Thursday 18 July 2019

Fab Fermanagh: Is this Northern Ireland's best-kept secret?

Year of Food & Drink 2016

Finn Lough's transparent domes.
Finn Lough's transparent domes.
Pat O'Doherty
Boa Island
Jolly Sandwich
Lorraine Courtney

Lorraine Courtney

From delicious cafés to domes under the stars, Lorraine Courtney says Fermanagh makes a super short break.

Set the mood

Fancy seeing the heavenly bodies peppering Fermanagh's ink-black skies from one of Ireland's quirkiest new hotel rooms (above)?

I spent a January night counting shooting stars in the middle of a Fermanagh woodland - and all while snuggled under the duvet. Designed by Belleek's Ronan Lowery, Finn Lough's transparent domes are very snazzy with four-poster beds crafted from local oak, a Nespresso machine, two cosy armchairs, fluffy robes and a telescope for gazing at the stars.

The domes are open all year, but January to March give the clearest views of the Milky Way. The resort has plenty of outdoorsy activities like learning bush craft, airsofting and kayaking if you want to leave your bubble too.

Guilty pleasure

Pat O'Doherty

Each woman's breakfast is her own. Invade that space with your opinions and expect plenty of disagreement. I very much recommend the Enniskillen butchery run by Pat O'Doherty (

It's home to Fermanagh black bacon, a robust, delicious cure with a 100-year history. Smoking is done over turf and all the pigs roam as if wild on an island farm in Lough Erne. The bacons are produced traditionally, using free-range or high-welfare, slower-grown pork and no water/polyphosphate filler injections, the cause of the nasty white fluid that leaches from low-grade bacon in the frying pan.

Visitors can arrange a trip out to see the pigs on their Inishcorkish home, too.

Cheap kick

Boa Island

My favourite discovery was the diminutive but ever so mystical Caldragh cemetery on Boa Island. It's inexplicably home to Pagan stone carvings, including the back-to-back Janus figure (pictured).

A hollow between the two faces may have held offerings or simply human blood, pick your own theory. The nearby Lusty mana is smaller, but an equally enigmatic sculpture and was imported from Lustymore island in 1939. Fairy trees add to the atmosphere - the pre-Christian figures inspired Seamus Heaney to write January God.

Top tip

Where else can you get a short back and sides while learning about steam travel? Headhunters Barber Shop and Railway Museum in Enniskillen ( does exactly what it says on the tin.

Entrance is free; haircuts optional.

Insider intel

Jolly Sandwich

The aptly-named Jolly Sandwich café ( is a buzzy Enniskillen tearoom where just walking in the door will make you smile. Watch the world go by from the window seats, or settle at a dinky table for two - naturally, the sandwiches (from £2.50/€3.20) are scrumptious (I had the hot gammon), but there's much more besides. Mother and daughter Hazel and Carina are gifted bakers.


Fermanagh might be just over the border but you will still be charged roaming rates on your phone. If you don't want to do the full digital detox, check rates with your operator first or ensure your accommodation has Wi-Fi.

Get me there

Doubles at Finn Lough ( start from £175/€225.

Enniskillen's bus station is super central. Ulsterbus and Bus Éireann services run to/from Belfast (£12/€15, two hours, hourly Monday to Saturday, two on Sunday) and Dublin (€20, two-and-a-half hours, eight daily).

If you're driving take the M3 and N3 from Dublin. It's 161km and takes around two and a half hours. See

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