River Cruise - Lough Erne
Lough Erne refers to two lakes in Northern Ireland, situated along the River Erne. The waterway is mostly situated in County Fermanagh. The river begins by flowing north, and then curves west into the Atlantic. The southern-most lake is further up the river and so is named Upper Lough Erne. The northern lake is Lower Lough Erne.
A canal exists between the upper end of the River Shannon and the River Erne, allowing boat movements from the Shannon estuary in South West Ireland.
Lough Erne is a particularly scenic waterway in Ireland, it is renowned for the beautiful setting. The area is also popular for angling. The town of Enniskillen is situated between the lakes.
Interestingly, it escaped the Irish Potato Famine better than any other county. Because it has so many islands, the potato blight had difficulty travelling over the water to those islands, compared to the green hills of most of Ireland. Those Erne islands produced surprising amounts of potatoes (the staple diet on the over-populated island, from 1845-1849), whilst the mainland was largely starving in comparison.
- 0.0 km Belturbet - Belturbet is a lively and bustling town on the River Erne. there is a good selection of shops, restaurants and pubs here. There is also plenty to do in Belturbet with Bike hire, a 9 hole golf course and a 13th century Anglo-Norman motte and bailey on Turbet Island. The Festival of the Erne is a very popular annual event taking place from at the end of July/early Aug annually. With the famed Lady of the Erne pageant, live music, talent competition, marching bands, fireworks and the most popular fancy dress party in the county, the festival is not to be missed.
- 5.6 km Bunamunery. Junction with the River Finn.
- 10.2 km Crom Castle and entrance to Upper Lough Erne. See below for details of Crom Castle and Nature Reserve.
- 14.9 km Ross Ferry bridge
17.4 km Carrandillar Ferry
29.3 km Outlet from Lough Erne
31.2 km Belle Isle (junction with eastern outlet) - See Islands section
32.6 km Carrybridge
40.8 km Tully (junction with western outlet)
44.8 km Lisgoole
48.5 km Enniskillen - Enniskillen is a lively island town and Fermanagh's Capital. There are many fine pubs and restaurants to be found here, as well as excellent shopping. Enniskillen Castle is situated in the town. The first castle was built on this site by Hugh Maguire in the 15th century. It consists of a central keep and a curtain wall and provided the main defence for the west end of the town and guarded the Sligo road. It has been substantially rebuilt.
It featured greatly in Irish rebellions against English rule in the 16th century and was taken after an eight day siege in 1594. In 1607 it was remodelled and refurbished by Captain William Cole. The riverside tower at the south, known as the Watergate, was added at this time. In the 18th century the castle was remodelled as the Castle Barracks and now houses the Regimental Museum of the Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers.
- 51.2 km Portora Castle and entrance to Lower Lough Erne. Portora Castle was built for Sir William Cole who purchased the land in 1612. It is strategically positioned by the narrow exit of the River Erne into the Lower Lough Erne. The ford at Portora was important in the Erne Waterways and must have seen considerable traffic. In the course of the Erne Drainage Scheme (1951-1960) a bronze dirk and stone axes were recovered at this point. The castle is now in ruins partly because a group of truanting school-boys from nearby Portora Royal School, experimenting with gunpowder, blew up a section in the latter part of the 19th century. They also tried digging under the building which added to its dereliction.
- 52.8 km Devenish Island - see Islands section
- 64.0 km Inishmacsaint Island - see Islands section
- 67.7 km Heron Point
- 78.4 km Rosscor and exit from Lough Erne
- 83.2 km Belleek - See Attractions section
- 84.0 km Belleek Sluices and end of navigation
The lakes contain many small islands and peninsulas also called "islands" because of the highly convoluted shoreline and also because many of them were also islands prior to two extensive drainage schemes in the 1880's which dropped the water level by 1.5 metres. I have listed the islands in alphabetical order rather than navigational order.
Islands in Lower Lough Erne include:
Boa Island - Boa Island is on the north shore of the Lough. At the west end of the Island is Caldragh, an ancient Christian churchyard. In this graveyard stands two pagan idols. The largest stands 72.5cms high. It is a strange two sided Janus figure. (Janus meaning two-faced not the Roman God Janus). The smaller stone is similar and comes originally again from an early Christian graveyard on Lusty More Island near by. Whether these strange stone figures with their unusually big heads represent an earlier pre-Christian religious site or early Christians including older beliefs in the grave sites of the ‘new religion’ is unsure. Several other examples of what are considered to be pagan sculptures have been found on early Christian sites e.g. The Tandragee Idol and other sculptures in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.
Devenish Island - In the Middle Ages there was a chain of island monasteries in Lough Erne. Devenish, where a 12th-century round tower stands sentinel, was an important port of call. From the tower's high windows the monks could see approaching strangers. In times of trouble they rang their bells and hid their sacred relics. The island also has a tiny church of about the same date, and a ruined Augustinian abbey.
Inish Davar - This island has attractive woodland paths and good wooden jetty that provides easy access for boating folk. From the jetty a nice fifteen minute walk takes one around the island.
Inishmacsaint - Another one of the many monastic sites on the Erne and Shannon navigations. Of particular interest is the undecorated High Cross.
Lusty Beg Island
Lusty More Island
White Island - Situated in Castle Archdale Bay off the East shore of lower Lough Erne is White Island. A small ruined monastery dated about A.D. 1200 lies within an earthen enclosure. Very little is known of the early history of the monastery. The main reason for visiting the monastery are the six stone figures set up against the north wall and a late Romanesque south facing door. The six statues are fine examples of early Christian carving. They are all carved in quartzite by a master craftsman. Most authorities agree that they predate the door. The date of these very unusual figure carvings have caused considerable debate. They are highly stylised with possible pre-Christian influences. The figures are different from those found on the Irish high crosses and are thought therefore to pre-date them. Most archaeologists agree that they could date any time from the 9th to the 11th century.
Islands in Upper Lough Erne include:
Belle Isle - The Annals of Ulster were written in the late 15th century on Belle Isle.
Gad Island - Crichton Tower on Gad island is a stone folly built as a Famine relief project c.1847 to serve as an observatory.
There are many beautiful walks set out on the shore of Lough Erne. They are too numerous to describe here, but details can be found on the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) website or by contacting a local tourist office.
Set in rolling parkland amidst an archipelago of wooded islands and peninsulae in tranquil Upper Lough Erne, the Crom Estate in County Fermanagh, the historic seat of the Earls of Erne for over 350 years, enjoys an unrivalled location in the heart of Ireland's Lake District. The demeasne incorporates 2 castles, National Trust Visitor Centre, Tea rooms, a small shop and a slipway for boat access.
Since 1987 nearly 2,000 acres at Crom have been managed by the National Trust, giving the public an opportunity to experience the tranquillity and beauty of this nature reserve. With its wetlands, farmland and parkland, Crom is a unique habitat with one of the largest areas of semi-natural woodland remaining in Ireland and one of the most important freshwater habitats in the British Isles Crom houses the largest surviving area of oak woodland in Ireland. The wealth of wildlife in the estate is shown by the presence of two rare butterflies - the purple hair streak and wood white, the elusive pine-marten and the largest heronry in Ireland. Look out too for flocks of wild geese and the parkland deerAn overnight bird and mammal watching hide can be arranged through the Visitor Centre. Pike fishing on the Green Lake and Coarse Fishing on Lough Erne, can also be arranged with the National Trust.
Castle Coole, sited in open parkland on the edge of Enniskillen and upper Lough Erne, is the family home of the Earls of Belmore. Designed by James Wyatt in the late 18th century, it is one of the finest neo-classical houses in IrelandSet in a 1200 acre wooded estate, it is owned and managed by the National Trust. Castle Coole was constructed between 1789 and 1798 as the summer retreat of Armar Lowry-Corry, the 1st Earl of Belmore. Lord Belmore was the Member of Parliament for Tyrone in the former Irish Houses of Parliament The siting on the comparatively small estate in County Fermanagh was primarily due to its unspoilt rural location and natural beauty amongst ancient oak woodland and small lakes, yet with close proximity to the market town of Enniskillen. In 1951, the 7th Earl of Belmore sold the mansion to the National Trust, prompted by two sets of death duties or inheritance tax when his cousins, the 5th and 6th Earls of Belmore, died without issue 18 months apart. The National Trust opens the mansion to visitors during the summer months, and the estate can be visited year-round. Between 1980-1988, the mansion was closed to the public while the National Trust undertook restoration work involving the dismantling of the façade to replace metal connectors holding it in placeNotable aspects of the mansion include the Portland stone façade, floorings and double-return cantilever staircase. An unused State Bedroom, prepared for King George IV in 1821 (who failed to arrive) retains original furnishings and flock wallpaper. A Drawing Room, furnished in a French Empire style, a Grecian staircase hall and a Ladies Workroom furnished in a Chinese style, reflect the importance of worldly knowledge and awareness during the Regency period.
Derived from the Irish Gaelic cúil meaning seclusion, Lough Coole, “the secluded lake”, is nestled in a basin surrounded by the Killynure hills. A ráth here and a crannog in Lough Coole itself are reminders that the area has been settled since prehistoric times. Other lakes on the estate include Lough Yoan and Brendrum Lough. Much of the native oak woodland remains, although a considerable portion of the estate has been given over to agriculture. Numerous out-buildings can be found on the estate, those of interest include a Grand Yard, a general workplace housing stables, a Tallow House originally used for candle-making, now a gift shop and reception area, a Servants Tunnel leading ultimately to the basement of the mansion and the only route from which servants could enter and exist the main building, a Laundry House, a Dairy and an Ice House. A ha-ha, a sunken ditch to control livestock movements without the disturbance on the landscape resulting from a fence or a wall, can be found near the mansion.
Admission to Castle Coole is by guided tour only. Please consult the National Trust's webpage for opening times.
Florence Court is a large 18th century house and estate located 8 miles south-west of Enniskillen. It is set in the foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain. It is owned and managed by the National Trust.Florence Court was the family home of the Cole family, who were known as the Earls of Enniskillen. The National Trust acquired Florence Court in 1953, shortly before a devastating fire destroyed the upper floors of the house. Extensive restoration efforts have since returned Florence Court to much of its former glory, although some rooms on the upper floors remain closed. The house is best known for its exquisite rococo decoration and fine Irish furniture. Many original items of furniture, previously sold, have been re-acquired and returnedThe estate includes a walled garden with displays of both temperate and semi-tropical plants, a working water-powered sawmill, an ice house, and a natural spring well. The Larganess River flows through the estate. Pasture lands and forestry occupy much of the estate. It is a prime source of Irish yew wood.
Marble Arch Caves
Marble Arch Caves are one of Europe's finest showcaves allowing visitors to explore the magnificent Mesozoic limestone caves, natural underworld rivers, waterfalls, and winding passages, from a boat. In 2004 Marble Arch Caves and the nearby Cuilcagh Mountain park were jointly recognized as a Unesco Global Geopark. The Visitors Centre also has details of a number of walking and hiking trails in the area. They vary in length and difficulty from gentle strolls to serious mountain hikes.
Castlecaldwell Forest And Islands
Castlecaldwell located on the northern shores of Lower Lough Erne is a National Nature Reserve with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Species include: breeding garden, grasshopper, sedge and willow warblers, siskin, tufted duck, red-breasted merganser, heron, Sandwich terns on islands, pine martens, badgers, otters and red squirrels.
Castle Archdale Park is a natural wonderland and is ideal for children. Features within the park include a red deer enclosure, wildfowl ponds, nature trail, butterfly garden and wildflower meadow.
Castle Archdale has a long history dating back to 1615 when the first Castle was built, the remains of which can be seen.
The present Castle, dating back to 1776, now houses a Visitor's Centre, a museum of Farm machinery, an Amateur Naturalist Exhibition, a History of the Archdale Family and a War Museum. There are maps of the park and its walks available at the Visitors Centre. The Yellow Walk will appeal to boaters as it passes by the marina and close to many interesting features including the Information Centre, Exhibition Centre, Castle Gardens, Bath House, Bog Garden, Deer Pen, Rare Breeds Collection, Butterfly Garden, and Wildfowl Ponds before returning along the shore to the marina. Those interested in a slightly longer walk will enjoy the walk to the Old Castle. The castle is now in ruins. There is also a walk around the peninsula named Tom's Island which is well worth the effort.
The park also includes a marina, campsite, shop, diner and playgrounds.
Belleek Pottery is Ireland's oldest pottery, famous for crafting the world's most distinctive Parian China creations. One of Ireland's top attractions the award winning Visitor Centre offers guided tours of the renowned company which has become a global icon for Irish design and crafts. Belleek Pottery website