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Trail 3 - Lower Lough Erne

Lower Lough Erne

1 Devenish Island

Devenish is one of the finest monastic sites in Ireland, founded in the 6th Century by Saint Molaise. The earliest buildings are St Molaise’s House (a very small church) and the round tower close by, both with accomplished Romanesque decoration of the 12th century. The lower church, nearest the jetty, was dedicated to Saint Molaise and dates from the early 13th century. The lower graveyard contains many fine stones but the oldest (11th of 12th Century) is a long flat slab near the SE corner with a two-armed cross .On the hilltop sits St Mary’s Augustinian Priory which is of the mid-15th century and early 16th century, with church, tower and small north cloister. The priory has an intricately carved mid-15th-century high cross in its graveyard.

Devenish Island is only accessible by boat. For ferry sailing times/guided tours contact Fermanagh Tourist Information Centre 

T: +44 (0) 28 6632 3110

2 St. Michael's Church of Ireland, Trory

Rebuilt and consecrated in 1778, it overlooks St. Angelo Airport,constructed in 1941 in case Germany invaded southern Ireland and was intended as a forward fighter base. The airfield was named after the then nearby residence of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher.

3 Killadeas

The name Killadeas comes form that on an Irish religious order called ‘Culdees’, the ‘Ceili De or Companions of God’, a monastic order prominent from the 8th century onwards on nearby islands of Lower Lough Erne. The holed stone in the graveyard is an indication of pre-Christian worship on this site. These stones were supposed to promote healing, fertility and seership. The ‘Bishop’s Stone’ in the ancient graveyard carries two contrasting features. On one side a bishop carries a crozier and bell; on the other side there is a carved face with round protruding eyes, an open mouth with protruding lips and rounded cheek and chin all above a pattern of interwoven ribbon.

Detour to Irvinestown

Irvinestown takes its name from the Irvine family who came from Scotland in the early 1600s and lived at Necarne Castle. A walk around the town brings to life the presence of the Allied RAF forces during WWII when they were stationed at nearby Castle Archdale. A sole morgue table at Necarne Castle is the only reminder of the presence of the American and RAF military hospitals there. Necarne Estate, circa 290 acres, with its myriad of trails and paths is a haven for families who can appreciate the historic sweeping parkland. The Famine Graveyard Memorial in Reihill Park reminds us of the hunger and destitution of the 1840s in the locality, and the recently constructed Centenary Garden at Sacred Heart Church tells a story of Celtic Christianity. Eighty four headstones of young Allied RAF men in the Church of Ireland and Sacred Heart Church graveyards show that they gave their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic. The town clock, renovated in 1734, stands guard over the town and the graveyard behind it illustrates some of the finest false relief headstones in Fermanagh. 

4 Castle Archdale & WWII

Castle Archdale was used as a flying boat base by RAF Squadrons and two Canadian ones during WWII (1939-1945). They flew Sunderland and Catalina flying boats and patrolled the North Atlantic searching for German U-boats. A secret agreement with the government of Ireland allowed aircraft to fly directly out over the River Erne and neutral Irish territory to the Atlantic. In later years this area became known as the Donegal Corridor. Essential air cover was given to convoys coming to the UK from America and Canada with vital supplies. In May 1941 the German battleship Bismarck was found during a routine patrol by a Catalina flying Boat from Castle Archdale. The Flying Boat Base was closed in 1957 and today it is part of Castle Archdale Country Park. The Visitor Centre has a section devoted to WWII and the natural environment.

5 White Island

White Island is renowned for the six sculptures set into the walls of an ancient monastic church dating anywhere from the 9th to the 11th century. Three of the statues are identified as representations of Christ - one in warrior attire carrying a sword and shield, a second holding a gospel book and a third holding a pair of griffins. Of the three remaining statues one is an exhibitionist female figure, known as a Sile-na-Gig, the second is a statue of David and the final figure is a statue with bell and crosier and may be interpreted as either Christ or as Saint Anthony of the Desert, the first abbot.

6 Crevenish Castle

Crevenish Castle was built by Thomas Blennerhassett, a native of Norwich in England. He obtained his Plantation land grant in 1610. An ancient tombstone bearing the arms of the Blennerhassetts lies near the castle which had some restoration work carried out on it in 2007.

7 St. Mary's Church of Ireland, Ardress

The Famine Grave at the rear is a grim reminder of the effect of the great Irish Famine of c 1845-1850. An estimated 180 people could be buried at any one level of this pit. Ardess probably means ‘the high fort’ - and its antiquity goes back to pre-reformation times where a church is recorded here in the 14th century. The earliest recorded headstone are of people born in the 1600s but probably has burials going back much further to when people used wooden rather than stone memorials.

8 Drumskinny Stone Circle

There are three parts to this monument - a stone circle of 39 stones with three entrances, a small cairn set alongside with a kerbing of stones and an alignment or line of stones, originally 24, which points due north towards the rising moon in mid December. The site is tentatively dated to the Bronze Age c 2,500 years ago. Nobody knows exactly the significance of stone circles - common explanations include places of religious significance, celebration or sacrifice; meeting places for the local tribes or forms of calendar that helped to predict periods of change in the year e.g. midsummer and midwinter when the days started to shorten or lengthen.

9 Boa Island & the Janus Figure

On Boa Island stand two unique stone carvings in the Caldragh graveyard, which dates from the Irish early Christian period (400 - 800 AD). The larger of these is a Janus figure, two figures back to back with pear shaped heads and interlacing between the heads representing hair. The smaller figure which is known as “the Lustyman” was originally found on nearby island Lustymore and was brought to the Caldragh graveyard in 1939. The reasons for creating these stone sculptures and the dates of their creation are not certain. They may have been part of preChristian religious sites, or they may have been made by early Christians who included older pagan beliefs in their grave sites.

10 St. John's Church of Ireland, Muckross

Muckross means 'the peninsula of the pigs'. This church was built by the Lowry Family. One of the most famous persons buried here is Sidney Barton, 1876-1946. He took part in the Boxer Rebellion in China, compiled one of the first ever, English/ Chinese Dictionaries and was in charge of the British Embassy in Ethiopia when the country was captured by the Italians in 1935.

11 Castle Caldwell & the Fiddle Stone

The castle was built in the early Plantation period by the Blennerhassett family who originated in Norwich. It then passed into the hands of the Caldwells who originated in Ayrshire in Scotland. It was in Castle Caldwell that the initial experiments with local china clay and feldspar give rise to the world famous Belleek Pottery. At the entrance to the castle stands the “Fiddle Stone” a commemorative stone for Denis Mc Cabe, a fiddler, who drowned off a barge belonging to Sir James while entertaining his guests.

12 Belleek Pottery

Belleek Pottery founded in 1858 is the oldest and largest Irish Pottery. It was founded by John C. Bloomfield the local landowner, David Mc Birney, a Dublin businessman who financed the undertaking and Robert Williams Armstrong, an architect and ceramics expert who designed the building. The success of Belleek Pottery, especially among the Irish diaspora across the globe has helped make the name of “Belleek,” the best known Irish village across the world. The church of Ireland at the top of the village is open daily and contains a beautiful set of three stained glass windows unveiled in May 2009 to commemorate the three fore mentioned founders of Belleek Pottery, who were all members of the Church of Ireland.

For opening hours & tour times see: 

W: www.belleek.ie
T: +44 (0) 28 6865 9300 

13 Tully Castle

The impressive remains of a fortified house and bawn (walled enclosure) are set on beautiful Tully Point and were first documented in 1619, shortly after being built for the Hume family, who lived there until 1641. However, the castle was attacked and burned on Christmas Eve in 1641 by Rory Maguire. On the current site, a 17th century style garden has been recreated. The site is accessible by water.

Detour to Inishmacsaint Island

Inishmacsaint Island is accessible by land or by water. There are the ruins of an ancient church and graveyard and a magnificent ancient high Cross. The island is associated with Saint Ninnid. Churches and monasteries were being built in Fermanagh from at least the 6th century. Now these islands seem remote, but in Early Christian times the Erne was a great highway, providing a route from the sea near Ballyshannon deep inland to Leitrim and beyond, the island monasteries being ports of call on this waterway.

14 Monea Castle

This castle was originally built by the Hamilton family who played a major part in the defence of Enniskillen during the Williamite War c1689. It is one of the most complete and best-preserved of all the Plantation castles of Ulster. Building commenced in 1616 by the Rector of Devenish, the Reverend Malcolm Hamilton. Like so many of Ulster’s Plantation castles, the design of Monea reflects the Scottish origin of its builder.

15 Portora Castle

Portora Castle was constructed by Sir William Cole to defend Enniskillen against a water-borne invasion from the west. It is one of seven such structures erected around Fermanagh in the period of the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century. Sir Michael Cole and his family moved to Portora Castle in 1710 when their previous residence, Enniskillen Castle, was hit by fire. They remained there until about 1716, when Sir Michael’s son, John Cole (1680-1726), started building Florence Court.

Did you know?
Both Oscar Wilde & Samuel Beckett were educated at the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen.