Live like a king with a stay in an Irish Castle
By Tony Wheeler
THE LONELY PLANET
Live like a lord? If you’ve wondered what it’s like, then try a spell in a castle in Northern Ireland. The Lake District of County Fermanagh, on the western side of Ireland, is dotted with sturdy castles and romantic stately homes, a number of which can be rented for a weekend or a week.
The Earl of Erne still lives at Crom Castle on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, just as his ancestors have done for more than three centuries (although the current castle dates from only 1830). He can watch the deer graze between the castle and the lake, looking down toward the ruins of the old castle. “Survived two Jacobite sieges in 1689,” Lord Erne commented, “but caught fire and burnt to the ground in 1764.
“The tower wasn’t built until after the fire,” he continued, “When they built the new castle, they decided the view of the ruins of the old one didn’t look impressive enough, so they added a ruined tower.”
With a group of friends, we’d rented the West Wing of the castle for a week. There’s room for up to 12 people among its seven bedrooms, along with a living room looking onto the terrace, a dining room, a TV and computer room and even a boot room, where you can dry your shoes after exploring the 2,000 acre estate. Guests can also use the castle tennis court and leave their own outboard-powered dinghy for exploring the lake.
If the lordly life begins to fade, there’s plenty of interest in the area. Enniskillen at the junction of Upper and Lower Lough Erne, is the main town in the area, with fine old Castle Coole and the more warlike Enniskillen Castle to discover. Lower Lough Erne is dotted with ancient sites and mysterious stone figures, some of which may even predate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Devenish Island, reached by a short ferry ride, has the ruins of an Augustinian Monastery, an interesting collection of old gravestones and a lofty 12th Century round tower, which once would have been very useful for keeping watch for Viking raiders. Plus Dublin is close enough to make an enjoyable day trip.
Practical information: Dublin has many direct flights from the US or you can connect via London to Dublin (100 miles from Enniskillen) or Belfast (80 miles). Rent a car to get to your castle; you’ll want it for exploring the surrounding countryside.