These lakelands are prime bird-watching territory. You’ll find hooper swans, great-crested grebes, golden plovers, curlews, corncrakes, kingfishers, herons, merlins, peregrines, kestrels, and sparrow hawks. On Upper Lough Erne, the primary habitats are reed swamps, flooded drumlins, and fens; on the lower lake, the habitats of choice are the less-visited islands and the hay meadows. Two important preserves are at Crom Estate ★★ and the Castle Caldwell Forest and Islands on Lower Lough Erne, near Belleek. The preserve includes a stretch of the lough’s shoreline; the picturesque 17th-century ruins of Castle Caldwell itself stand nearby.
Lough Erne is an explorer’s dream, and you can take that dream all the way to the Atlantic if you want. The price range for fully equipped, four- to eight-berth cruisers is around £650 to £1,250 per week, including tax, depending on the season and the size of the boat. The many local cruiser-hire companies include Erne Marine, Bellanaleck (www.erne-marine.com; 077/0812-7700), and Carrickcraft, Lurgan (www.cruise-ireland.com; 028/3834-4993 or 01/278-1666 from the Republic). On Lower Lough Erne, you can hire motorboats from Manor House Marine, Killadeas (www.manormarine.com; 028/6862-8100). Charges average £70 to £100 for a half-day, and £90 to £150 for a full-day, depending on the size of the boat (maximum eight people). You’ll have to pay a refundable deposit before heading out.
If you can’t catch a fish here, you will really have to question your technique. The best time for salmon is February to mid-June; for trout, mid-March to June or mid-August until late September. As for coarse fishing, about a dozen species await your line in the area’s lakes and rivers. For on-the-spot info, tackle, and bait, try Home, Field and Stream, 18 Church St., Enniskillen (www.hfs-online.com; 028/6632-2114). For locally arranged game fishing, call or drop in on Melvin Tackle, Main Street, Garrison, Co. Fermanagh (078/7144-3304). All necessary permits and licenses are available at the Fermanagh Tourist Information Centre.
The two 18-hole courses in the Lakelands are both in Enniskillen. The Enniskillen Golf Club, in the Castle Coole estate (028/6632-5250; www.enniskillengolfclub.com), charges greens fees of £20 weekdays to £25. They sometimes have special offers that can drop the price by half midweek, especially off-season. The Castle Hume Golf Club, Castle Hume (028/6632-7077; www.castlehumegolf.com), is 3 miles (5km) north of Enniskillen, with greens fees of £25 to £45, depending on the number of holes played.
Pony trekking and riding lessons are available from Drumhoney Stables, Drumhoney, Irvinestown, BT91 1NB (028/6862-1892).
The southwestern branch of the Ulster Way follows the western shores of Lough Erne, between the lake and the border. The area is full of other great walks as well. One excellent 6.75-mile (11km; 3–7 hours) hike leads from a starting point near Florence Court and the Marble Arch Caves to the summit of Mount Cuilcagh (656m/2,152 feet). For a detailed description of the route, and downloadable map, visit www.walkni.com/walks/585/cuilcagh-mountain.
One Great Adventure, The Grange Yard, Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan, County Down, BT31 9BU (084/4770-5477; www.onegreatadventure.com) is a watersports center based on an island west of downtown. They offer canoeing, sea kayaking, dinghy sailing, and a host of other sports. Prices start at around £25 adults, £15 children. The Share Holiday Village, Smith’s Strand, Lisnaskea, BT92 0EQ (028/6772-2122; www.sharevillage.org), offers sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, and banana skiing. Costs start at around £10 per person. They also offer artistic pursuits for children, such as pottery, balloon modeling, mosaic painting, filmmaking, and circus skills.
Several of the watersports and activity centers in the area, such as One Great Adventure, also rent bicycles. Bicycles are also available from Corralea Activity Centre, Belcoo (028/6638-6123), and Belleek Bicycle Hire, Belleek Cottages, Fermanagh (028/6865-8181). Daily bike rental runs around £10.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.