Tucked away in a timeless corner of Northern Ireland stands a majestic 19th century Victorian castle. For generations Crom Castle, a historic Fermanagh landmark, has been home to the Crichton family, Earls of Erne. Now for the first time ever, the doors of the splendid private abode have opened to welcome guests keen to enjoy the experience of life in a real castle.
The venture, is the brainchild of Lord Erne and his son John, Lord Crichton who lives in the west wing. John is following his father’s footsteps into the west passage. Lord Erne 68, explained that part of the charm of the West Wing is that it’s John’s home and he wants to share it with others. This immaculate accommodation with en-suite bathrooms, can hold up to 11 guests. Each room sports its own individual character, tastefully decorated, in diverse styles bathed in lots of natural light, with awesome views across woodlands and islands of upper-Lough Erne. An old fashioned four-poster double bed adds romantic charm to the Buff Room, while the elegant Print Room, a double, has a dressing room with single bed attached. The Crichton Room is a double, the West Room is a single, while the Blue and Rose rooms hold twin beds. Significantly, the drawing room leads directly onto the west terrace where guests may watch the changing glow of sunset. Television,DVD,video and work-desk with phone, fax and space for and a line for lap-tops and private phone calls are available in the sitting room. Equally charming is the kitchen and dining room, once the castle’s billiard room with its wonderfully web-like intricate barrel-vaulted, ceiling.
Indoors, the castle is very cosy and refurbishment in the last couple of decades has helped to transform its interior to make it a modern home, while retaining its historic charm. Around 1,900 acres of woodland surround the castle in one of Northern Ireland’s most important nature conservation areas. Mellifluous birdsong is heard everywhere including the acres of lush green estate which is managed by the National Trust.
John Crichton 34, spends much of his time working in London where he is associate director of top blue chip estate agent Lane Fox dealing with the sale of residential property in areas such as Belgravia, Chelsea and South Kensington. “I come back to Crom as much as possible, from the hard grind of London where the contrast could not be more different,” he said. John knows each ancient tree in his earthy surroundings and recalls the monkey-puzzle tree where he played a as a child and the days of the garden tree-house. Good humour, love, warmth and closeness between father and son, is immediately apparent. Playfulness and heartiness in their relationship radiates as they chat beside the energetic log-fire in the magnificent drawing room. John said he has learned from his father, how Crom Estate works and has inherited his love of the countryside and the lakeland county.
He is keen that guests should feel looked-after and to this end, there is a superb managerial team at Crom which could include a cook if need be. John said : “It’s about the adventure of living in a castle, its a treat, and it’s a privilege. “It’s about a day in the life of living in a castle.” Packages can be tailor-made to suit all types of groups and guests whether its on a fully catered or self-catering basis. “It’s a different sort of break. it’s a holiday in a castle, but you are living with all the privacy. “This is a lovely way to be looked after,” he said. Lord Erne explained the concept is about sharing what he most enjoys about Crom. “It’s about the setting, the peace and quiet, flora and fauna and the fact that it’s a nature reserve. “We are at the end of the road, it’s a secret hideaway and we have Lough Erne,” he said. Opening up the West Wing to visitors is expected to generate a new income and contribute to maintenance costs at the castle. John acknowledges that times have moved on and the world of living in a big house is not as it was. Equally, Lord Erne recognises that when you live in a big house and the children have grown up and left, it’s only natural to consider new ways of exploring the space. “It is only right for my son to have a part of the castle,” he said. Growing up at Crom, John has always been aware of his responsibilities to people on the estate and in Fermanagh. Lord Erne : “I’m absolutely thrilled my son John shares with me, my love of Crom and wants to continue to come home and feel part of Fermanagh. He is following tradition and my love of Com and Lough Erne.” he said. John sees it as fitting that his home should embrace a modest amount of tourism. He is acutely aware that due to the peace process more people are coming to Northern Ireland, a claim backed by NITB’s latest figures. “People’s perception of Northern Ireland may easily have been dampened but once they have arrived at the gates of Crom, seeing Lough Erne and the tranquility, and the genuine kindness of people, it really does bring home to them, this is what it’s really like,” he said.
The castle accommodation and its environs, complete with a complimentary tennis court and use of the rowing boat with outboard engine will have enormous appeal to visitors from all walks of life, who want to pike-fish, walk in the woodlands, explore the ruins at the old castle, or enjoy golf or activities offered in Fermanagh, or simply soak up the tranquility of Crom itself. Corporate groups which seek alternative space to be creative or brain-storm ideas to unlock the key to future financial security, will definitely want to experience Crom. Painters who wish to invite the remarkable landscape onto their canvas, or those who simply want to hug the trees and feel the leaves,as well as friends celebrating poignant anniversaries or reunions,and everyone who loves the Fermanagh countryside will certainly enjoy the Crom Castle experience. Equally exciting is news that the National Trust has been granted a civil wedding licence for the estate, which opens up the possibility for small wedding groups to stay for a week at the fairytale castle.