Irish expert Susan Byron's Guided Tours of Ireland's Hidden Gems in 2018 - Book this weekend to save €500 on the original price of the May Tour
Fermanagh is a small corner of Northern Ireland that seems to have been completely forgotten about, apart from a short blaze of International media glory last June when the world leaders gathered in Enniskillen for the G8 summit. I feel like telling the whole world and nobody about it, as it truly is a hidden gem. Lush, green rolling pastures, it's very sparsely populated outside of the towns and villages, give way to shimmering lakes of all sizes including the enormous Upper and Lower Lough Erne. The roads are silky smooth and devoid of traffic and tour buses, even the shortest route (all new to me) is scenic and totally charming, although the jewel in the crown has to be Maghoo Cliffs for its view of the lakes. And there certainly isn’t another county in Ireland that I can think of that has such a diversity of things to do and see, within handy driving range of the main town of Enniskillen with its landmark castle which straddles upper and lower Lough Erne.
There are no less than three major National Trust properties including Florence Court, Crom Estate and Castle Coole the finest classical house in all of Ireland. There are vast country estates with route marked walks and / or cycle trails for all ages and abilities. There is the only cross border Geo Park in the world at Marble Arch Caves with over 35 related sites which you can visit, unlimited outdoor activities, fishing is huge, as are all kinds of boating activities. Although, the Erne which is the longest navigable waterway in Europe attracted less welcome visitors in the 10th century in the form of Vikings who landed at Ballyshannon on the coast of Donegal and made there way up river plundering the rich monastic settlements that had formed on pagan sites dating back 1000’s of years. Devinish Island with its unique round tower and romanesque church can also be visited (by boat obviously) similarly White Island, with its curious stone statues discovered when a Norman Castle fell apart, or the Janus Stone on Boa Island which is 2000 years old.
There are 100’s of other interesting sites like that to explore which you will most likely have to yourself or the likes of Belleek Pottery which being a world famous Irish brand for the last 156 years you probably won't (tip) visit in the late afternoon, the last tour is at 4pm but the shop stays open till 6pm. A guided tour takes you around the factory which gives you a small insight into the history, skill and quality of this very special pottery and valued local employer. Enniskillen is worth a day in itself (at least) to visit the castle, museum, guildhall, and park, centuries old pubs and modern shopping centre (whichever you prefer). All in all there is something for everyone in Fermanagh and with Suite Treats a special offer by the Manor House Country Hotel which includes 2 nights bed and breakfast accommodation in an executive suite overlooking the lake with one evening meal in the Belleek restaurant, I know where I will be taking my Autumn break....
The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Fermanagh are....
1 Take a boat trip out on to Lough Erne to explore the islands.
2 Enniskillen Town visit the castle, museum, guild hall and the park at Fort Hill.
3 Florence Court is a beautiful Palladian style built by John Cole and named after his mother which you can visit on the outskirts of town.
4 Marble Arch Global Geopark a few miles further on is Northern Ireland's only cave complex which you can visit by underground boat
5 Castle Coole is the finest Neo-Classical House in Ireland designed by James Wyatt it is truly unique in that it retains all of the original furniture.
6 Visit Boa Island to see the ancient Janus Stone and Lusty Beg Man sculptures which are thought to be over 2000 years old.
7 Belleek Pottery take a guided factory tour of this internationally acclaimed pottery.
8 Crom Castle without doubt one of the most romantic castles in Ireland, a happy ever after wedding venue or place to fall in love.
9 Magho Cliffs take a detour (or get lost like me) off the scenic route between Belleek and Enniskillen for an excellent view of the lakes.
10 Belle Isle Cookery School, brush up your cookery skills at another breath taking castle in a perfect lakeside setting at Lisbellaw.