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Northern Ireland's town on the water

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Enniskillen Castle
Castle Coole
Enniskillen is almost like Northern Ireland's Venice. It's surrounded on both sides by the Upper and Lower Lough Erne. The river connecting these two lakes flows through the centre of town, giving the place an unbreakable link to the water. Enniskillen's residents encounter it every day, when they cross bridges on their way to work and when they stroll along the riverside on weekends. Lough Erne's moorings are so close that some people find it easier to arrive by boat, rather than by car.

Nugents Quay in Enniskillen.
Photo Kenneth Allen
In years gone by, the town's strategic position made it very important. In the 16th century it was controlled by the English, who built Enniskillen Castle to defend their territory. The new fortress was put to the test almost as soon as it was finished. Determined Irish rebels attacked again and again, and eventually their perseverance paid off. In 1594, after a siege that lasted 8 days, the castle was finally defeated.

Enniskillen Castle.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Nowadays, the fort is a considerably more peaceful place. It's home to the Fermanagh County Museum, which covers everything from military history to local geography and art. The castle also contains the Inniskillings Museum, where the history of local army regiments is examined in detail. Each section of the building varies in age. The distinctive, pointed turrets originate from the 17th century, while the barracks are just a couple of centuries old.

Did You Know?

You can enjoy a round of golf at the Enniskillen Golf Club, while enjoying outstanding views over the town and surrounding countryside. Tel: 028 6632 5250
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Another Enniskillen landmark, Castle Coole, sounds like an equally formidable stronghold. Actually, it's a huge mansion, standing proudly inside a 1200-acre woodland estate. The exterior is breathtaking, with tall pillars and almost perfect symmetry. It was home to the Earls of Belmore, extremely important people who even counted reigning monarchs among their guests. Guided tours take visitors through the recreated rooms, including lavish bedrooms and modest servants' quarters. Outside are the buildings that helped the house to run smoothly such as the dairy and the stables. People can either explore here, or wander off into the vastness of the surrounding landscaped park.

Castle Coole.
Photo Andrew Humphreys
Castle Coole is a little way out of Enniskillen, but there's a similarly eye-catching building right in its centre. This is the Town Hall, built in 1901. Its six-storey clock tower can be seen from just about anywhere. Stretching out from here in both directions is the main street. This is the focus of the entire settlement; it has everything, including shops, restaurants, houses and bars. Some residents probably go weeks without ever leaving it! The street's so long that it changes name six times on its journey from east to west. Its shops are a mixture of brand names and local businesses, giving the place a distinct character that other big settlements have lost.

Enniskillen Town Hall.
Photo Kenneth Allen
Outside of this main avenue, old churches and houses stand side-by-side with new shopping centres and theatres. This gives the town part of its character, but any image of Enniskillen is of course dominated by the water. It takes good advantage of this by running events like the Fermanagh Seaplane Festival, which has happened every year since 2009. Some of the aeroplanes even land in town, a surreal sight for the astounded locals. Every August, Enniskillen Airport gives people another reason to look up into the sky by hosting the Heli Challenge. This international competition tests the skills of the best helicopter pilots. Back on the lakes, there's rarely a week without some sort of competition, from sailing races to waterski contests. If you have a hobby that involves water, chances are that Enniskillen is the best place to do it.

Enniskillen Water Ski Competition.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Visitor Information
Enniskillen Tourist Information, Wellington Road, BT74 7EF. Tel: 028 6632 3110
Enniskillen Castle and Fermanagh County Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm (from 2pm on Saturdays and Mondays) Closed Sundays (except in July & August). Entry costs around £4 per adult, £3 children. Enniskillen Castle, Castle Barracks, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, BT74 7HL. Tel: 028 66 325000
Castle Coole grounds are open daily, 10am to 7pm (5pm in winter). The house is open daily, 11am to 5pm, May to August (plus weekends out of peak season). Entry costs around £5 per adult, £2 children. Castle Coole, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh BT74 6JY. Tel: 028 6632 2690

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