I’ve recently returned from a smashing few days on Lough Erne where I was a guest of Discover Northern Ireland. We enjoyed the pleasures of cruising with Carrickcraft who have a base in Bellanaleck just outside Enniskillen. Our boat, the Kilkenny, had two sleeping cabins for four people but could accommodate two further people in the center cabin by converting the seating area. Each cabin has its own toilet shower and wash basin and there is a large comfortable saloon with a table and kitchenette with fridge and gas hob. It is really well kitted out with all cooking utensils, bed linen and towels so we could enjoy the comforts of home.
The upper deck area has a duel steering system and sunbathing area. I was pleasantly surprised by the attention Connell at Carrickcraft gave in helping us to get used to the boat. We were sent a series of tutorials before arriving at Carrickcraft which helped us to learn the basics required to manoeuvre the boat and get around the waterways. Navigating is made simple with a well charted map and binoculars. I had some experience in sailing which did help as I am aware of the wind and currents and how to tie some knots. But a complete novice could feel confident enough to enjoy this experience just as much. Our first stop was at Enniskillen and there are several public Moorings that boat users can use. We found a spot at Broadmeadow which is close to the center of the town and a range of lively pubs and restaurants. I love the food in Northern Ireland as they use local producers to source their food and this makes a difference. On our first night we dined at Cafe Merlot which is on 6 Church Street and is newly decorated with a fantastic menu, it’s also downstairs from Blakes of the Hollow which is one of the most famous and well recognised Victorian pubs in Ireland. It is a must see attraction with a special Game of Thrones door which can’t be missed.
We had a very comfortable first night sleeping in our cabin and when we woke the next morning we were surrounded by hundreds of Mallard ducks and some swans with their baby cygnets. It felt really special to wake up among nature and yet be close to the city to pop in and get fresh bread for breakfast.
Our first port of call was to Devinish Island where a famous monastic site was founded in the sixth century by Saint Malaise. During its history it has been raided by Vikings and flourished in the Middle Ages as a parish church site. We docked up close to the west of the island and had to make a long muddy track over to see the round tower and church so the best place to dock is at the east of the island. We cooked some lunch there before setting off on our next adventure which was about an hour up the road at Castle Archdale Marina.
The marina is part of Castle Archdale Forest Park where visitors can enjoy all sorts of activities such as cycling walking fishing but we decided to try the latest attraction which is hydro biking. Castle Archdale boat hire and watersports offer these facilities and are well organised with safety equipment and instruction. It does take a lot of puff to get around but it’s a great fun family activity.
That evening we took our boat to the public marina at the Manor House Country hotel and moored for the night.
The hotel is part of Original Irish hotels group and offers spectacular views over Lough Erne. The awarded AA rosette Belleek restaurant is well worth a visit and I didn’t want to leave this beautifully presented hotel which is set on a golf course and offers self catering accommodation down at the water’s edge.
Even though it was windy we had a great nights sleep and woke up to take a one hour cruise over to the Boatyard distillery at Drum Crew East. Again we were greeted by beautiful swans and their cygnets to fill the lake at every corner. The Boatyard distillery is an award-winning farm-to-bottle distillery. Their gin botanical is Sweet Gale and is foraged from the family bog and the wheat used for their vodka can be traced from the bottle back to the very field it came from. Founder Joe Marker has used his background in spirits and whiskey knowledge to build his dream of the first legal distillery in Fermanagh in over 130 years. During the tour we tasted delicious gins and their special vodka which supplies the Gothic bar in the Savoy hotel in London.
Time for lunch and we had a slightly longer cruise this time to Lusty Beg Island and Resort on the very north of lower Lough Erne. This is a private 75 acre island with excellent facilities and it is set in beautiful lakeside Woodlands where there is a selection of accommodation, a restaurant and retreat spa. There is also an activity center and we took some time to explore the Fairy Trail which includes special features. A dummy troll is at stop two on the trail were little ones can ditch their dummies and there’s even a tree for romantic couples who might want to get engaged. This is such a fabulous setting you could come here and really forget about your cares. The food in the restaurant is excellent and there is a cosy bar next to it and another little shebeen further down at the jetty where we moored our cruiser so a good variety of places to dine. I’ve been lucky enough to sample the spa here in the past when I soaked in the most incredible seaweed bath. The Spa is also extremely cheap to get some basic treatments making this is a great venue for hen parties or girls wanting to get away for weekends. It’s equally excellent for families who want to enjoy activities such as kayaking.
There is so much to enjoy on Lower Lough Erne such as Castle Caldewell which is a very peaceful secluded spot built in the 16th century and surrounded by forest, a walk around the Woodlands is a must do experience to get away from it all.
White Island is an important monastic site and features the ruins of a 12th century church.
Tully Castle is where the remains of the 17th century fortified house and gardens sit, also worth a trip is the visitor centre and exhibition and Tully Bay Marina at the nearest village surrounded by breathtaking views.
We went back to Enniskillen for our final night and had great fun in Pats bar which offers an open air beer garden and played music until late at night. The locals were extremely friendly and helpful and we found local sailors willing to make exceptions for our anxiety coming up to moorings. We were able to help some sailors on occasions making it a very friendly and welcoming holiday.
At night when we were docked up to quieter moorings it was a great opportunity to experience family fun and get out the cards and the board games. Cruising really is like camping on the water with added amenities such as heating, our own CD player and all the comforts of home. We were travelling with teens meaning the entire crew could take part but I also see this as being a good holiday for younger families and an opportunity to give younger children a sense of responsibility and jobs on the boat. Northern Ireland is relaxed with great care and attention given to the current covid situation and an excellent spot to holiday this summer.
For more information visit :
- Lough Erne is home to 154 unique islands, including the famous Devenish Island which was founded in the 6th century by Saint Molaise.
- Lough Erne itself is made up of the Upper and Lower Lakes which connect in the picturesque island town of Enniskillen which sits on the River Erne.
- Boasting a multitude of top quality hotels, dining experiences and unique visitor attractions, Fermanagh is the perfect location for a staycation
- Carrickcraft Boat Hire offer fifteen types of boat in our fleet in Ireland. The smallest sleeps two people and the largest sleeps ten. The most popular size is a four-berth boat, ideal for a small family or two couples. https://www.cruise-
- Notable stopping points include Enniskillen, Lough Erne Resort, Castle Archdale Forest Park, Manor House Country Hotel, Boatyard Distillery, Lusty Beg Island & Devenish Island.
- County Fermanagh is filled with marinas and it’s easy to hire everything from small boats, barges, and kayaks, to canoes and paddleboards across the county
- For inspiration & offers visit www.discovernorthernireland.