The Fermanagh Lakes – Top Things to Do

Much of County Fermanagh has been designated an Area of Natural Beauty with forests, lakes and farmland – Fermanagh is ‘naturally’ a popular destination for outdoors-loving holidaymakers. However, if you’re the one who enjoys taking it at a more sedate pace, you’ll find plenty of opportunity to relax with spa resorts, scenic walks and boat tours, and stately homes and castles to visit.

To get you started we have compiled an overview of things to do in Fermanagh. Enjoy!

Top Things to Do

1.  Visit the Islands

White Island Lough Erne Boat Hire
Hire a boat – pictured boat hire from Casle Archdale visiting White Island

Upper and Lower Lough Erne make up one of the UK’s largest waterways and are home to around 154 islands. With the exception of Boa Island, Inisherk at Crom, and Enniskillen island (yes the town of Enniskillen is situated on an island), all islands are only accessible by boat which provides the opportunity for much exploration for those wishing to hire a boat or canoe. If you’d prefer someone else take the helm, there are several private operators offering tours or ferry services.

Popular islands to visit include Devenish Island, a historic monastic site, as well as White Island with its distinctive old carved statue pillars, but mostly it is about being on the water and enjoying the scenery, perhaps with a shore picnic on one of the islands with public access.

2. Enjoy Watersports – and some Land-based Ones Too

Enniksillen watersports
Take a tour around Enniskillen Island on a hydrobike

As you can imagine, with so much water all around, watersports are a popular holiday activity and there are a few centres where a visitor can have some fun on the water. You’ll also find some fun land-based activities too.

Castle Archdale

Castle Archdale Boat Hire & Watersports is located at Castle Archdale Marina on the northern shore of Lower Lough Erne, about 20 minutes drive outside of Enniskillen. The centre offers boat, katakanu (a catamaran and canoe – ideal for families), hydrobike, paddleboard and canoe rentals. As an example of pricing, a paddleboard is rented out at £15 for one hour, £25 for two hours while boat hire is from £70 for a half day.

If you would like to try out some land-based activities, you can also hire bicycles and pedal buggies to explore the 30km of forest and lough side trails. Head for the ruins of Castle Archdale for a picnic and also see if you can spot the WWII bomb store on the ‘Burma Road’.

Bluewater Activity Zone, Enniskillen

In Enniskillen the Blueway Water Activity Zone at Regal Pass Jetty, close to the Shore Road East carpark, is home to Erne Boat Rental (small motorised boat rentals) and Blue Green Yonder  (canoe and paddleboard hire at £15 for one hour / £20 for one hour respectively). Blue Green Yonder also offer archery sessions and other activities so be sure to check out their website.

Across the river you will find Erne Adventures, an associate company to Castle Archdale, who do hydrobike rentals and tours around Enniskillen island. They are located in a carpark behind Graigville Garden Centre. I mention this because we had trouble finding it! Click highlighted links for more information.

Corralea Activity Centre, Belcoo

Corralea Activity Centre is another large watersports and activity centre located outside Belcoo on the north shore of Lough Macnean Upper. As well as paddleboard and canoe hire, Corralea offers electric bike rental, archery and mountain biking so you can really get out to explore the area.

RAF Castle Archdale

The war remains such as the bomb store and derelict buildings in the forest at Castle Archdale serve as a reminder of Castle Archdale’s role as the RAF’s westernmost air ‘field’ during the second world war. Flying boats – Catalinas and Sunderlands – played a vital role patrolling for U-boats and protecting the convoys bringing supplies to the UK from North America across the North Atlantic. Call by the Archdale Visitor Centre to learn more at the Castle Archdale at War exhibition and if you’d like to get more of an insight into ‘Battle of the Atlantic’, check out Tom Hank’s Greyhound movie.

3. Go Underground at the Marble Arch Caves

Marble Arch Caves
Marble Arch Caves Tour

We’ve been on any number of cave tours across the world but Fermanagh’s Marble Arch Caves really are special. You cannot access the caves by yourself, but must join a tour which lasts about an hour. The tour takes you down into the caves and along a walkway that runs besides the subterranean river, the Owenbrean which drains from the slopes of Cuilcagh mountain (see next item). We enjoyed learning about how the cave system was discovered, and seeing the magical rock formations.

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Pre-covid, occasionally if the water levels were right, you could also take a short boat tour along a section of the subterranean river but this appears to have been suspended, hopefully just for the timebeing.

4. Climb Cuilcagh – Fermanagh’s Stairway to Heaven

Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk Trail
Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk Trail

While you could do the 7-hour long Cuilcagh Way, the boardwalk ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is a more accessible activity for most, taking between 2-3 hours for the round trip. The boardwalk gently ascends across blanket bog before reaching the foot of Cuilcagh mountain. At this point the wooden ‘Stairway to Heaven’ zig zags you up the mountain to a viewing platform with astounding views.

The Cuilcagh carpark is just minutes from the Marble Arch Caves so it is a good idea to do both one after the other,  getting to see  both underground Fermanagh as well as an almost aerial view across the countryside in one day.

5. Visit a Castle or a Stately Home

Visit a castle or stately home

Enniskillen Castle

The most prominent castle in the area is of course the 600-year old Enniskillen Castle (adult ticket £5), situated in Enniskillen town and on the banks of the Erne river. The castle is quite modest in size yet houses two museums, although you can’t really tell where one starts and the other finishes when visiting. A visit takes around an hour and you get to learn about the history of the area as well as explore the castle buildings. There is a nice coffee shop on the castle walls overlooking the river which makes a pleasant finish to your visit.

The castle was of strategic importance because of its location and it was originally home to the Fermanagh Maguires, defending against the English. Ultimately the castle fell to the English crown in the early 1600s and became the home to various regiments. An early constable of the castle and English man, William Cole, was a loyal servant of the throne and was knighted for his services. His heirs went on to be made Barons and ultimately Earls of Enniskillen, and it is this family that established Florence Court.

Florence Court, Castle Coole and Crom Castle

Florence Court, Castle Coole and Crom Castle are all estates managed by the National Trust. You can visit the grounds and have a guided tour of both Florence Court (adult ticket £11.50)  and Castle Coole (adult ticket £10.50). As mentioned, Florence Court was the home of the Earl of Enniskillen, while Castle Coole was built by the Earl of Belmore who was determined to outdo the Earl of Enniskillen, and spent lavishly on creating one of the ‘greatest neo-classical country houses in Ireland’.

The Crom Castle estate, managed by the National Trust, is a beautiful park on the shores of Upper Lough Erne and while you can visit the rolling parklands and ruins of the old castle, the ‘new’ castle is the private residence of the Earl of Erne and not open for tours. However, you can rent out the West Wing of Crom Castle for £1,620 per night (sleeps 13) for an authentic stately home experience! The National Trust also offers holiday cottage accommodation at all three locations.

6. Have a Shot at a Gin Distillery!

The Boatyard Distillery, Tullybay Marina, 346 Lough Shore Road, Enniskillen, BT93 7DX

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Boatyard Distillery Tour

The Boatyard Distillery produces of a range of gins and a vodka at an old boatyard at Tullbay, 15 minutes outside of Enniskillen on the shores of Lough Erne. The distillery offers tours twice a day at £45 per person (price correct April 2022). The highly-rated tours last around 90 minutes and gives you a behind-the-scenes tour of the distillery from distilling to labelling, and the chance to label your own 70cl bottle of Boatyard Double Gin to take home with you. There is also a shop where you can purchase a few additional bottles of authentic Fermanagh gin and vodka. Boatyard also stocks some rather nice merchandise. Learn more – Boatyard Distillery Tour

7. Buy Local Arts & Crafts at the Buttermarket

Down Street, Enniskillen, BT74 7DU

Buttermarket, Fermanagh

As the name suggests, this the Buttermarket in Enniskillen was originally a milk market but has been restored as an arts and crafts centre with small studios set around a pretty courtyard with a central coffee shop, which is also worth a visit. The only problem with recommending the Buttermarket for a visit is that the shops are not always open, however, it is not far from Enniskillen’s high street so you won’t lose much by taking a the detour. It is very pretty.

Getting to and from Fermanagh

The first time we visited Fermanagh drove directly from Dublin Airport – a 2-hour drive – so even though it is on the far west it is still very accessible for overseas visitors arriving in Dublin, the closest international airport.

Shannon is a 4 hour drive away although your might come as part of a Mystical North loop, coming via Doolin (Cliffs of Moher) and Benbulben in Sligo before heading onwards to Derry (1 hour, 20 minutes) and/or Donegal, then to Giant’s Causeway and The Causeway Coastal Route before reaching Belfast, and then it is just a 2-hour drive down to Dublin. What an itenerary!


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