Venture through waters alive with wildlife and experience compelling history, secret islands and hauntingly beautiful views
The water has a powerful pull in Fermanagh – streaked with pale winter sunshine or gilded with flashes of golden light, it draws you to it, to explore its hidden islands and to see the land from a different perspective. Getting out on the water here is a must, whether you’re cruising through the warm, drowsy days of summer, or rocking gently from deserted island to deserted island in a kayak. And what’s more – it’s great fun. Lough Erne serves up endless ways to explore its dreamy waters, whether you want to embark on a food cruise around the lake’s best gourmet stop-offs or you want to unearth the history of Devenish Island.
When it comes to cruising holidays, Upper and Lower Lough Erne offer one of the most spectacular locations of anywhere in the island of Ireland. Incredible views, glassy waters and great places to stop along the way from craggy waterside castles to stunning monastic islands make a cruising holiday here utterly unforgettable. Perfect for everyone from novices to experts, boats of varying sizes are available to hire from a range of providers in the area including Carrick Craft, Manor House Marine, Carrybridge Boat Company and Aghniver Boat Company.
Erne Water Taxi:
There’s a good reason Erne Water Taxi gets a five-star review on TripAdvisor – with the amazingly friendly host, Barry, you’ll find this an unforgettable way to visit Lough Erne. The small yellow boat seats eight people and is safe, comfortable and offers great views all around. Tours include a Fast Blast, one-hour tour; a Devenish Island Tour and an Upper Erne Experience. Don’t miss the much-lauded Food Tour – it’s a wonderfully enjoyable whistle-stop tour of the best food experiences around the lough. ernewatertaxi.com
Erne Boat Hire:
You’ll spot these cheery looking vehicles around the lake in summer. Known locally as the “wee red boats”, the vessels comfortably hold six adults and are self-driven, with two-, four- and eight-hour sessions, meaning that you can explore the lake under your own steam. Enjoy the wildlife of the lough up close, stop off at Devenish Island or pop down to the Ardhowen Theatre for lunch at the Ardhowen Café. A fun, affordable and entertaining way to explore Lower Lough Erne.
Lough Erne Canoe Trail:
Embark on an off-grid adventure where gentle blue waters, tranquil islands and charming jetties await. The Lough Erne Canoe Trail weaves through a maze of sparkling bays and scenic peninsulas. It’s one of the most popular canoe trails in Northern Ireland, and is suitable for a wide range of abilities, but it’s always recommended that novice paddlers use a local activity provider.You can make a real adventure of it by wild camping on the shores and islands, sleeping under the stars and in the company kingfishers, otters and heron. For more information on routes, itineraries, camping facilities and canoe hire, log on to canoeni.com
Fancy a guided canoeing experience? Check out the Erne Paddlers Facebook page, which runs sociable kayaking trips to non-members throughout the year. The regular, multi-craft trips include a stop-off for a picnic on an island and are open to those of all abilities. facebook.com/ernepaddlers/
Castle Archdale Boat Hire and Watersports:
A one-stop shop for all your watersports needs, Castle Archdale Marina boasts a beautiful location on the shores of Lower Lough Erne. Hire a boat for the day and head off into the beauty of the lough, hop onto a sit-on-top kayak and head off to White Island, or bounce the day away on the entertaining Water Trampoline. castlearchdaleboathire.com
Jump on board the 56-seater MV Kestrel Waterbus from Brook Park in Enniskillen and you’re guaranteed a good time! This lively tour will whisk you across to Devenish Island Monastic Site with commentary along the way about some of the landmarks you’ll pass, including Enniskillen Castle, Portora Royal School and Boat Club, Waterways Ireland Headquarters and Cole’s Monument. Once you get to Devenish, there’s around 40 minutes to explore before heading back to town. ernetours.com
Lady of the Lake Tours:
Running daily 90-minute guided cruises every Saturday at 11:30am, the Lady of the Lake Tours are a great way to see Lough Erne from the water, whatever time of year you visit. The double-decker pleasure cruiser is moored at Killadeas, just outside Enniskillen and is a good option for those staying at the Manor House Hotel. As well as corporate, wedding and hen/stag party cruises, the company also runs a Murder Mystery Dinner Cruise in conjunction with a two-night stay at Manor House. ladyofthelaketour.com
With a lovely location close to Lusty Beg Island, Tudor Farm is a wonderful guesthouse that also boasts an extensive array of water activities. Stay here and you’ll have exclusive use of their slipway and jetty, swim spa, private beach and barbecue, but even if you’re not a guest, you can drop in for a spot of waterskiing, wakeboarding, donut rides, jet-ski safaris and sailing. What’s more, they can also provide barbecue packs, picnic hampers and packed lunches to make you won’t go hungry on your day on the water. tudorfarm.com
Lovely Leitrim (Barge Holiday Boatel), Enniskillen:
If you like the sound of idyllic views, languid surroundings, tasty tapas and a drop of wine, then keep your eye on the Lovely Leitrim Facebook Page. This great barge holiday “boatel” regularly runs a pop-up wine bar cruise in the Lough Erne area, offering a unique way to relax on the water. Lovely Leitrim also offers private parties and cruises. Unique and memorable. facebook.com/myboatel/