Follow the River Erne up to some staycation bliss in Fermanagh

by Shane Dillon

Concluding an unofficial trilogy focusing on staycation charms across or along the Border, this week we’re dipping a metaphorical toe in the calming waters of the Erne.

As one of the island of Ireland’s most diverse waterways, the Erne makes its way across some of the most ruggedly ancient and beautiful scenery in the Republic and Northern Ireland alike.

With its huge reach, the Erne provides contemporary inhabitants of the island with an alluring waterway that’s as relevant to modern living as it was to our long-gone ancestors.

And it’s very much to the fore of contemporary tourism, too, with Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism announcing the imminent return of Festival Lough Erne, a two-day celebration of local food and the Fermanagh Lakelands.

Taking place on Saturday, September 21 and Sunday, September 22 in and around Enniskillen, it features a bumper schedule of events both on and off the water.

The schedule includes a food village packed with tasty treats; live cookery demonstrations with celebrity chefs Paula McIntyre, Adrian Martin and Glen Wheeler; cocktail masterclasses from a converted horse-box bar; a walking food and drink tour; live music; and a raft of other activities designed to keep families and even the most discerning of foodies entertained.

As part of the fun, the Enniskillen Taste Experience will be navigating through the best of artisanal culinary delights that Fermanagh has to offer.

Children can enjoy cupcake decorating and crafting workshops from Lough Erne Cakes and The Party Bees, while live sets and a host of traditional Irish music, brass and accordion bands, will have hits and tracks to suit all interests.

While there should be more than enough to keep happy foodies busy at the festival, Enniskillen itself is also a town with a lot to take in, dominated by its striking riverside castle.

It’s also a perfect base from which to explore the Fermanagh Lakelands, home to more than 150 islands dotted along the Erne, with several boat-hire services in the area.

And, if you’re thinking of heading north to the busy festival, why not hit up the road a little further along to County Donegal, where the Erne meets the sea?

After all, there’s a growing amount of people who want adventure or active holidays, or to build a staycation around an invigorating event – in which case, Gaelforce North is for them (or for you).

The rugged county to the northwest of the Erne will be home on September 21 to the ninth annual Gaelforce North, which will offer hardy staycationers the chance to take in a challenging 63km or 45km race, involving running, cycling and kayaking past some of the most dramatic scenery on the island.

Taking in parts of Glenveagh National Park and Mount Errigal in the county’s north, it’s sure to be a staycation with a difference, offering particularly fit Travel fans the chance to see Donegal from a whole new angle.

And, as a perfect finish to that race, they’ll also be able to swing by the rest of Festival Lough Erne on their way back down to the big smoke.

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