Inis Ceithleann – an historic island fortress named after the mythical Irish Queen Ceithleann (Caitlín in modern Irish, or Kathleen as the closest in English). This County Fermanagh capital town is one of the most recognisable place names in Northern Ireland. En route to Donegal, just off the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s also a popular pitstop for those traveling from East to West generally and almost the same travel time if you’re coming from Belfast or Dublin, give or take 30 minutes.
The provenance of food and drink across Ulster is of paramount importance and is a true producer powerhouse region on the island of Ireland and here is no exception –– which makes a 48 hour visit to this historic town so exciting! Here’s how we suggest spending a two-day trip in Enniskillen.
Hotels in Enniskillen
A destination in itself, stay at the Lough Erne Resort (click through for our full feature), an award-winning golf resort and stunning five-star hotel just ten minutes drive from the heart of Enniskillen.
With luxury manor stylings, fine dining restaurant, beautiful lakeside lounges and a designer golf courses, while it’s difficult to leave the comfort of the Estate, there’s so much to see around Enniskillen and the Lakelands. Check our full post on the hotel for more details.
On our second visit to the region we actually stayed about 30 minutes outside Enniskillen in the Finn Lough resort, a luxury forest hideaway right by Lough Erne, complete with spa, restaurant, bar and forest trails as well as their iconic bubble domes. Click through for our full feature on Finn Lough.
Best Restaurants and Cafes in Enniskillen
Glen Wheeler is Fermanagh born and bred, but spent much of his culinary career in neighbouring Cavan, leading the team as head chef at Neven Maguire’s MacNean House for almost 15 years. A couple of years ago he returned to his native Enniskillen and set up his own restaurant, which operated for a couple of years at 28 Darling Street however since mid-2021 has now found its home at 28 at The Hollow.
Set on Church Street in the same building as the historic, popular and formidable Victorian pub Blakes of the Hollow (which pours the best Guinness in town and also boasts one of the Game of Thrones doors which are dotted around pubs in Northern Ireland) Glen and his team have found their stride in the new space, serving a premium take on casual dining drawing (and keeping) in locals and visitors alike with deft cooking, bold flavours, pretty and refined plating and super warm service –– not to mention a great selection of wines and cocktails. We personally think 28 at The Hollow is one of the best places to eat in Enniskillen.
The best bakery/cafe in Enniskillen, in our opinion, is Folk Espresso & Boulangerie, run by New Zealander Michael McKenzie who after marrying a fine Fermanagh woman relocated to Northern Ireland. Folk actually began in a different guise in NZ but after working in a few bakeries in Ireland, Michael decided to revive his concept on the other side of the world and give it a 2.0 go in Enniskillen, which he has been doing triumphantly for the last two years.
Just one look at the pastry display and we can guarantee your tastebuds will be tantalised and a tough decision guaranteed every time. Perfectly, flaky, highly laminated pastries from lavishly filled croissants to creative cronuts with a line-up of amazing sourdough loaves and Allpress coffee.
The Jolly Sandwich Bar was the one place that was recommended to us time and time again online when we reached out to our audience for foodie suggestions. Almost every person who sent us eating and drinking recommendations noted that The Jolly Sandwich on Darling Street was their favourite lunchtime haunt.
This cute little cafe is run by locals with a very local style of service – and it was recently awarded Best Cafe in Ulster at the Irish Restaurant Awards 2018. This deli-café is also known for its commitment to making as much in-house as possible and the menu is comfort food and classics. Great value too, we ate lunch for two with a large pot of tea for two for around £14.
A couple of doors down, on another lunch time we tried The Happiness Trap, an expansive vegetarian/vegan café and health food-focused spot on Townhall Street which has sadly closed its doors since Covid-19 –– a huge loss to the area and such a shame. We have it on good authority that Kenny’s is the best chipper in town. Granny Annies next door also does a modern-ish update on classic pub grub. It’s a well-known NI-based restaurant and bar group with these concept bars in Belfast, Derry and Limavady.
You also can’t leave without trying – or at least picking up a pack – of O’Doherty’s Black Bacon. One of the most famous foodie exports of Enniskillen and Co. Fermanagh, this bacon comes from rare-breed pigs that almost went extinct. The pigs are actually farmed as-wild on the private Inishcorkish island. Farmer and butcher Pat O’Doherty can often be seen going to-and-fro in his boat to check on his pigs, which are as free-range and free-feasting as you can imagine! Pat’s butchers shop on Belmore Street has a great range of meats and condiments, including some from Northern Ireland’s best producers. The seaweed black pudding is also a fantastic flavour, too!
The aforementioned Lough Erne Resort also boasts one of the best eateries in the local area. Catalina Restaurant is a highly commended and awarded restaurant – Northern Ireland’s first 3 AA Rosette winner – overseen by Executive Chef Noel McMeel. The menu is a celebration of local producers and the region’s best products, served in a beautiful dining room that’s on the comfortable and more casual side of fine dining.
Things To See & Do In Enniskillen
To discover more about the long history of this town, we’d recommend a visit to Enniskillen Castle & Museums, which also includes the Inniskillings Museum. Once the stronghold of authority in Enniskillen, a former army barracks which later became an infirmary quarters, the museum tells the story of Enniskillen from early Gaelic clan settlements and crannógs aplenty to modern times.
A really fascinating insight into the story of life around Lough Erne, the museum is artefact and information rich as well as an art space featuring artists from or linked to Enniskillen and its environs. It’s easy to spend an hour or two exploring this museum and the surrounding spaces.
The Inniskillings Museum is full of military memorabilia of various guises of the Armed Forces within Ulster, and in particular the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Visits to the museum cost £5 for an adult and £3.50 for children, students and seniors. There’s a large, open, free parking area outside the museum which is a handy space to drop the car and continue exploring the town on foot.
Another of Enniskillen’s must-see museums is completely free and uniquely is set within a functioning barber shop. You better believe what we’re saying! The town’s Railway Museum (within Headhunters Barber Shop) is a small but rich collection of railway memorabilia from the town’s history as an important rail destination.
Uniforms, menus, cutlery, vintage posters, the rooms are awash with nostalgic nods to the town’s history as a transport hub. 60 years since the railway station closed, there’s hope that proposed plans for a new Enniskillen station with links to other parts of Northern Ireland may become a reality in the next few decades, let’s hope!
Things To See & Do Outside Enniskillen
Just about 30 minutes up the road from Enniskillen outside Omagh you’ll find the Ulster American Folk Park, which for the last few decades has been educating and immersing visitors in bygone eras and tracing Ulster emigration to North America. Much more than the famine exodus of the mid-1800s, the open air museum offers over 40 stops to learn, listen and engage with characters tracing a route from Ulster thatched cottages to Stateside log cabins between the 18th and 20th centuries. Throughout, you’ll trace the stories of three families in particular but this is an expansive and thoroughly engaging exhibition which has been welcoming visitors in their thousands annually.
To give this incredible museum its due process we’d suggest spending 3-4 hours here, walking the trail and meeting different characters along the way enhancing the sights, sounds and information. Special additional exhibitions are seasonally held in the inside exhibition spaces –– when we were there it was a wonderful overview of the history of Irish dancing in Ulster. Entry costs less than £10 per adult, with discounts available for seniors, students and family groups, and always best to pre-book your visit via the website.
The Fermanagh Lakelands area surrounding Lough Erne are a true beauty to behold. Mark off a couple of hours to drive along the scenic route, taking in the mountains and lakeside vistas. From Enniskillen to Belleek, just on the border with Co. Donegal, takes about 30 minutes. While there, check out the iconic Belleek Pottery visitors centre and shop, which is open 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday weekly (however from October to December closed weekends and earlier afternoon closing daily).
A 30-minute guided tour of the facility costs €7 for adults, €5 for senior citizens and students whilst children under 12 are free. A family ticket is €18. The adjoining shop is open to all, selling a wide selection of their wares, and there’s also a lovely, expansive tea room too.
Moving further south, the Marble Arch Caves (part of the Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark) are a natural wonder to behold. This expansive network of caves, waterways and passages is breathtaking to explore and beholds a real natural beauty found under the surface. Note: there are quite a few steps at the start and end of the tour!
Weather conditions permitting, you’ll arrive at the start of the tour by boat, entering the cave in the same style as the explorers, Edouard Alfred Martel and Lyster Jameson, who first ventured into it in 1895. Sadly we didn’t get to do this, but it sounded fabulous. The guides are all entertaining, extremely informative and explain geology in perfectly simple terms. It’s amazing how much there is to learn about these incredible natural formations under our feet.
A tour lasts for around 75 minutes and costs just under £10 per adult with cheaper tickets for children, senior citizens and students. Tours run in general from around 10am to 3/4pm daily, during the months of February to November.
If, and we say if, you’re a real hiker, adventure seeker and thrill tourist, then you’ll will need to set aside a good half day to tackle the Cuilcagh Boardwalk (Stairway to Heaven) – at Cuilcagh Mountain. Part of the Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark, the trail is almost 15km long round trip, meaning you’ll have to leave about six hours in total for this. We were very tempted to hike, but weather conditions for us novices didn’t fill us with confidence and it’s something we resigned ourselves to venturing on on our next trip to the area.
If hiking and exploring isn’t up your street, and like us, you’d rather a gin & tonic, we’d highly recommend a visit to Boatyard Distillery. As the name suggests (and often, spirit names can be misleading!), this gin distillery is located within a former boatyard on the edge of Lough Erne and the finished product is one of the finest gins available in Ireland. Founded only in early 2016, it’s an incredibly small, family-owned operation here and we visited in 2018 and again in 2021 to see how the space has evolved over a few short years.
Joe McGirr returned from the UK with buckets of drinks industry experience, including from one of the finest distilleries in Scotland, and set his sights on creating a local gin with real terroir. Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that gin by its very nature must contain botanicals rarely grown in Ireland like juniper, coriander and orris root but as well as those more exotic botanicals there’s always local flavours in Boatyard’s double gin –– more specifically bog myrtle or as it’s more commonly known sweetgale.
Joe’s sister, Teresa, came on board a year into business and as an all-rounder has jumped between admin, finances, sales, events and distillery tours. It was Teresa who first took us around the distillery several years ago but since then Stanley is the man in the know, on the ground leading the tours alongside a newer recruit, Josh.
Their facility is small but perfectly formed, and coming from a family of dairy farmers, the distillery has repurposed heralds of the family business all around, including milk churn details and an agitator in a former milk storage unit. The brand has spent a lot of money on details and it shows in both the flavour and the design of both the gin and the distillery, whilst expansion nearby into a boat store building has also been on the cards for years and the vision is nearing reality. That’s all we’ll say for now, but a little hint is the fact you’ll one day be able to sail up Lough Erne and arrive by boat to a stunning expanded distillery experience. Watch their space!
As a premium gin, it’s hugely popular with gin aficionados and is growing in exports to mainland Europe and North America, whilst it’s also a preferred gin brand of many top bars, most notably the bar at The Savoy in London. Aside from their signature gin, Boatyard Distillery also produces three other products: a stunning Boatyard Vodka, Boatyard Sloe Gin and Boatyard Old Tom Gin –– which is aged for six months in ex-Pedro Ximeniz Sherry casks.
A Boatyard Distillery tour costs £45 per person (bookable via their website, linked, select days and times per week), which on paper may feel like a lot but aside from a 90-minute session where you’ll get to know and taste the brand, you also get to label and take a 70cl bottle of their gin home with you, so really you’re getting an enhanced understanding and experience of the brand for the cost of a bottle of gin that you’ll have as a souvenir too. This is not a profit earner from the McGirrs, and in fact the price of the tour has never increased. Be sure to have a designated driver, or get a taxi after!
Getting To Enniskillen
The best way to get to Enniskillen is by road. Ulsterbus services X261 and 261 take you from Belfast Europa Buscentre to Enniskillen in about 2 hours. Dublin-Donegal Bus Éireann services 30 and X30 serve the town with journeys taking about two and a half hours from the Irish capital. If you can drive, it’s a neat two hour drive. Belfast International, George Best Belfast City and City of Derry Airports are all roughly a 90-minute drive from the centre of the town.