Fermanagh is one of the most visited counties in Northern Ireland. Read on to find out the five best hidden gems in County Fermanagh.
Looking for a guide to the best hidden gems in County Fermanagh? We’ve got you covered.
Fermanagh is a scenic and captivating county situated at the very edge of Northern Ireland.
The county is famous for its friendliness and stunning lakes. Other well-known attractions include the Marble Arch Caves and Enniskillen Castle.
These are all spectacular, but here are the five best hidden gems in County Fermanagh.
5. Old Castle Archdale – lesser-known history
Castle Archdale is a former estate that is now a country park. Situated on the shores of Lough Erne, there is also a caravan park.
Did you know, however, that there is an older estate? Old Castle Archdale, built in 1615, is northwest of Lisnarick village. The more famous successor was built in the late 18th-century. It is more so southwest to Lisnarick.
An English planter John Archdale built the castle. During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Rory Maguire captured Old Castle Archdale. The castle’s heir William Archdale was saved by his nurse, but all the other children were killed.
The Archdales regained control of the castle and repaired it. During the Williamite Wars in 1689, the castle was burnt out and abandoned.
Today there is no sign of this violent past. The castle’s ruins can be found within an idyllic forest.
Address: 10 Tullana, Enniskillen BT94 1PY
4. Hare Krishna temple – a Hindu monastery
For 39 years, Govindadwipa (or Inisrath island) has been home to a Hare Krishna spiritual centre and retreat. It is definitely one of the five best hidden gems in County Fermanagh.
Around 2000 years ago, the island was the location of a ‘rath’. This is a fortified homestead headed by a chieftain.
In the mid-19th-century, the island was owned by Lord Erne. He gifted it to his son-in-law Sir Henry Cavendish Butler. It remained in their family until being sold in the 1950s. In 1982, property prices were low during The Troubles. Hare Krishna devotees bought the island, seeing its potential.
Monks are based full-time on the island, but tourists are very welcome to visit. The recommended visiting slot is at midday on Sundays. Visiting at other times is possible, but contact must be made in advance. This also applies to large groups.
Address: Derrylin, Enniskillen BT92 9GN
3. Lake Isle Retreats – a place to recentre and recharge
Lake Isle Retreats are also based on Inisrath Island but operate out of a separate building.
Business owner Tim arrived at the main Krishna temple in 1990. In time, others joined with him on a mission to provide a place for people to recharge. In 2012 Lake Isle Retreats moved out of the temple to a modern house.
They offer a range of retreats. You can stay for a week or weekend. Options include Women’s Relax and Restore Retreat, Silent Retreat and Canoeing, Yoga, and Adventure. Prices average at £175/€200.
Address: 42 Geaglum Road, Lisnaskea, Enniskillen BT92 9GN
2. The Famine Pit and The Hanging Tree – the Irish Famine’s legacy
The Great Famine is one of the most harrowing eras of Ireland’s history and one of the five best hidden gems in County Fermanagh.
Between 1845 and 1852, there was mass starvation and disease due to the failure of the potato crop. It is thought that around one-quarter of Fermanagh’s population died or emigrated.
This famine grave is within the grounds of St. Mary’s Church, Kesh. A sunken mound running for 40 metres, the tomb lay overgrown and forgotten for decades.
In 1997, a local community association and historical society came together to restore the pit and erected a memorial designed by a local artist. There are no records of any of the people buried in the pit.
Close to the burial site is an old tree stump. Beside it, a plaque reading, “Site of the Hanging Tree circa 1641.”
Records on the Irish Rebellion state that Ann Blennerhassett, whose husband was shot dead by the rebels, gave evidence of hangings:
“And further saith that she heard some of the rebel soldiers at the said Rory Maguire’s house (Crevenish Castle, near Kesh) brag, boast, and say that they had hanged several Protestants on the churchyard gate of that parish (St. Mary’s, Ardess) where Mr Flack was minister.”
Address: Ardess Parish Church, Ardess Villas, Ardess, Kesh BT93 1GL
1. Margaret Gallagher’s thatched cottage – living off-grid for 80 years
Margaret Gallagher has lived in the same cottage all her life. What’s unusual is that her home is true to 19th-century life in Ireland.
Located in the Belcoo area of Fermanagh, the 200-year-old white-washed cottage with a thatched roof has received media coverage worldwide.
She has no gas, electricity, running winter, and no indoor toilet. Margaret inherited the cottage from her parents. When electricity was introduced to the area, Margaret chose to uphold the way of life she was used to since childhood.
At select times of the year, Margaret opens her home for visits from tourists.
Address: Mullylusty Cottage, Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh Northern Ireland
Which of these five best hidden gems in County Fermanagh do you plan to visit?
By Kylie Noble