Fermanagh the county, derives its name from ‘Firmonach’. ‘the men of Monach’, a Celtic tribe that settled around the shores of the loughs in the early Christian era. Evidence of the Celts abounds in the area, particularly in the enigmatic pagan stone idols of Boa island. The two head figure of Janus in Caldragh Cemetry on Boa island was the inspiration for Seamus Heaney’s poem, ‘January God’, with the Celts believing that the head was the seat of the soul and the centre of man’s life force. Another figure from nearby Lustymore Island, has only one fully carved eye suggesting that it represents Badhbha, or Divine Hag, the Celtic goddess of war.
The twin lakes of Lough Erne, Upper and Lower, are the jewel in Fermanagh’s crown and cover one-third of the county. A perfect location for watersports; from fishing to waterskiing and cruising to canoeing this magnificent lake has it all. For the all round activity enthusiast there’s plenty to keep you occupied – caving, walking, cycling and horse-riding to name but a few. For the golf fanatic look no further, there are a wide range of golf courses for all strengths and abilities including Lough Erne Golf Resort with its Nick Faldo designed course.
Local folklore tells us that a graceful woman glides across Lower Lough Erne through the mists of May, clad in flowing garments and carrying a garland of wild flowers. Her appearance is an omen of good times ahead and is celebrated at the Lady of the Lake Festival each July in Irvinestown.
Enniskillen is the County Town of Fermanagh, located almost exactly in the Centre of the County on the natural island which separates the Upper and Lower sections of Lough Erne. Enniskillen is perfect for that weekend shopping trip. With an array of well known high street brands as well a quaint high street littered with boutiques, craft shops, cafes & restaurants you’ll be spoiled for choice. The old Buttermarket has been made into a very attractive crafts and design centre, and the Ardhowen is a beautifully sited theatre with a varied programme.
The evocative Watergate on the lough is part of a castle that was used by the Maguires. It subsequently became a Plantation strong house, and an 18th –century artillery barracks. Now it houses the County Museum and the Regimental Museum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Take a ferry from Trory to get to Devenish Island. One of the most important monastic sites in Ulster founded by St Molaise in the 6th century. The remarkable group of buildings to be seen are mostly from the 12th century. The round tower was repaired in the 19th century. The towers, famous symbols of Christianity in Ireland, acted as signposts, bell towers and places of refuge and retreat in attack, and a safe place for treasures during Viking raids. The great Book Shrine of Molaise, which is a masterpiece of early Christian art, is now housed in the National Museum in Dublin.
Castle Archdale extending over 230 acres is located on the Eastern shore of Lower Lough Erne just 10 miles north west of Enniskillen. It surrounds the demesne of the Archdale Manor House, built in 1773. The Courtyard is complete with a visitor centre and World War 11 museum. A very relaxing place, despite a massive camping and caravan site and a marina frequented by the ubiquitous cruisers. And what is an additional bonus for the tourist – you don’t have to bring anything, from boats to bicycles everything you need can be hired on the spot. There are woodland and lough-shore walks, red deer enclosure, wildfowl ponds, nature trail, butterfly garden and wildflower meadow.
Belleek a village that borders with the republic of Ireland is famed for its fine parian china, best known for its delicate basketwork, shamrock decoration and lustre finish. The range has expanded to include designer items alongside the classic patterns and visitors can tour the 1857 factory, see the best example of the china and watch exquisite craftsmanship use the skills handed down from generation to generation. Then why not taste the fare in the restaurant which is served on Belleek tableware!
One of the highlights of a visit to Fermanagh is the mysterious beauty of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark with over 300 million years of history is here among a strange landscape of chasms and valleys, amid stalactites and stalagmites. You can glide along an underground river on electrically powered boats and explore winding passages and lofty chambers. Powerful lighting reveals the beauty and grandeur of the magnificent caverns.
The county has three National Trust properties,
Castle Coole, is an 18th century mansion designed by James Wyatt, with beautifully landscaped gardens and stunning interiors including a State Bedroom prepared for George 1V. The wooded landscape park slopes down to Lough Coole and is ideal for long walks.
Crom Estate is considered to be one of the National Trust’s most important nature reserves as the largest area of woodland in Northern Ireland. The old Castle Garden is also home to the ancient Yew Tree, named among the 50 greatest British trees.
Florence Court is noted for its rococo plasterwork and a fine collection of Irish furniture. It was the home of the Enniskillen family, who moved from a castle in the county town to the wild and beautiful setting of the present 18th century house. It was named in honour of a new English wife. It is surrounded by a large area of parkland, gardens and woodland.
John Armstrong (1717–1795), born in Fermanagh, United States Congressman
Denis Parsons Burkitt (1911–1993), doctor – discoverer of Burkitt’s lymphoma
Edward Cooney (1867–1960), evangelist and early leader of the Cooneyite and Go-Preachers
Bobby Kerr (1882–1963), athlete & Olympic Gold Medalist
Gordon Wilson (1927–1995), Peace campaigner and Irish senator