I love exploring castles, wondering all that went on there over time. Imagining just how cold the castle might have been to have lived in and how dark during the long winters night with only a candle for light. What grandeur they may have been decorated with. What battles may have been fought.
Our lovely County of Fermanagh has many castles but from Shamrock Cottage you can go on a nice circuit to explore 7 of them! The nearest castle is Termon McGrath castle, near Pettigo. These three storey ruins lie in a farmers field. The castle is easily visible from the road but you can walk up to them being aware of any cattle or horses that might be in the field. Wear boots as it can be muddy! It was built in late 16th century and was a symbol of Clan McGrath but in 1641 it was burned by the McGrath family rather than surrender to a local militia.
The Old Castle Archdale, off the road from Kesh to Enniskillen, is easily accessed from the road and has a car park beside it. Built in 1615 by John Archdale it was inhabited until 1689 when it was burnt and abandoned. There are woodland walks that link into the Castle Archdale Forest Park too where you can visit the ruins of the mansion Castle Archdale which replaced the castle in the 18th century.
Enniskillen Castle and Museums (Fermanagh County Museum and The Inniskillings Museum) is located on the island town of Enniskillen by the two bridges on the west side of town (heading for Sligo or Donegal). It dates from 16th century and was remodelled by Sir William Cole, in 1607 to add on the Watergate (riverside towers). The keep is located inside the grounds of the museum and has specific opening times and an entry fee. The outside is open all the time and a lovely lakeside walk from there passes the Lakeland Forum, Bus station and leads to Erneside shopping centre. The visitor information centre is also located there so it’s a great place to stop off. Perhaps a spot of lunch in Enniskillen too – try the Museum cafe, The Happiness Trap (vegetarian), Jazzeys/Devenish bar, Jenny’s or Leslie’s coffee shop.
Portora Castle is on the Belleek road out of Enniskillen. Not much of this castle left now but from one side there are lovely views of the lock gates and the River Erne at this point. It was built for Sir William Cole around 1612, and aside from a large fire part of it came to further demise by some students who attempted to blow it up with what they had learnt in a chemistry lesson! Lilleys Centra garage nearby has lovely gelato ice-cream and handy take away food too which you can eat by the castle!
Monea Castle is out the Derrygonnelly road from Enniskillen town. This castle was built around 1618 and is three storeys high and influenced by Scottish design. It was abandoned around the mid 1700’s after it was gutted by fire.
Tully Castle is off the shore road from Enniskillen to Belleek. You can cut through to it from Monea. It is a lovely ruins, well manicured, by the edge of Lower Lough Erne and you can walk to the lakeshore too. Sadly, it was attacked in 1641 and all residents killed; it has never been occupied again. There’s an informative visitor centre open in a restored farm house beside it on Sundays from 1 to 4pm as well as some parts of the castle that are locked off at other times.
Journey back toward Belleek and cut across at Rosscor bridge, turning right back towards Boa Island and you’ll find Castle Caldwell on your right. The entrance gates are impressive and as you set off to walk around you could easily pass the old ruins which is densely covered with ivy! Built between 1612 and 1619 it was occupied until around 1876. The park offers lakeside walks too.
If you fit all this in, then you have also managed a lovely circuit of Lower Lough Erne as well as exploring our rich history and you’ll be looking forward to getting home to Shamrock Cottage!