Trail 1 - Upper Lough Erne

Upper Lough Erne

1 Belcoo, Templenafferin and Templerushin

Belcoo village derives its name from the Irish ‘béal’ meaning mouth and ‘cumhang’ or ‘cung’ meaning narrowing, referring to its position on a narrow neck of water between Upper and Lower Lough Macnean.

Little is known of the history of Templenafferin ruined church and graveyard (just outside Belcoo on the Garrison Rd) but the remains of an earthen enclosure suggests a monastic origin. A large bullaun stone with three indentations about 250 metres southwest is known as the baptismal font but may have pre-Christian connotations also.

Templerushin Medieval Church at Holywell has a little window in the wall of the church known as the leper window, where those with this illness could look in to observe Mass but could not attend. Near to the church there is a large spring, this is the Holywell, known as St Patrick’s Well or ‘Tub’ and founded by St Sinnell of Cleenish. There are two streams exiting the well, each flowing in a different direction. This water is reputed to be the coldest in Ireland and is thought to have healing properties for nervous and paralytic disorders.

Detour to Aghnaglack Cairn

The townland of Aghanaglack, (meaning ‘field of the hollow’) near Boho has a “double court tomb” which dates from 4000–2000 BC. The tomb consists of twin galleries aligned east-west. During excavation in 1938 the tomb was found to contain Bronze Age and Stone Age items, pots and arrowheads, some of which can be found on display at the Enniskillen County Museums.

2 Marble Arch Caves Scenic Route & Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

Travel to Florencecourt from Belcoo via the Geopark. The loop road takes you through a “burren” landscape of limestone almost scraped clear of soil during the last ice age about 12,000 years ago. Taking in the world-famous Marble Arch Caves, the Geopark boasts some of the finest natural landscapes in Ireland and offers a window into the area’s 650 million year past.

The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is host to one of Europe’s finest showcaves allowing visitors to explore a fascinating, natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers.

T: +44 (0) 28 6634 8855
www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com

3 Florencecourt Church of Ireland

Saint John’s is located about one mile from the village of Florencecourt in Killesher Parish. There is a wonderful background to the church ie. Benaughlin Mountain. The graveyard is the burial place of the Cole family, Earls of Enniskillen and of Dr. Willis, whose father discovered the original Irish Yew tree growing on the slopes of this mountain. This Dr. Willis is highly regarded in Japan as the man who introduced western medicine to Japan in the 1860s.

4 Florence Court House

The house, formerly the home of the Cole family (who took their title as the Earls of Enniskillen from the town founded by their ancestor William Cole in 1612) is surrounded by a large area of parkland, garden and woodland, with breathtaking views of Benaughlin and the Cuilcagh Mountains. The house was named after St John Cole’s wife, Florence Bourchier Wrey, who came from Cornwall. With its classical style and exquisite Rococo plasterwork, Florence Court is one of Ulster’s most important 18th century houses. Features of this magnificent demesne include pleasure grounds, walled garden, sawmill, ice house and summer house. South East of the house in the Cottage Wood you will find the Florence Court Yew (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’)- the ‘parent’ of all Irish yew trees. The original tree was discovered in about 1760.

Every aspect of life in this classical Irish house, with its fine interiors and exquisite decoration, are brought to life on fascinating guided tours.

T: +44 (0) 28 6634 8249
W:

5 Sheelin Irish Lace Museum

This museum has approximately 700 exhibits. All the five main types of lace made in Ireland are represented in the collection of Youghal Needlelace, Inishmacsaint Needlelace, Crochet, Limerick and Carrickmacross. All the lace dates from between 1850 to 1900. Items on display include several wedding dresses, wedding veils, shawls, parasols, collars, bonnets, christening gowns etc. Sheelin antiques specialise in selling Irish lace and linens.

W: www.antiqueirishlace.co.uk

Detour to Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre

Aughakillymaude’s Mummer Centre on the Lough shore, boosts an extraordinary sculpture exhibition dedicated to explaining the living heritage of mumming and masked rituals that has parallels throughout the European Agricultural Society.

Groups / families can take the opportunity to dress up in rustic straw disguises and be photographed alongside the “Horrible Wickerman effigy”. Besides photographic displays, workshops on strawcrafts (masks / harvest love knots) or rushwork can be arranged on weekdays or weekends with experienced strawcraftsmen.

Contact the Mummers Centre to participate or witness spectacular masked ritual events throughout the calendar year or to purchase mumming DVDs, books or folklife calendars.

T: +44 (0) 28 6774 2727 / 079 71 075955
E: jim.ledwith@btconnect.com

6 Cleenish Island

Cleenish or the ‘slanting’ island, just outside Bellanaleck, is accessible by a bridge. St Sinell, a monk famous for his holiness and learning, founded a monastery on this island on Lough Erne in the early sixth century. One of his most famous pupils was St Columbanus. There’s an old overgrown graveyard on the island but in more recent times Cleenish has been featured in the local newspaper after there was several different sightings of ghosts…

7 Belle Isle

The original house built by Sir Paul Gore in 1690 was improved and beautified in 1720 by Sir Ralph Gore, who later became Viscount Bellisle and Earl of Ross. When this island home needed repair in 1837, it was the work of Reverend John Grey Porter. His son, John Grey Vesey Porter, added the stable court, and recast the whole building in manorial style, adding the five storey tower at the south-east about 1890. Historians may also be keen to learn about its fifteenth century native Irish inhabitants as The Annals of Ulster were compiled on Belle Isle by the scribe Ruaidhrí Ó Luinín, under his patron Cathal Óg Mac Maghnusa .Nestled close to the water’s edge and set within a landscape of lakes and islands, Belle Isle Castle has been sensitively restored and now provides self-catering and fully catered accommodation.

W: www.belle-isle.com

Detour to Crom Estate

Crom Estate is a nature conservation site owned by the National Trust. There are almost 2,000 acres of woodland, farmland and parkland. The Visitor Centre gives an overview of the history of the estate. The present Crom Castle (private except for the West Wing) was built for the Third Earl of Erne in the 1830s and was designed by the English architect Edward Blore who was responsible for sections of Buckingham Palace. The castle was built in a neo-Tudor style using local dark sandstone. The estate includes many features of times past including the old farmyard, the boathouse, once the home of Lough Erne Yacht Club, the tea house, the church, schoolhouse etc. The grounds also contain the ruins of the Old Crom Castle, originally built in 1611 by Michael Balfour and acquired by the Crichtons in 1655. 

8 Lisnaskea

Lisnaskea meaning ‘the fort of the shield’ was once the seat of the Maguire Clan. The Maguires were crowned at the inauguration site, Skeagowra, on the Moat Fort in Cornashee townland, just outside the town. Sir Michael Balfour took control of the town during the Plantation of Ulster. In 1618, he oversaw the building of Castle Balfour. In 1821 the village came under the control of the Earls of Erne. They established the market in the town whilst bolstering and controlling development around the high street.

Lisnaskea Workhouse was built on a six-acre site on the south side of the town. It was built to accommodate 500 paupers, and the first inmates were admitted on February 25th 1843. Lisnaskea Workhouse continued to house the homeless and destitute until the 1940s.

The Famine memorial, located in what has become known as the ‘Paupers Graveyard’, was erected by Lisnaskea Historical Society, and marks the site where large numbers were buried during the height of the Famine.

The Corn Market Yard in Tudoresque style dates back to 1841. There is a carved High Cross depicting Adam & Eve beneath a tree. The Cross is taken from an early monastery and provides a striking centre point to the village.

9 Aghalurcher Church

St. Ronan is said to have founded a church here in the 7th century. The ruins we see today are from the medieval period. The Maguires, the chieftains of Fermanagh, patronised this church.

Did you know?
Aghalurcher means Achadh Urchair, the field of the cast or throw, taking its name from the old tradition handed down of St Ronan throwing a stone to determine the site of his church. The first throw landed in Inishcollan, and being an island was very much out of the way, and not thought suitable. A second throw landed on the present site.

10 Maguiresbridge

Maguiresbridge is named after the bridge over the Colebrooke River, first built by the local Maguire family about 1760.

11 Castle Coole

Castle Coole is the family home of the Earls of Belmore. Designed by James Wyatt, this magnificent neo-classical house took ten years to build and was completed in 1798. The interior of the house was created by some of the leading craftsmen of the late 18th century. Highlights of a tour of Castle Coole include the State Bedroom said to have been prepared for a visit by George IV in 1821 - a visit which he never made. The surrounding 700 acre estate is a fitting setting for the house, with parkland, Lough Coole and extensive woods. Visitors may enjoy walks in the grounds and also see the Grand Yard, the Servants’ Tunnel, The Laundry Yard and Servants’ Quarters, and historic basement.

W: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-coole

12 The Railway Bridge

On the approach to Enniskillen from Belfast there is a view of the river and a number of old columns rising from the water. These are the remains of the Weir’s Bridge - a railway bridge which took its name from Scarlet’s eel weirs nearby. The bridge carried the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway across the River Erne from the Great Northern Railway Station at Enniskillen to the Midland Great Western Railway near Ballisodare in County Sligo. The bridge was removed in the 1960s after the closure of the railway in 1957.