Aran SheridanMark RuddsGareth Fullerton
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Perfect Family Canoeing Holiday in Northern Ireland

Posted on April 21, 2010 @ 5:05 PM in Canoeing

Robbie from Scotand  tells us about his Easter canoeing trip with his family on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail ...

A frosty January night in Lochwinnoch........

Robbie: Stef, do you fancy a paddling holiday at Easter?

Stef: OK, providing there's plenty of fun stuff for the kids to do too.

Robbie: I've found a beautiful cottage owned by keen canoeists where we can paddle from the end of the garden. Will I go ahead and book it?

Stef: Sounds good. Where is it?

Robbie: Fermanagh in Northern Ireland.

Stef: Whit!

So started the planning for our Easter holiday on and around Upper Lough Erne, one of Britain's most beautiful spots that couldn't be better for family paddling. Given the fabulous canoeing opportunities we've had around Scotland, this is no small compliment.

We stayed at Cygnet Lodge, a self-catering cottage owned by Dawn and Robert Livingstone, on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, between Lisnaskea and Derrylin. The house was 2 hours from the ferry terminal in Larne and proved to be everything we hoped for: great value, with all mod-cons and a huge garden for the boys to play in.

Cygnet Lodge

The best thing though was that we could paddle from the jetty at the end of the garden, so we didn't need to bother with any loading and unloading onto the car when we wanted to go out on the water.

Weir Family getting ready to set off

Dawn and Robert proved to be great hosts (their house is close nearby to Cygnet Lodge) and were a font of knowledge about local paddling places, interesting things to do for both kids and grown-ups alike and the best local eateries. After a first stop to visit the amazing Marble Arch Caves in Florencecourt and a food shopping trip to Enniskillen (O'Doherty's butcher shop has to be seen to be believed ) we finally got the chance to get out on the water for an evening's paddle with some pals who'd joined us for a couple of days at the start of the holiday.

We were blessed with calm weather and clear blue skies all week that made the paddling a pleasure. We alternated between days out on the water and days out visiting local places of interest. Our longest paddling trip was down and back to the Crom Estate, a beautiful National Trust property less than 2 hours paddling each way from Cygnet Lodge.

Crom Estate

We beached the canoe at the landing slipway and stopped for a while to explore the grounds of the estate. The kids thought the famous yew trees were fabulous for climbing - like something straight out of Harry Potter! The café just above the slipway there was a great find and was just what we needed to fill up hungry children.

Crom slipway

After lunch we headed back out onto the water for the return trip back up the Lough. We couldn't resist having a look around the Crichton Tower, a folly on Gad Island near the Crom Estate. We found that the threat of marooning the kids in the 'haunted' tower ensured their perfect behaviour for the rest of the day.

Crichton Tower

The return trip up the Lough was just as beautiful. We were treated to the sight of Great Crested Grebes performing their elaborate mating dances. The real surprise was the great hospitality we received from the members of the Hare Krishna community on Inis Rath, an island on the Lough, when we stopped there for a break. Fabulous custodians of a fantastic island!

A great highlight of the trip was doing a self-guided geology tour around Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the border between Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Cavan in the Republic of Ireland. The boys thought that the Drumod Sulphur Spa in Swanlinbar was great, mostly because it smelled like they do a couple of hours after dinner of beans on toast!

Ireland is a bastion of common sense where Health & Safety hasn't ruined the fun of adventure. This became evident when we explored Pollnagollum Cave near Boho. With head-torches on, we explored 200 metres into the cave - very Indiana Jones! Turning off the torches to experience total darkness and see whose nerve cracks first was great (the answer was of course 'Little Miss Feartie' as mummy was christened!).

The day on / day off the water continued as the week progressed. We had a great paddle north of the Lady Craigavon Bridge to explore the other end of Upper Lough Erne. We were most impressed by the courtesy of other water users. All the drivers of powered craft slowed down to a crawl as they passed us and the fishermen all gave us a cheery wave - how different from the experienced often recounted by canoeists on the Song of the Paddle website.

Lady Craigavon Bridge

A great high point of the holiday was a full day in Enniskillen. A beautiful wee town with great shops, great eateries and lots to see and do. If you're ever there then a tour of the castle is an absolute must.

Enniskillen Castle

A favourite activity for our boys each evening was catching minnows off the jetty at the cottage. Dad decided to get in on the act and got the shock of his life when Percy the Pike leapt onto the hook!

Percy the Pike

So, would we go back? Definitely!

Would we recommend staying at one of Robert and Dawn's Lough-side properties? Certainly!

Would we recommend taking the time to explore Fermanagh and paddling Upper Lough Erne? Absolutely!

We'll certainly be back.

Robbie  Proud Dad in a keen scottish canoeing family.

Robbie is a keen canoeist from Scotland.

He loves nothing more than paddling with his wife and two young sons.

They started canoeing as a family in Spring 2008 and took their first canoeing trip to Northern Ireland during Easter 2010.

13 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Eoghan on April 22, 2010 @ 7:39 PM

Hi Robbie - it looks great really great.What ages would you think the kids need to be for you and them to enjoy??

Posted by Robbie on April 22, 2010 @ 9:06 PM

Dear Eoghan, We started paddling when our boys were aged 7 and 4 (round about the same age we started them overnight wild camping). We've found open water canoeing a great family activity and something where we can all put in some physical effort but, stay together (unlike cycling or hill-walking where you have to slow right down for the kids).

Unlike kayaks, in canadian canoes you stay dry (unless its raining) and although its possible to capsize, we've never accidently done so, despite being in sound really tough conditions on Scottish lochs. That means that provided the kids are in warm clothes, they are comfortable even when out on the water in wintertime.

The one thing I'd stress however, is to get good training before you take the kids out in canoes. Water is really unforgiving and you can find yourself in a situation you can't recover from if you don't know the warning signs. We have had good training, particularly what to do if you do capsize, at our local watersports centre and its been worth its weight in gold.

With good training and regular practice, you pick up the basics really quickly. Last year, in only our second season of paddling, we took the boys canoeing in Sweden on a quiet beaver-infested river and they loved it. Very Ray Mears! If you want more advice on family paddling then there is lots of good information on the 'Forum' section of the website.

Hope this helps. Robbie

Posted by elwisdram on September 25, 2010 @ 7:23 AM

Great photos and nice blog.

Posted by GoGetAdventure on November 4, 2010 @ 5:56 PM

This looks like a great trip.

I've paddled a fair bit in Scotland but never in Ireland and I've always fancied doing the Spey Descent. Maybe there are some equivalent trips in Ireland I should hunt for in Ireland?

Posted by Cruises from Southampton 2011 on January 18, 2011 @ 12:18 PM

Great photos and a great blog. Thanks for the post.

Posted by Travel Medical Insurance on February 4, 2011 @ 3:52 AM

Outdoor vacations are the best. My family and I have the longest lasting memories from our camping and canoeing trips. I wish I could afford a trip like this to Ireland. We have been saving, but I think it will take a couple more years. Your blog and pictures have inspired me to work harder at it.

Posted by Car Hire UK on February 14, 2011 @ 9:23 AM

This is the most exciting authoritative blog I’ve ever discovered. Keep Posting!

Posted by Venues Essex on February 24, 2011 @ 9:16 AM

Wow lovely pics.I loved your Indiana Jones approach and one of your pic is indicating that you enjoyed a a lot between rocks.Great one !!!

Posted by Location Villa Italie on March 15, 2011 @ 12:04 PM

Northern Ireland is a land of Blue Mountains and forest parks, mazy lakes and windswept moors, white Atlantic sands, an inland sea. In fact, it's a country that is just imaginary to be small. Dozens of small towns are hidden away down among the green places of the countryside, and fishing villages string out along the shores.

Posted by Umbria Castle on April 11, 2011 @ 11:54 AM

Northern Ireland is an amazing place to go for. If you relish a challenge and want to have a taste of adventure, this is the best place to visit. It also offers fantastic scenery and lot many attractions.

Posted by Villa Umbria on April 25, 2011 @ 6:25 AM

Seems as if you had an amazing experience during your journey and the most important thing is that the weather was also in your favor which made your journey even more exciting and enjoyable.

Posted by Tuscany Villas on May 4, 2011 @ 2:19 PM

Northern Ireland is a green getaway in the colorful sense of the world and turns out to be an eco destination for the travelers. It is renowned for its beauty and rich built heritage.

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