Castle Coole is without doubt, the finest stately home in all of Ireland, in my opinion, because it still has all of the original furniture that was especially commissioned for the house, unlike many others were the contents were sadly auctioned off. It is in the care of the excellent National Trust Organisation of Great Britain, who invest huge sums of money in restoring these wonderful properties which are often bequeathed to the nation and then, maintained and opened to the public thereafter. A few minutes from Enniskillen town, Castle Coole still retains much of the vast 700 acre estate it was built on in the 18th century, which only slightly prepares you for the vast colonnaded neo-classical facade you happen upon as you draw near. Inside it is an homage to the architect, James Wyatt, whose notions of balance, scale, space and proportion, not to mention splendour, are displayed here in pure perfection.
The dining room and in particular the mirrored, Regency style, oval drawing room in pink silk and gilt is beyond magnificent with its curved doors, inlaid furniture and glittering chandelier. The guide laughed at my little habit of touching up my lipstick in the mirror, as I often do, wondering how many other elegant ladies have gazed at their own reflection down through the centuries in these very same mirrors. Sweeping up the fine staircase into a shocking red silk canopied bed decorated for a visit by George IV in 1821.
One can only imagine the style and luxury enjoyed by the occupants and guests of Castle Coole. Below stairs, another vast cavern, it was another story of course with a warren of rooms and a wonderful skylighted kitchen, don’t be fooled like me those ovens are fake, built recently as a film. The exit is through the widest underground passage in Ireland, which leads into the courtyard with toilet facilities etc and a nice café and sunny garden.
10 Hidden Gems near Castle Coole
1 Enniskillen Castle, in the middle of the Enniskillen town which is situated on an island between upper and lower Lough Erne.
2 Blakes of the Hollow Pub on Church Street in Enniskillen was last renovated in 1887 so we are talking about the real deal here with one of the best and original pub interiors in Ireland.
3 Manor House Country Hotel a couple of miles North of Enniskillen a former country house and now fine hotel with sublime food overlooking Lough Erne it is a great place to stay.
4 Take a tour of the lakes on the Lady of the Erne whose skipper will tell you all about islands, which ones are inhabited and by who and the history of the flying boat base on the Erne during WW2.
5 Which were based at Castle Archdale which is now an exhibition centre and forest park with wonderful garden and lakeside walks
6 Boa Island, is on the way to Belleek, the road joins several island the last of which is Boa, follow the signpost down to a tiny but very ancient graveyard to view the 2000 year old Janus (two faced) Stone.
7 Belleek Visitor Centre in Belleek is a modern success story of how Belleek Pottery has adapted both its products and workforce and marketing methods to the 21st century without compromising on its commitment to quality and traditional methods.
8 Maghoo Cliffs, on the far side of Lough Erne, take a little detour on the way back from Belleek to Enniskillen for a magnificent view of Lough Erne.
9 Marble Arch Caves Geopark, the only caves in Ireland where you have to take an underground boat to access the further reached of these limestone caves. (Phone in advance though as tours are weather dependent)
10 Florence Court, another lovely stately home on a lesser scale than Castle Coole but intriguing in its own right, nice walks and a walled rose garden which is in the process of being restored.