Lough Erne Canoe Trail – What an Adventue
Posted on January 8, 2010 @ 5:54 PM in
Ashley Hunter – Coaching and Development Manager, Canoe Association of Northern Ireland shares his experiences of a four day trip on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail
Crom Estate to Trory –28 Miles 4 Day Trip
Having lived away from County Fermanagh for a number of years I could not wait to return along with some friends from University to spend a few days paddling on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
As we only had four days available we decided to explore Upper Lough Erne – the smaller and more sheltered of the two lakes to the south of the main county town of Enniskillen. The aim of trip was not to cover as many miles as possible but to enjoy what this beautiful part of the world has to offer – no better way than in our two open canoes. The Lough Erne Canoe Trail guide and www.canoeni.com made planning the trip easy.
Start Crom (GR 370 238) to Smith’s Strand (GR 342 294) 6 Miles (5 Hours)
We had stayed with my parents in Enniskillen for a night before driving south to our starting point at Crom Estate, which is actually one of the 10 Access Points along the trail.
We started at around 10 a.m. launching from the slipway beside The National Trust Visitors Centre and as soon as we hit the water it was like going back in time. Peace, natural beauty and any number of historic buildings – maintained by The National Trust. We spent a few hours exploring these buildings and taking in the history of the area. Crichton Tower on Gad Island, the 17th century Crom Castle ruins (destroyed in a fire) and the 19th century Crom Castle which is the private residence of Lord Erne can all be viewed from the Lough. However our favourite feature was the 19th Century boathouse, formerly the headquarters of the Lough Erne Yacht Cub.
The area was really captivating but it was time to move on. Travelling north in very sheltered waters we made good time. The area was quiet and unspoilt and we passed very few other water users.
We paddled to our overnight stop at the Share Holiday Village at Smith’s Strand (GR 342 294). The camping facilities were excellent and there was a great atmosphere around the site. That evening were prepared a feast on our disposable BBQ topped up with chips from the centre’s Fish n’ Chip Shop.
Start Share Holiday Village (GR 342 294) to Carrybridge (GR 295 375) 7 miles 5 hours
Determined to keep to our pledge to enjoy ourselves we booked onto a climbing wall activity session before we left. Although when I was 30ft off the ground last nights beer didn’t seem like such a good idea. After our adventurous start to the day we continued our trip north at about 12 p.m. We were again treated by another beautiful day with calm conditions meaning the going was good, by travelling south to north we were also being helped by the flow of the from Upper to Lower Lough Erne – although the locals reckoned this was negligible at this time of year it was still of psychological benefit to us.
We stopped at Naan Island (GR 302 319) for lunch – Upper Lough Erne has a vast array of Islands and the Canoe Trail Guide is useful as it indicates were all the jetties and slipways are. Then we left the relative expanse of Upper Lough Erne and made our way along the river–like section.
On arrival at Carrybridge we set up camp on the north side of the bridge and east side of the river (GR 295 375) as recommended by the Guide, had a quick wash in the toilet block and then crossed the bridge to sample the “craic” in the Carrybridge Hotel – well I did say we were here to enjoy ourselves!! We had some pub grub and chatted with local and tourists. The bar / restaurant is a popular stop for hire cruisers – a Dutch couple we spoke to had been returning to Fermanagh for the past 10 years!
Day 3 Carrybridge (GR 295 375) – Enniskillen (GR 231 440) 10 miles 7 hours
We had an early start which maybe was not ideal considering the late finish to the night before. We continued our journey northwards towards the County town of Enniskillen in really peaceful river like conditions. About half way along our trip we stopped at Bellanaleck Jetty (GR 236 391). We took a five minute walk to Bellaneleck village to buy lunch in the local shop.
After lunch we continued towards Enniskillen and our campsite which is based on Castle Island right in the heart of the town. The island is managed by Life, an Adventure Activity Company in Ireland specialising in Outdoor Acvitivites & Outdoor Pursuits, they provide a ferry to Enniskillen so we decided to take an evening stroll through the town before returning for an early night. We are obviously getting too old for two late nights in a row. The island provides an excellent camping facility near to the town – absolutely perfect for touring canoeists.
Day 4 Enniskillen (GR 231 440) to Trory (GR 227 477) 5 miles 3 hours
Enniskillen is an island town named after the ancient warrior Kathleen i.e. Inis (island) Kathleen so what better way to explore it than by canoe. We spent an hour circumnavigating the town passing the beautiful 17th Century Watergate of Enniskillen Castle. We then continued through the Portora Lock Gates into Lower Lough Erne. After about 1.5 hours paddling we reached Devenish Island (GR 223 468), which was once the centre of Fermangh’s cultural and spiritual life – a monastic settlement was founded here in the 6th century. Climbing the inside of the 81 feet high round tower built during the 12th century was a great way to round off the trip.
We reluctantly headed off to our pick point on the mainland at Trory (GR 227 477) and loaded our kit up to head home. We had our own equipment and my parents to do car transfers but this can all be arranged through a number of canoeing providers in the area, again these are listed in the guide and website.
Lough Erne has got to be one of the best touring venues in the British Isles, even as a native of Fermanagh I discovered so much more about the area than I did not realise was there. The range of places we saw and the interesting people we met made this more than just a canoe trip but an overall experience. We choose to stay at relatively busy campsites and enjoyed the night life on a few occasions but if this it not for you do not worry as the Lough Erne Canoe Trail guide provides numerous camp sites off the beaten track so you can enjoy a wilderness experience.
We only managed 2/3rds of the Lough Erne Canoe Trail but we will definitely return in the future to explore the area further or maybe even have a look at some of the other Canoe Trails available in Northern Ireland. Check them out on www.canoeni.com
Although we had our own gear and I am an experienced canoeists don’t feel this is the only way to get out there. The are a wide range of providers offering tuition, guided trips, canoe /equipment hire – all you have to do is turn up.