Tuesday 28 February 2017

Lusty Beg Island: A brilliant babymoon in lakeside luxury

Northern Ireland breaks

Sophie White

Scenic: The Lower Lough Erne area has some stunning scenery
Scenic: The Lower Lough Erne area has some stunning scenery
Lusty Beg map
Sophie White enjoys views of the lake
Chilling: You can enjoy a spa treatment at Lusty Beg

A babymoon in Fermangh? It could be the beginning of a beautiful holiday, says Sophie White.

'You must go on a babymoon," said virtually everyone I encountered while touting my round belly.

Oh no, another thing for my ever-expanding list of things to accomplish before the baby arrived. I announced to the Other Half the babymoon directive with a put-upon sigh and was immediately congratulated for having the most First World problem of all time.

The key, I soon discovered, to a successful babymoon is ease. Ease me into the car, ease some snacks into my mouth and then ease me into four-star luxury on a private island. The island of Lusty Beg is a 75-acre private paradise in the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands accessible via a small dedicated car ferry.

There's something other-worldly about the setting.

Even though it's just a short hop from the mainland, alighting on to the wooded islet is like stepping into another world. Log cabins line the beaches, their decks and balconies wrapped around the lodges are perfect for sipping bubbles - or in my case Gaviscon - and taking in the gently lapping water, stunning sunsets and that uniquely pleasurable sight of other people being active.

Chilling: You can enjoy a spa treatment at Lusty Beg
Chilling: You can enjoy a spa treatment at Lusty Beg

The cabins and chalets are grouped around a small harbour with a reception, restaurants and two bars, from which both energetic and lazy activities alike can set off. Lusty Beg is the perfect base from which to explore Lough Erne by kayak or powerboat. There's also a host of land-based fun to be had, such as 4x4 trips, archery and clay-pigeon shooting.

If you're after something slightly more sedate and less taxing, foodie tours of Lough Erne by boat offering a three-hour culinary overview of the region can be arranged through the Erne Water Taxi run by local couple Barry and Helen Flanagan.

These passionate foodies have teamed up with the best artisanal producers, brewers and restaurants on the lake to give a 360-degree experience of food, beauty and history in a decadent half day of gorging and sampling the sumptuous delights of the area. There are pit stops at prominent historical sites, a two-course lakeside lunch and plenty of nibbles along the way to keep even a hungry gestator happy.

After stuffing ourselves for the best part of the day, it was time for some more food on dry land. As we made our way to the Lusty Beg restaurant for dinner I began to feel distinctly regretful that we had just two nights on this gorgeous island.

We took a walking track the long way around to dinner to soak up the stillness of the dusk as it settled over the lake. We wanted to watch the incredible colours of the sky bleed from pink to orange to red and then to navy - which is a very romantic babymoon-appropriate activity. We also needed to work up some kind of appetite to allow for more gorging to commence which is less romantic but is a very 'us' activity.

Once settled at a window table in the dining room overlooking the jetty and the boats - it was all very Sittin' On The Dock Of the Bay out there - with a nice level of buzz coming from the pub next door, we went mad on the ordering front. The food vibe is a nice mix of hearty pub grub - which, had we been exploring the lake in a slightly more active fashion, we'd have been very glad of - and slightly posher nosh.

Sophie White enjoys views of the lake
Sophie White enjoys views of the lake

The Other Half went the wings and burger route, which were spot on, while I opted for a salad of local goats cheese to start and the curry that I'd thought was a bit of an incongruous inclusion until I learned that the chef was Indian. Served with house-pickled lime, raita and poppadoms, it was sensational - so much so that we argued over who was allowed to order it the next night - it's one of our slightly obsessive relationship rules that we never order the same dishes in a restaurant.

Drinks by the roaring fire in the bar wrapped up the evening nicely and then it was back to the log cabin for a movie and a heavily pregnant woman to pass out in what was I'm sure a very delicate and lady-like pose on the couch.

Waking up the next morning and drinking in the view from our bedroom balcony was an absolute treat. Lusty Beg feels really cut off in the best possible way, a total escape from the exhausting push and pull of the daily grind. The lodges and chalets are all nestled among mature woodland so you feel secluded, with little sense of the other holiday-makers nearby. After coffee in bed and a good bit of lounging, we ambled up to the restaurant for a hearty breakfast. The accommodation options are B&B and self-catering and our lodge had a well-appointed kitchen (not that we put it to much use).

The Lusty Beg style is brilliant for families or big gangs of friends holidaying together. There's something almost Summer at the Cape, fourth of July, Americana-ish about the place and I've definitely filed it away for future, slightly more boisterous trips when the babies are a bit older. Our ground floor deck, jutting out over the lake boasted an impressive looking barbecue that was just begging for a big family cook-out under the stars.

Lusty Beg map
Lusty Beg map

Our Sunday itinerary was a very invigorating two-hour spa session followed by yet more eating in the form of a search for 99s disguised as a scenic drive. The pool and spa oasis nicely continues the log cabin vibes of the rest of the island. The swimming pool is hidden away in a large, high ceilinged, wooden cabin with windows overlooking a private garden with an outdoor hot tub. A range of massages, baths, scrubs and facials are on offer to luxuriate in upstairs in the wellness suites.

Post-pampering we hit the road heading west to visit the majestic sea cliffs of Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe, accessible via a stunning stretch of road high above the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The wildness of the exposed, sheer rock face provided stark contrast to the calm, meditative atmosphere of Lusty Beg, a true gem of a retreat, tucked away from the tumult of everyday life.

Our own private Idaho.

Getting there

Lusty Beg is a four-star exclusive island located in Lough Erne in the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands. Unwind with pampering treatments in the VOYA spa or get an adrenaline rush by trying out kayaking and archery.

No matter what type of holiday, Lusty Beg provides a variety of stunning self-catering and B&B facilities. Lusty Beg provides a series of delectable and innovative meals, made from fresh local produce.

Over 60s Midweek Getaway Special Offer: Three nights mid-week self-catering including a choice of seaweed bath or mini facial in the Island Spa, £195 per couple sharing. One, two and three bedroom houses available.

For more, see lustybegisland.com or call (+44) 28 686 33300.

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