Finn Lough as seen from above.
Fermanagh is a vast haven of natural spaces where the slow pace of life seems to make quality time together last longer.
Though it’s famed as Northern Ireland’s lakeland county, a great escape here takes in much more than the plethora of watery pleasures and stunning scenery.
1. Sink into Fermanagh
Once you hit Fermanagh you will practically taste the crisp, clean country air. Dive straight in and head for the breathtaking landscapes of Crom Estate. A long walk around this tranquil lakeside demesne of castle, islands, ancient woodland and historic ruins will let you leave a busy world behind.
2. Hail a water taxi
Arrange for the Lough Erne Water Taxi to pick you up, and to make it extra special ask for their food tour which takes in delicious local artisan specialities. Hop aboard and enjoy the freedom of the lakes, and be sure to take in Devenish Island, the famous sixth century monastic site.
3. Check out Enniskillen
Back in the car, head towards Enniskillen via Ballinaleck so you can stop off at the Sheelin Lace Museum, an absolute feast for the eyes. Then wander through the town for some unhurried shopping. Don’t forget to browse the Buttermarket craft galleries and workshops, or pop into Blakes of the Hollow, an original Victorian pub, untouched since 1887.
4. Dinner on an island
Take the little ferry boat – always available for free and with room for two cars – over to Lusty Beg Island. The wooded lakeside location here is just as magical, while the food is real, fresh and all cooked from scratch. Ask for some Inishmacsaint craft beer, made locally from pure Fermanagh rain water.
5. Snuggle up under the stars
After dinner drive over to Finn Lough Resort for a unique night in a bubble dome in the middle of a forest. The transparent walls and a roof give stunning night sky and woodland views, which can be enjoyed from a four-poster bed. Ensuite bathroom, coffee machine, fluffy robe and slippers and breakfast are all included. Book ahead though – these domes went viral when first launched.
6. A gentle cycle
After a great breakfast hire all the bikes you need at Finn Lough and take a leisurely ride to explore the area. Take the forest loop which will serve up a big slice of countryside heaven.
7. Potter about the pottery
Discover the story of the world-famous Belleek Pottery with a short tour of the factory. See the craftsmen at work and maybe buy a keepsake at the excellent shop. If there’s time, finish off the morning exploring Florence Court House and its walled garden.
8. Live like a president
For the afternoon live it up in the five-star Lough Erne Resort, where Obama, Putin, Merkel et al stayed for the G8 Summit. Play a round of golf on the Faldo championship course or rejuvenate your senses by taking some time out at the luxury Thai Spa treat.
9. Gourmet dining
Then settle down in the Catalina Restaurant, named after the World War II sea planes once based on Lough Erne. Noel McMeel, the executive chef who cooked for the G8 world leaders, serves up incredible gourmet experiences, with sumptuous dishes featuring the very best of local produce and excellent wine pairings.
10. See the showcaves
It’s just half an hour from Lough Erne Resort to a truly outstanding landmark, and you simply must go to the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. At least a million years old, this miracle of nature is a fascinating, natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers. Take the electrically powered boat and glide along a subterranean river and through huge underground caverns.
11. Take a bird’s eye view
Afterwards take the 20-minute drive to Lough Navar Viewpoint, and admire the stunning scenes of Lough Erne. Stand and take a bird’s eye view, said to be among the best in Ireland, across Fermanagh and into Sligo, Tyrone and Donegal and even as far as the Atlantic Ocean.
12. Sunday lunch
Say goodbye to the lakelands with a gorgeous lunch at the Watermill Restaurant in Lisnaskea. Go for the tasty Irish Sunday Roast special, then enjoy a leisurely stroll around the mature water gardens on the banks of Lough Erne. Leave refreshed and revitalised with strong memories of the lakelands.