Northern Ireland – Fermanagh

I chose the Easter Break to rectify a situation that had been in the back of my mind for a while. My kids, despite being quite well travelled, still had places to see within Northern Ireland.
So we upped sticks and took ourselves to Fermanagh for a few days to see what we would discover. To be honest, it was a bit of a learning curve for me too as I hadn’t been in the area myself for nearly 20 years.
Top of my list was to re-visit the Share Village at Lisnaskea. I had been there once before, while taking part in a youth programme (for UTV, as it happens) called You’re On – I interviewed the main guest at a rock near the beach, so finding the same spot was something I had to do.
The facility has greatly improved since my last visit. They offer over 40 activities on land and water, for both able-bodied and disabled people to enjoy together and my kids had a great time trying out Archery as well as learning some circus skills. Of course, I found ‘my’ rock and discovered either it had shrunk or I had got bigger.
Whilst we stayed on dry land at the Share Village, we did take to the water elsewhere and joined the MV Kestrel on a trip from Enniskillen to Devenish Island. The island was a monastic settlement and the round tower acts as a magnet to the energetic folk who want to climb it.
For my part, someone obviously had to stay on terra firma and look after the picnic bag! The boat trip takes in a tour of the waterside round Enniskillen and is augmented by an entertaining commentary from the captain.
The area has its fair share of historic houses, indeed, the National Trust is the guardian of three properties, Florence Court, Castle Coole and the Crom Estate. On our visit to Castle Coole, the female members of our troupe nearly fell over themselves when they realised that Colin Farrell was filming a new movie on the estate.
Sadly for them, the closest they got to the man himself was to get a photo in front of his on-set trailer and a quizzical look from a security guard.
One attraction that we all found fascinating was the Marble Arch Caves. Whilst the tour only shows a small percentage of the many miles of caves that are found under Co Fermanagh it gives an insight to the power of nature and does bring out the adventurer in you.
Makes you wonder what the first explorers made of the dark chambers, waterfalls and rock formations they found in the 1890’s. At least today’s visitors have the bonus of a boat to take them into the caves and ‘proper’ walkways to use.
We found Enniskillen to be a great town for shopping and eating out. We tried a couple of well known local restaurants, such as the Horseshoe & Saddlers and Francos. I was intrigued by the quirky interior design in Francos, it really felt like a Mediterranean Pizzeria. From a shopping perspective, we found the town quite easy to get around and parking was easy to find.
Our base for our short break was the stunning Belle Isle Estate.
The excellent courtyard apartments, next to the Castle, are very well appointed and deceptively spacious. Kids are able to enjoy the freedom to run around, play football, use the playpark, feed the horse and donkeys and help collect eggs from the chicken runs nearby.
The more adventurous can hire boats to go fishing on the lough or enjoy walks over the 465 acres the island offers.
Belle Isle is also home to a very popular cookery school which offers a variety of courses throughout the year.

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