep under the stars in one of the domes at Finn Lough. It offers the ultimate spa experience – a unique forest element spa trail, with bespoke spaces nestled amongst the trees on the water’s edge. A true journey for the senses. 

Take time to explore Enniskillen itself 

No matter where you’ve checked into, head into Enniskillen itself, Ireland's only island town, and pay a visit to Enniskillen Castle, a 600-year-old stronghold with two unmissable museums. 

Afterwards, take a short drive to Bellanaleck and pay a visit to the Sheelin Antique Irish Lace Shop and Museum, which showcases some spectacular pieces from a private collection. Stop for lunch at The Sheelin restaurant housed in a 200-year-old thatched building. 

After lunch why not visit one of Fermanagh’s three hugely-impressive National Trust properties, including Florencecourt. Aside from the main Georgian residence itself, there’s a plethora of outbuildings, summer houses, lodges, pleasure gardens, walled gardens and more to explore. You should also make time for many of the 18th century light industry exhibitions which have been well preserved, such as the working watermill, tilery, hydraulic ram and forge. 

As an antidote to the mannered Georgian finery of Florencecourt, you could head to one of the county’s most impressive natural wonders, the Marble Arch Caves. Unexplored until little over a century ago, the Marble Arch Caves feature stalactites, cavernous passages, underground pools and streams which have been formed and reformed as the water slowly dissolved the limestone bedrock over countless millennia. Go and explore the extensive caves on foot and by boat with one of the popular guided tours and you’ll discover a mind-boggling amount of fascinating facts about geology, geography and archaeology. 

Tuck in before tucking in for the night 

All those empty spaces will probably have you thinking about filling your own belly with some of the best food the county has to offer. When it comes to quality home-grown food and drink that’s something Fermanagh has in abundance. Tucked away on Church Street, Enniskillen is one of Northern Ireland’s best restaurants. Café Merlot offers modern cuisine that gives established, classic dishes a global twist that makes all the difference. 

Nearby, Glen Wheeler, head chef at Enniskillen’s 28 Darling Street, has brought his Michelin-standard experience to bear in the kitchen and dining room here. The finest local ingredients are transformed into exquisitely prepared, cooked and presented dishes such as venison loin with spiced red cabbage or pheasant noodle with thyme jus. 

Dollakis is a Greek-focused restaurant right in the middle of Enniskillen which puts a local spin on classic Greek cuisine that features falafel, halloumi, hummus, pita, aubergine and everything you’d want for a taste of the Aegean in the heart of Fermanagh. 

Take to the water to shake off the cobwebs  

Lough Erne arguably looks its best early in the morning, water like glass and only the calls of the birds celebrating the rising of the sun, here and there a lough boat bringing pike and trout anglers to their favourite haunts. 

Why not join them on the water and see the county in all its splendour. Cabin cruisers, kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, launches, jet-skis and other craft are readily hired and offer easy and fun ways to take to the rivers and lakes and find your way from jetty to marina, from town to island and all points in between. 

All that paddling and bobbing about will have worked up one hell of an appetite, so avoid the hunger with lunch at Blakes of the Hollow, an original Victorian pub, untouched since 1887 and now a popular visitor attraction for Game of Thrones® fans with a fabled door and part of the ‘Doors of Thrones’ passport. 

Make a break for Belleek 

Right up in the north-west corner of Lower Lough Erne is Belleek, a pretty place that is home to Ireland’s oldest working fine china pottery with a national and international reputation for craftsmanship and design excellence. You can view some of the special pieces which have helped make its name over the years, as well as seeing today’s potters hard at work in the workshop on a guided tour. Browse and buy the contemporary collection in the on-site shop, and there’s a beautiful tea room here too. 

On your way back from Belleek, make for Navar Forest. The view from the car park at the top of the cliff looks over Lough Erne from Enniskillen to Donegal and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one of the most amazing views you will ever see. Alternatively, park up and walk along the boardwalk trails in the forest as they loop around the lakes before they begin the steady ascent up the slopes past the remains of ancient Irish crannogs and native forest up to the Magho Cliff. 

Finish with food, drinks and songs 

Back in Enniskillen, you’re quite likely to be thinking of food again. You could always head out along the shores of the upper lough towards Lisnaskea which is where you’ll find the award-winning Watermill Lodge Restaurant which offers fine dining with ‘Early Bird’ and ‘A La Carte’ options available together with stunning views across Lough Erne.  

Afterwards, why not finish off your stay with a few drinks and live tunes with the locals at the Devenish Bar and Lounge in the centre of Enniskillen. 

Now that’s a fairly frantic weekend in Fermanagh for you, so pack some or all of these wonderful places into your own itinerary and see how you go.