Enniskillen: 134km (83 miles) SW of Belfast, 98km (61 miles) SW of Derry, 84km (52 miles) W of Armagh, 44km (27 miles) SW of Omagh, 174km (108 miles) NW of Dublin, 271km (168 miles) NE of Shannon

In the extreme southwest corner of Northern Ireland, County Fermanagh is a resort area dominated by Lough Erne, a long, narrow lake with 154 islands and countless coves and inlets.

The Shannon-Erne Waterway, linking the lough to the Shannon system, enhances the lure of Lough Erne as a boating destination. Were you to cruise the whole length of the waterway between the village of Leitrim and Lough Erne, you'd travel 65km (40 miles), past 16 lochs, three lakes, and the Woodford River, all of which are ripe for aquatic exploration.

The hub of this lakeland paradise, wedged between the upper and lower branches of Lough Erne, is Enniskillen, a delightful resort town that was the medieval seat of the Maguire clan and a major crossroads between Ulster and Connaught. Both Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett were once students here at the royal school.

At the northern tip of the lake is Belleek, sitting right across the border in the Republic of Ireland, and known the world over for its trademark delicate bone chinaware. At the southern end of the lake is County Cavan and another slice of border with the Irish Republic. The surrounding countryside holds diverse attractions, from stately homes at Florence Court and Castle Coole to the Marble Arch Caves.

In medieval times, a chain of island monasteries stretched across the waters of Lough Erne, establishing it as a haven for contemplatives. Even allowing for less lofty minds, the Fermanagh Lakelands are still a peaceful place to get away from it all and to gaze, in a phrase from Hopkins, at the "pied beauty" of it all.