Enniskillen Things to Do

  • Portora Castle
    Portora Castle
    by wabat
  • Enniskillen Castle - Watergate
    Enniskillen Castle - Watergate
    by wabat
  • Devenish Island - Monastic Ruins
    Devenish Island - Monastic Ruins
    by wabat

Most Recent Things to Do in Enniskillen

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    Devenish Island

    by wabat Updated Jun 23, 2013

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    Devenish Island - Monastic Ruins
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    I will admit up front to not having actually visited Devenish Island on my most recent trip to Enniskillen – the attached photos are taken from the “mainland”.

    I am strongly of the view that one should not write tips/reviews on places one does not have first hand experience of.

    I do feel qualified to write this tip as I have visited Devenish Island on a few occasions, granted many years ago, and I am not totally senile yet so do recall the visits. Also, the subject matter of the tip – a 6th century monastery site (which I have at least verified is still there!) means that the details of the buildings and history would not have changed – even though this is Ireland where history has a propensity to change! That said, I am pretty sure that when I visited Machu Picchu a couple of years ago there were more “old” buildings there than there were on my previous visit some years earlier.

    I digress – back to Devenish Island.

    Devenish Island, on the southern end of Lower Lough Erne and 1.5 miles downstream from Enniskillen is one of the best preserved monastic sites in Ireland and was founded by St Molaise in the 6th century. On the island are the ruins of a monastery, two churches/ graveyards, an oratory and one of the finest round towers in Ireland.

    It is said that St Molaise, resting from his labors, listened spellbound to bird song that was the Holy Spirit communicating. The reverie lasted a hundred years, and then St. Molaise looked around after the interval and the monastery had been built.

    While one might imagine this island monastery to be fairly secure is was in fact plundered and destroyed twice (836 and 923) by waterborne Vikings who made their way up the lake. The monastery was re-established but became increasingly involved in secular affairs and local politics. Its reward for this was the burning of its churches in 1157 and in 1176 the round tower was the site of the murder of a local king’s son by his kinsmen. At around this time, the Monastery's most important relic – the Soicel Molaise, or book shrine of St Molaise was created – this bible case (without bible) is now in the National Museum in Dublin.

    Towards the end of the 12th century the Irish monastic churches came under the control of bishops and were organized into dioceses, etc. On Devenish the old monastic community survived as secular priests. Devenish served as the host site for various treaties, commissions and assizes and was the site of a 1259 meeting of Irish Kings, Hugh O' Connor of of Connacht, and Brian O' Neill, of Ulster (also high-king of Ireland) where they agreed to unite against the English.

    The Reformation and defeat of the Ulster Irish Chieftains by the English brought this monastic community to an end in 1603. Parish worship moved off the island in 1630, though the cemeteries remained in use until into the 19th century. See my related tip - The Church of St. Molaise - Monea

    In terms of the buildings on Devenish Island today – the round tower and the walls of the Oratory of St Molaise near the lower church ruins date from the 12th century while the lower church, dedicated to St Molaise, dates the 13th century. The youngest building here, and highest up on the island, is the 15th century St Mary’s Augustinian Priory replete with original stone cross.

    The round tower stands at 30 metres (100ft) tall – you can climb to the top via internal ladders.

    A visit to the Island is highly recommended – getting there, outside July and August, is the tricky part. If you can get to it your certainly should go.

    Getting there:

    Direct Ferry

    In July – August a ferry leaves from Trory Point (form which I took the attached photos), down a short lane at the junction of the B82 to Kesh and the A32 to Ballinamallard 3 miles north of Enniskillen Town Centre.

    Sailing times – July and August

    Thursday - Monday
    Sailing Times: 10am, 1pm, 3pm & 5pm (Possible additional sailings on request)
    Adult fare £3
    Concession/Child aged 5-16 £2
    Under fives are free

    Outside this period contact Castle Archdale Country Park 028 68621588 or Ferry Mobile 07702 052 873 for access details.

    Commercial Tours

    Commercial boat tours (my preference - they allow an hour or so on Devenish which is sufficient) on Lower Lough Erne taking in Devenish operate from the Round O in Enniskillen (MV Kestrel) and from The Manor House Hotel, Killadeas (Lady of the Lake).

    Fares – Adults 10, Senior Citizens £9, Children under 12 £6
    Family Ticket £28 (2 adults and 2 children under 10)

    Check with the operators or the very helpful tourist information office in Enniskillen for operation times.

    Expect there to be little or no access between mid September and Easter unless you have your own boat. If you fall into the later category of visitor you can access the island any time though I imagine you may not be able to climb the tower.

    Access to the ruins is free.

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    Out and about at Florence Court House

    by wabat Written Jun 22, 2013

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    View from the Summer House
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    Florence Court House is set in beautiful parkland, woodland and gardens (the Pleasure Grounds) with stunning views across to Benaughlin and Cuilagh Mountains. Take a seat in the (Pacific Island inspired??) Summer House and admire the mountain view as well as the garden itself (picture one).

    The estate includes a walled garden (replete with Rose Cottage - picture five - that can be rented out) with displays of both temperate and semi-tropical plants, a working water-powered sawmill, an ice house and a natural spring well.

    As you stand on the steps of the house and look out across a very beautiful lawn you may wonder why the cows you see grazing a little further out do now come onto the lawn. Walk out to the edge of the lawn and you will see why. Rather than build a wall across the front of the house and spoil the view – the ground was raised or lowered as required at the edge of the desired lawn area such that trench and hidden wall was created – sufficient to restrain the animals and preserve an uninterrupted vista - picture two.

    To the south east of the house (easy signposted walk – the Yew Tree trail) and just outside the estate you can see the Florence Court Yew, the “parent” of all Irish yew trees – first discovered here in around 1760 - picture three. It is believed that almost all the Irish Yew specimens common in churchyards throughout the world come from this one tree as indeed are the yews in the gardens within the estate.

    Lots of nice walks can be done around the 220 acre property and further afield. During the summer bicycles can be hired (not necessary for the estate itself) by those keen to explore a little further away. The Kingfisher Trail (NCN91) passes by. While I didn’t ride (I was there pre-summer) I think this would be a great thing to do for a few hours – lovely scenery in these parts.

    Opening times

    Note that entry to the House attracts an additional charge and that the café and gift shop keep House hours which are shorter than the Garden hours – see separate tip – Florence Court House.

    Gardens & Park - Opening hours

    1 Jan-28 Feb 10am to 4pm daily
    1 Mar – 31 Oct 10am to 7pm daily
    1 Nov-31 Dec 10am to 4pm daily

    Entrance Fee:
    Adult: £4.50, Child: £2.00, Family: £11.00

    Getting there

    By Car: The House is well signposted and located on the outskirts of the village of Florencecourt, which was named after the House. It is 8 miles south-west of Enniskillen via A4 Sligo road and A32 Swanlinbar road, 4 miles from Marble Arch Caves.

    By Bus: Ulsterbus 192 Enniskillen to Swanlinbar, alight Creamery Cross, 2-mile walk

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    Florence Court House

    by wabat Written Jun 22, 2013

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    Florence Court House
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    This National Trust property was the home of the Cole (Earl of Enniskillen) family from the early 1700s to 1973.

    The Cole family, originally William Cole arrived in County Fermangh from Devon, England, in around 1612 when he was awarded the island of Enniskilen as part of the Plantation of Ulster. William Cole renovated and extended Enniskillen Castle, formerly owned by the Maguire Clan, and this became the original family residence. The castle was severely damaged in a fire in 1710, at which point the Coles moved to Portora, another Plantation castle on the outskirts of Enniskillen.

    Florence Court is romantically named after the wife of Sir John Cole who first built a house on the site in the early 18th century – at which stage the Coles moved here from Portora Castle. The present Palladian style house was probably built by his son John – around 1760 or slightly earlier.

    The Rococco decorated House (though not its furniture) was donated to the National Trust in 1953 and opened to the public the following year – though it was partially occupied by Cole family members until 1973. Andrew John Galbraith Cole the current and 7th Earl of Enniskillen lives on an estate in Kenya.

    Within a year, in 1954, a disastrous fire ripped though the house causing significant damage to the upper floors though, though quick thinking and action by tradesmen, the richly decorated ceiling in the dining room was saved. The house what painstakingly restored and in the 1990’s the Cole family restored much of the original furniture to the House including many very personal artifacts. Other furniture which had been sold by the family in the intervening years was bought back by the National Trust and returned to Florence Court. I especially enjoyed the library, which unlike that of many stately houses actually gives you the feel that it was and could be used on a daily basis. Having so much of the original furniture and personal artifacts in the house make it feel as if it is actually lived in – even as you visit.

    Internal visits of the house are by (informative) guided tour only, which place significant emphasis on the classic “upstairs downstairs” intrigue and nature of the house as you move through the Cole’s family rooms before going downstairs to the very extensive servants quarters, kitchen and various storage areas – not least the rather large wine cellar – alas, empty. You will walk through a service tunnel under the front of the house - one couldn’t have "the help" scuttling across the front of the house and spoiling his Lordship's or the Lady's view.

    While two apartment type units (for visiting relatives like the Colonel – visit for more info!) are located at either side of the house the actual house is the rather modest (modest in terms of stately houses) “square box” in the centre. The colonnaded wings on either side are just covered walkways added in the 1770s purely for aesthetic purposes and to make the house look bigger and more stately than it really was. They serve their intended purpose well.

    Florence Court House is set in stunning location- see my separate review on the gardens and various outhouses.

    There is a quite reasonable “Stables” café/tearoom in one of the outhouses which also serves as the reception area and ticket office, though as I recall I bought my house tour ticket at the main entrance gate as I entered to estate and paid the ground entrance fee. The café here is a better option for lunch if you are making your visit to Florence Court and the Marble Arch Caves a day trip as I suggest you do – though if you have the time each can occupy more than half a day especially if you have a liking for walking.

    Entrance Fee:

    Formerly you only had to pay an entrance fee if you did the house tour. By the time of my most recent visit in April 2013 an entrance fee to the grounds had been introduced as well making a full adult admission now a rather hefty £9.00 – that said the National Trust do a wonderful job maintaining this and its other properties. Should you be visiting more than two or three National Trust properties you may want to consider Trust membership.

    Gardens and park
    Adult: £4.50, Child: £2.00, Family: £11.00

    House Tour
    Adult: £4.50, Child: £2.00, Family: £11.00

    Opening times - 2013:

    Gardens & Park
    1 Jan-28 Feb 10am to 4pm daily
    1 Mar – 31 Oct 10am to 7pm daily
    1 Nov-31 Dec 10am to 4pm daily

    House (11am-5pm last tour 4pm)
    16 Mar-28 April weekends/bank holidays
    29 Mar -7 April daily Easter week
    1May-30 May daily except Friday
    1 June-31 Aug daily
    1-30 Sept daily except Friday
    5-27 Oct weekends + Mon 28
    27 Dec – 31 Dec daily 1-4pm (gardens & park, Colonel’s room, shop and tearoom only)

    Gift Shop & Tearoom open as house

    Getting there

    By Car: The House is well signposted and located on the outskirts of the village of Florencecourt, which was named after the House. It is 8 miles south-west of Enniskillen via A4 Sligo road and A32 Swanlinbar road, 4 miles from Marble Arch Caves.

    By Bus: Ulsterbus 192 Enniskillen to Swanlinbar, alight Creamery Cross, 2-mile walk to the House from here.

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    Inniskillings Museum

    by wabat Updated Jun 22, 2013

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    Inniskillings Museum - Regimental Snuff Box
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    This museum, in the Keep or main castle building (along with a section on the Maguires) and former stables of Enniskillen Castle houses artefacts from the two army regiments raised in the town. This is a great museum if you are interested in military history.

    Enniskillen is the only town in the British Isles to have raised two army regiments bearing the town’s name in one of its alternative spellings. These were the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.

    Both Regiments (one infantry and the other cavalry) trace their roots back to 1688 when local soldiers sided with Protestant William III in his successful quest to defeat, and take the throne of England from, Catholic King James II. Originally raised to defend Enniskillen from Jacobite forces, both Regiments were soon incorporated in William’s army with the Fusiliers going on to fight with William at the Battle of the Boyne, 1690.

    Both regiments continued to flourish and were, and are, most respected units of the British Army and have achieved great fame in numerous theatres of war across the globe. Just outside the Castle Museum Complex you will see the Boer War Memorial which commemorates the Inniskilling Regiments losses in the Boer War.

    The Regiment's names have varied over the years and today the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers form part of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Inniskilling Dragoon Guards form part of the Royal Dragoon Guards.

    The museum's exhibits include regimental uniforms, weapons, standards, badges, medals, engravings and photographs. In pride of place is the bugle sounded at the charge of the regiment in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The Regimental Chapel for the Inniskilling Regiments is within, the nearby, St Macartin's Cathedral - its houses various regimental colours and other items of interest to those with an interest in the Regiments.

    The Howitzer Gun -picture one- , close to the Watergate, was captured from the German Army in WWI and was presented to the family of Lieutenant Otto Brooke of Brookborough to commemorate his award of the Victoria Cross.

    Entry to the museum is included in a combined ticket for the Enniskillen Castle complex – purchased in the Fermanagh County Museum (part of, and entrance to, the Castle Complex).

    Opening Hours: Given the variation in opening hours throughout the year and on different days of the week I am not going to try and include them here but rather I direct you to the website - www.enniskillencastle.co.uk/visiting-us/opening-hours/

    Entrance Fee:
    Adult £4.00
    Child £3.00
    Student & Senior Citizen £3.00
    Family Rate (2 adults and 3 children under 16 years) £11.00

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    St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church

    by wabat Written Jun 21, 2013

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    St Michael's Church - Rear View
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    Built in 1875, shortly after the current incarnation of its Protestant neighbor across the street (St Macartin’s Cathedral ), St Michael's was designed by John O’Neill a very distinguished 19th century Ulster Catholic architect. His design had included a belfry and spire but these could not be built at the time because of soft foundations. A unique but necessary feature of St Michael’s are the flying-buttresses which were added in 1921 to reinforce the west wall. The current spire was added in later years (picture two).

    This French Gothic style church has a very narrow street frontage but it extends quite some distance backwards. The exterior of the church is best viewed from the rear on Wellington Road where its size becomes apparent (picture one). Note also the buttresses which I referred to above in this picture.

    Internally the church is quite beautiful and is laid out in basilica style with six bay arcades, each containing artwork, on either side of the main aisle. The florid Italian-Gothic High Altar was built in 1882 (picture five).

    Of particular significance and beauty is the artwork in the church – amongst which you will find 1890’s paintings of the Transfiguration, the Sermon on the Mount, Magdalen at the feet of our Lord, and the Baptism in the Jordan by Charles Russell and a 1910 Nativity scene by Michael Healy (picture four). When entering the church don’t forget to look up and admire the intricate carving over the main external door (picture three)

    History was made in 2012 when St Michael's Church was selected as the first Catholic Church in Northern Ireland (and indeed Ireland) to be visited by Queen Elizabeth.

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    St Macartin’s Cathedral

    by wabat Written Jun 21, 2013

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    St Macartin's Cathedral - (credit - diocese photo)
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    Having secured Enniskillen in 1607 during the Ulster Plantation, William Cole set about developing the town. The Island had two small hills. Cole decided that the higher of the hills would be the site of a church while the slightly lower would be used as a market place – the Townhall now occupies the latter site.

    Apart from a small lattice window and a stone from the tower above the main entrance door of the current Church of Ireland Cathedral nothing of the original 1627 church remains. Essentially what you see today is the 1842 church (the parish church of St Anne's until it became the cathedral church of St. Macartin in 1923) with a 50 metre spire visible from miles away. Macartan was a converted pagan member of St Patrick’s household. St Partick appointed Macartan as the first bishop of the diocese of Clogher (of which Enniskillen is part) in 454. As the cathedral in Clogher is also named St Macartan’s the Enniskillen cathedral of St Macartin came to be spelt with an “i”.

    The Cathedral houses the Regimental Chapel (since 1970) of the Inniskilling Regiments – left hand nave of the church as you face the altar. I have indicated elsewhere that not one, but two, regiments of the British Army were raised in Enniskillen. If you have an interest in the history of these regiments you will certainly also want to visit the Inniskillings Museum in the nearby Enniskillen Castle Complex - though you should go there for other reasons too. In the Cathedral you will see various Regimental Colours of both the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.

    In the chapel, a book of remembrance records all ranks of the Regiments killed since Waterloo (1815). In that campaign, 119; South Africa (1835), 13; the Indian Mutiny (1856), 14; Tirah and Frontier (1897-1898), 9; South Africa (1899-1902), 186; First World War (1914-1918), 5,260; Second World War (1939-1945), 1,133.

    Memorial plaques are numerous in the church and include many related to the Inniskilling Regiments and the Cole Family (Earls of Enniskillen from 1789).

    In terms of silverware the Cathedral stacks up well and has in its possession some interesting Communion silver, the Davis Chalice made in 1638, the Cathcart Flagon given in 1707, and a paten dated 1743. Unfortunately these items are not on public display due to their high value.

    Another interesting feature of this cathedral is the that it has ten bells which are often used to play well known hymns such as “Abide with Me” which was written by a former pupil of the town’s Portora Royal School. Wabat’s brother is an occasional tinkler (I believe the correct term is campanologist) of the cathedral bells so if you hear the bells ringing it may be him on the ropes (the hourly and quarter hours chimes are automated though). Talking about Portora, if you are in Enniskillen in December not only will you find it is very cold but you will be able to attend Portora’s annual carol service which is held in the cathedral – highly recommended if you are in town. Check with the school or cathedral for details.

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    Fermanagh County Museum

    by wabat Written Jun 20, 2013

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    Private Hen House!
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    This is a local museum concentrating on the (mainly non military) history, archaeology, natural history, local art and culture of County Fermanagh. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions from time to time.

    The Museum started out its life in 1976 in the Enniskillen Castle Keep but moved to its current specially built building in 1992-3 though a section of the museum relating to the Maguires is still housed in the Keep (the main castle building in the centre of the complex).

    The military history of Fermanagh post around 1680, centering on the two Inniskilling Regiments, is covered by the Inniskillings Museum in the main castle building.

    Entry to all buildings in the Enniskillen Castle complex is included in one ticket – purchased in the Fermanagh County Museum.

    A Couple of things to look out for in the museum:

    - Abstract artwork by the internationally renowned local artist, William Scott (1913 – 1989)
    - Window fragment from a late medieval church.

    To be honest, for me, this is only worthy of a visit as you walk through it to see the much more impressive Enniskillen Castle buildings and the Inniskillings Museum. There might be something that attracts you for a few minutes.

    Opening Hours: Given the variation in opening hours throughout the year and on different days of the week I am not going to try and include them here but rather I direct you to the website - www.enniskillencastle.co.uk/visiting-us/opening-hours/

    Entrance Fee:
    Adult £4.00
    Child £3.00
    Student & Senior Citizen £3.00
    Family Rate (2 adults and 3 children under 16 years) £11.00

    Note - There is, regrettably, no coffee shop on site - just a vending machine

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    Enniskillen Castle Complex

    by wabat Updated Jun 20, 2013

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    Enniskillen Castle - Watergate
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    The castle complex consists of a number of buildings including the Keep (main castle), the Watergate, a magazine, various barracks buildings and a reception area. The reception area which houses the Fermanagh County Museum was opened in 1992-3.

    The first castle, or forerunner of the current castle (keep) -picture four- was built pre 1428 by Hugh (the Hospitable) Maguire. While nearby Lisnaskea was the primary seat of the Maguire clan, securing Enniskillen - a gateway into Ulster from the south was an important strategic and defensive imperative. The castle helped defend Fermanagh from attack, particularly from the neighbouring O’Rourke and O’Donnell clans. While not often talked about the Irish were quite happy to fight amongst themselves long before the English joined in!

    Water ditches on the land side of the castle at this time were subsequently filled in and the current large windows added well after the Maguires vacated.

    Following the Flight of the Earls in 1607 or taking advantage there-of, depending on your perspective, William Cole from Devon, England, received the island of Enniskillen in the Plantation of Ulster and rebuilt and enlarged the castle in 1612. This was the most important of a number of Plantation castles built around Country Fermanagh to secure the planters tenure. I have written separate tips on many of these castles – Portora, Monea, Tully, Crevenish and Castle Balfour.

    The Watergate -picture two-, the best known and most photographed part of the castle complex is not in fact a gate at all, but rather a Scottish style adornment which was added in 1614 while the Coles remained in residence. It was important that locals admire this island residence.

    Look up and you will see the flag of St George flying over the Watergate. This tradition dates back to the 17th century when soldiers from the two Inniskilling Regiments fought with William of Orange (William III) against James II. The Watergate was subsequently adopted as an emblem of both Regiments.

    A fire gutted the Castle in 1710 at which stage the Coles moved to Portora Castle and thence to Florence Court House. The castle then lay in ruins until 1796 when it was rebuilt as a military barracks. The curved building following the line of the River Erne - picture one and three - was constructed between 1806 and 1830 as stables with quarters above for cavalrymen. Later upstairs was used by artillerymen and at one stage was used as a military hospital. The barracks building on the northern edge of the site was constructed in 1829.

    The complex remained a military barracks until 1926 though the Territorial Army were based here from 1947 to 1958. Today the Keep houses the Inniskillings Museum and the County Museum’s history of the Maguires.

    Entry to the castle buildings is via a combined ticket which also grants admission into the Inniskilling Museum (the castle Keep) and the Fermanagh County Museum. The ticket is purchased in the Fermanagh County Museum (part of, and entrance to, the Castle Complex).

    Opening Hours: Given the variation in opening hours throughout the year and on different days of the week I am not going to try and include this detail here but rather I direct you to the website - www.enniskillencastle.co.uk/visiting-us/opening-hours/

    Entrance Fee:
    Adult £4.00
    Child £3.00
    Student & Senior Citizen £3.00
    Family Rate (2 adults and 3 children under 16 years) £11.00

    Note - There is, regrettably, no coffee shop on site - just a vending machine

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    Boer War Memorial

    by wabat Written Jun 20, 2013

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    Boer War Memorial  - Enniskillen

    The Boer War memorial, now located just outside the entrance to the Enniskillen Castle complex, commemorates those who lost their lives, from the two Enniskillen raised Regiments of the British Army - the Royal Inniskillings and the Inniskilling Dragoons in the 1899-1902 Boer War.

    The 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers arrived in Durban in December 1899 to join the army advancing to relieve Ladysmith. At the river Colenso the British lost over 1100 casualties to minimal Boer losses. The Inniskillings lost 117 men.

    On the fourth relief attempt, in February 1900, the Boer defences were breached on the Tugela Heights and the advance to lift the siege was successful. The Inniskillings achieved great fame for their courageous attack, in spite of heavy casualties, up the hill which became known as Inniskilling Hill.

    The 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons arrived in Cape Town in October 1899 and joined General French's Cavalry Division for the invasion of the Orange Free State and the relief of Mafeking.

    During the Boer War, the Inniskilling Fusiliers lost 14 officers and 182 other ranks while the Inniskilling Dragoons lost 5 officers and 78 other ranks. As many men died from diseases like Typhoid as from enemy action.

    This memorial used to be on a roundabout in the east end of the town but was moved to its current location in 2007 with a view to relieving anticipated traffic congestion in the east end of the town once Asda and Tesco built then recently approved superstores. Council records indicate that Asda/Tesco paid for the removal of the monument and for various new traffic lights.

    This is actually one of two Boer War Memorials I am aware of in Enniskillen. I recall another one from my school days, located in the nearby Portora Royal School. The school memorial commemorates those old boys who served in, or were lost in, the Boer War.

    Do have a look as you make your way to or from the Enniskillen Castle Museums complex.

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    The Forthill Promenade and Pleasure Park

    by wabat Written Jun 19, 2013

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    Cole's Monument
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    A rather formal name for a very pretty little park worthy an hour or so of your time – locals refer to it as Forthill Park or simply Cole's Monument. You might secure a rather strange look about town if you enquire as to the whereabouts of the Pleasure Park!

    Prior to being called Forthill Park, from Plantation times (early 1600s) this small park was called Commons Hill, Cow Hill and Camomile Hill and was a common area where local people grazed their animals. In 1689 a star shaped artillery fort was built on the hill which then became known as Forthill. In 1832 Forthill again became a public area – this time a park – when the military left.

    It’s a very pleasant little park – in fact the only one in Enniskillen – with a few short walks amongst the shrubbery.

    In the centre of the park, on the bastions of the former fort, is Cole’s Monument, erected in the memory of Sir Lowry Cole a local politician and distinguished general In the British Army. The monument which was started in 1845 and which took twelve years to complete takes the form of a Doric column topped by a stature of (to give him his full honorifics) General the Hon Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole GCB which was created by Irish sculptor, Terence Farrell.

    Cole was Member of Parliament in the Irish House of Commons for the family seat of Enniskillen from 1797 to 1800, and represented Fermanagh in the British House of Commons in 1803. Cole's military career saw him serve in the West indies, Ireland, Egypt, Sicily and on the Iberian Peninsula.

    Cole’s saw service in the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot – a local Enniskillen Regiment - before taking command of the full 4th Infantry Division (which included the Inniskillings). Two regiments of the British Army can trace their roots to this small frontier town – more about this in another tip.

    Cole also served as the 2nd Governor of Mauritius from 1823 to 1828 and Governor of the Cape Colony from 1828 to 1833.

    The Monument is 96 ft high and you can climb the 108 steps to the top for a good view over the town of Enniskillen and surrounding area. Note that if you want to go up the monument you need to acquire a ticket at Tourist Information Office on Wellington Road in the town, a short walk from the Townhall and across the road from the Bus Station.

    Also in the park is a very nice cast–iron Victorian band-stand erected in 1895 as a memorial to Thomas Plunkett, antiquarian and town commissioner, who regenerated the park which has become rather overgrown and neglected by the 1880s.

    An interesting little anecdote is that after the Crimean War a captured Russian Gun was brought to the park. It fired a salute to the first train arriving into Enniskillen in 1857 and broke all the windows in Belmore Street at the bottom of the park.

    Opening Time
    Park - year round
    Monument - Mid April-End Sep: Daily 1.30pm - 3pm (other times by arrangement)

    Entrance Fee
    Park - Free
    Monument - I cant recall but small.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Historical Travel

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    The Marble Arch and Cladagh River Walk

    by wabat Written Jun 18, 2013

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    The Marble Arch
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    While the Marble Arch Caves are in themselves a primary tourist attraction in County Fermanagh you should certainly allocate a bit of extra time to your trip here so that you can have a walk overground in this beautiful part of the Country.

    The Global Geopark area in which the caves are located offer a large number of walking opportunities – you could spend days or longer walking in the area. The walk range from short nature trails suitable for the whole family, to long-distance walks for more seasoned hill walkers.

    Each walk is waymarked and details on each route are given at the starting point.

    Time just permitted me to do one walk and I chose an hour long walk from the Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre - The Cladagh River Walk. This walk, takes you down from the Visitor Centre into a steep-sided gorge through a shaded (when there is foliage!) glen of damp ash woodland to the river where the walk becomes fairly flat running alongside the river. The woodland here is a tiny remnant of the vast wild wood that once covered most of Ireland. The ash is one of the latest trees to come into leave hence the lack of foliage even though I visited in early May.

    Look out for pine martens and red squirrels along the walk.

    As you make your way down to the river you will pass the Marble Arch itself, from which the cave system takes its name. This is the point from which the river emerges from the cave system. The arch gets its name from the polished nature of the limestone which people originally thought was marble. As I indicated in my Caves tip this area has long been frequented by tourists and was actually a popular spot for wedding photos in late Victorian times.

    Walk Grade: Easy (though there are over 100 steps down to the river)
    Distance: 3.6km
    Terrain: Well surfaced footpath and boardwalk.

    You can also access the Cladagh Glen Walk from Cladagh Bridge on the Florencecourt to Belcoo Road. If you have a driver in your party not wishing to do the walk and you don’t want to climb back up to the Cave’s Visitor Centre get picked up from the car park at the Cladagh Bridge.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Marble Arch Caves

    by wabat Updated Jun 9, 2013

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    Marble Arch Caves
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    The UNESCO recognised Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is host to the Marble Arch showcaves which include fascinating natural underground rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers. For the feature spotter, there is an ample supply of stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, cave curtains, rimstone pools, flowstones, fossils and an assortment of other cave formations, some dating from a time when Northern Ireland was submerged in a tropical ocean. The caves are well lit (without using the coloured lights often used in caves nowadays to artificially enhance features) and accessed along purpose built viewing walkways. UNESCO describes the Marble Arch Caves as among Europe’s finest showcaves.

    The caves are named after the nearby Marble Arch, a natural limestone arch at the upstream end of Cladagh Glen under which the Cladagh River flows. See my separate review for walks in the Geopark area – The Real Marble Arch.

    The cave system can only be visited via a guided tour. If our guide is any indication of the others then they are lively and informative, getting across a raft of geological and cave information in an interesting an non-scientific manner.

    Many of the cave features have been given names including the Moses Walk, the Porridge Pot and the Guardian Angel. Some of these require a pretty large amount of lateral thinking and seeing to seem appropriate though. The Moses Walk is one of the few man-made structures in the caves and allows you to ‘walk’ through an underground lake.

    Tours last for around 75 minutes and are suitable for people of average fitness. You have to cope with 150 steps and a distance of around 1.5kms. Do wear comfortable walking shoes with a grip (paths are wet but not flooded) and wear a warm sweater as its permanently chilly in the caves.

    Typically the tour starts with a short boat ride though this was not operating on my most recent visit due to the low level of water in the river (a small discount was given on the entry fee as a result - a thoughtful touch).

    The caves have good parking, a souvenir shop, restaurant/cafe (which is ok – though if you are making a day of this and nearby Florencesourt House - separate tip- I recommend eating at the latter), exhibition area (small but certainly worth a look while waiting for your tour to start or afterwards) and an audio-visual theatre all of which are in the Visitors Centre.

    While the showcave here didn’t wasn’t opened until 1985, the cave system has been known about for a long time and in fact tourists are known to have first visited the caves in the late 19th century. I recall a school trip to the caves in the early 1980s.

    Opening times

    Mid-March - June 10am - 4.30pm
    July – August 10.30am – 5.00pm
    September 10am – 4.30pm

    Note: Closing time is the time that the last tour commences. Shop, etc closes about 90 minutes after this time.

    All tours are subject to prevailing weather conditions – Call ahead if it has been raining to ensure that tours are running.

    Entrance fees:

    Adult – GBP 8.75
    Under 18 – GBP 5.75
    Student/OAP GBP 5.95 (ID necessary)

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Archeology

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    Castle Archdale Country Park,

    by wabat Updated Jun 9, 2013

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    Castle Archdale - Courtyard
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    History

    The original building on this site, and the one which gives it its name, was a Plantation castle built in 1615 for the English planter, John Archdale, on land granted in 1612. The Castle was temporarily captured during the 1641 Irish Rebellion when Irish rebels attempted, unsuccessfully, to remove the Plantation settlers from Ireland. The Castle was recovered and repaired only to be finally burned and abandoned during the Williamite Wars of 1689. Little survives of the castle today. What is there is surrounded by thick forest plantation and is at the end of a long straight avenue of late 17th century or early 18th century date - worth the walk in itself.

    In 1773 Colonel Mervyn Archdale (great great grandson of John Archdale) built a period style manor-house to replace the Plantation castle – picture two. Stones for the manor-house were supposedly taken for the old monastic ruins and Kiterney and tradition tells us that a curse was accordingly delivered upon the Archdales such that no heir would ever be born within the walls of this house. Whether due to the curse or other reasons no heirs were ever born in this house.

    The Archdales continued to live at the old manor-house till about 1942 when it, and indeed the whole estate, was requisitioned by the Royal Air Force. During the Second World War, Castle Archdale was a major RAF base, housing up to 2,500 people. PBY Catalinas and Short Sunderlands flying boats flew from Castle Archdale to protect Atlantic shipping from German U-boats. The manor house became the officers' mess, with the stables and other outbuildings used for administration purposes.

    The RAF remained here until 1957 and the manor-house was derelict by 1959 and was finally demolished in 1970 - for safety reasons. All that remains of the house now is its site, paved and ballustraded; however, the grand cobbled farm courtyard and former farm buildings and servants quarters remain well preserved behind it and today are the Visitors Centre for the Country Park now managed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

    Visiting Today

    The Visitors Centre has a small World War 2 exhibition which concentrates on the role of the flying boats during the war and the park itself has a number of marked woodland nature trails the longest of which will take you around an hour to walk. Keep an eye out for WWII artifacts as you walk around.

    Bicycle hire, boat hire and pony trekking are also possible from the marina/caravan park/camping area (Easter – September) which also has ample mooring for visiting boats. As I did not visit this commercial part of the park – adequately secluded from the Visitors Centre and the remainder of the Park so as to in no way spoil them – I can't comment on them though do suggest you visit this website, http://www.castlearchdale.com/, if interested in this aspect of the Park.

    All in all a great spot to spend a few hours enjoying beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and a lively history dating back to early Christian times if you throw in a visit to nearby White Island (as you should, indeed must). The tower – which greatly resembles a church tower - that you see as you enter the park is a rather later 19th century addition.

    Assess to the White Island Monastic Site (separate tip) is via a ferry from the marina. This ferry operates hourly between 11am and 5pm from Easter to September.

    Opening hours:

    Note - hours here are based on a government website and an onsite notice board which contradict each other. If you want to be sure before leaving check with the Visitor Information Centre in Enniskillen.

    Country Park:
    1 Oct - 30 Mar 9am - 4.30 daily
    1 Apr - 31 May 9am - 7pm daily
    1 Jun - 30 Sept 9am-9pm daily
    1 Oct - 31 Oct 9am - 4.30pm

    Visitor Centre/ Museum
    1 Oct - 31 Mar 12noon - 4pm Sunday
    1 Apr - 31 May 1pm-5pm Sat, Sun & Public Holidays only
    1 Jun - 30 Sept 9am-4.30pm daily

    Tea-rooms
    Easter to June and September – Week-ends only 11am – 6pm
    July and August - Daily 11am – 6pm

    Entrance fee: Free

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel
    • Castles and Palaces

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    Meet the Bishop at Killadeas

    by wabat Written Jun 8, 2013

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    Bishop's Stone - Rear Pagan side
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    On your right hand side as you enter the graveyard of the Priory Church of Killadeas are several interesting stones dating from the 7th – 9th centuries, especially interesting for their very obvious overlap of ‘pagan’ and Christian imagery.

    Probably the most well known and pictured is the Bishops Stone (pictures one and two). This stone has clearly been altered and reused several times. On the broad side of this one metre stone is a simple depiction of an elderly ecclesiastic –the bishop -in a short garment, holding a crozier and a bell and wearing pointed slippers – picture two – look carefully. The clearer but more garish pagan figure on the back – picture one (with interlacing now replacing earlier body features) is thus surprisingly not what actually gives the stone its name. The Bishop carving is the later of the two carvings, adding weight to the view that the stone was adopted by the Christians when they took over what had been an earlier pagan site.

    Again (in keeping with the theme of recycling!) the 1.5 metre Cross Slab Stone in picture three, while having a Greek cross in a circle with a bifurcated stem on the front, has 10-12 cupped shaped hollows on the back suggesting that at some earlier time it was used as a grinding stone or for some other form of pre-historical ritual use. This is why this stone is also often referred to as the 'Ballaun Stone'. An early inscription "BENDACHT AR ART U LURCAIN" a blessing upon Art ua Lurcain is not longer visible on the stone.

    Nearby, in addition to numerous unmarked stone grave markers of in-determinant age can be see a small, broken phallic pillar (picture four) and a perforated stone half-embedded in the ground (picture five).

    The current 1881 church on this site replaces a earlier one, known as the Yellow Church because of the colour of its stonework. According to legend, the earlier church was first built on the wrong site because of the founder’s incorrect interpretation of a vision; after it had been finished and consecrated, angels are credited with its being ‘in one night taken up and laid where it is now’. Be that as it may.

    Opening times: 24/7

    Entry fee: Free

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel

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    Secure Everlasting Love in Lisnaskea

    by wabat Written Jun 6, 2013

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    Corn Market - Cross
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    Lisnaskea is the second town of the county of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland with a population of 2,500.

    The Corn and Potato Market in the centre of the town was established by the 3rd Earl of Erne in 1841 when the Celtic cross – the “Adam and Eve Cross” on a much older pedestal – the "Barter Stone" was placed in the square – closer to the fence than its current location.

    The town motto ‘Live and Let Live’ is carved into the central pediment, an Adam and Eve fresco on the road side face (difficult to see in the attached picture one due my having to take this picture into the sun) and thirty two circular bosses on the opposite face (picture two).

    The original homes of cross and pedestal are unknown though the cross is likely to have come from an early (estimated 10th century) church site in the Lisnaskea area – possibly Galloan or Inishroosk and the base is said to have “been dug up from somewhere near the town”.

    Tradition has it that the Cross and Barter Stone was a place where deals were made and oaths were sworn, merchants clinched deals and lovers swore oaths of everlasting love and loyalty.

    The placing of the cross in the market square was a quite deliberate act by the Earl of Erne to promote trade here.

    Pop in for a look if passing through. The town itself has a few decent pubs.

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel

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