Wonderful walks, lodges straight out of a fairy tale and a food lovers paradise – find out how I lived it up at Lough Erne Resort.
It was my first time to visit Fermanagh. For someone who has visited every other county in Ireland, I felt almost ashamed that it took me this long to get there. I was kindly invited by Lough Erne Resort to stay for two nights, so I accepted with open arms. However, as much as I like nice hotels, I also like to discover the surrounding area and as this was a family trip, it was important that there was something here to please everyone. I had of course heard of the prestigious Lough Erne Resort, that has won numerous awards and accolades, including 2017’s hotel of the year in the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards. In fact, the G8 Summit was held there in 2013, so I guess if it was good enough for Barack Obama, it was good enough for me 😉.
Once we reached the entrance to Lough Erne Resort, we had to drive past not one, but two, golf courses to get to the hotel. You get the feeling that you are driving on to an island. The 600 acre peninsula where Lough Erne Resort is located is stunning and the frosty day made it feel even more dramatic. It was a good start! This was nicely followed when we were given keys to our self catering lodge, located right beside the hotel. I was really surprised by this because in most cases the self catering lodges tend to be a long distance from the hotel reception. And speaking from experience of Irish weather, there is nothing worse than being soaked on the way to dinner!
The lodges are an attraction in their own right. My daughter shrieked with delight when she saw them and thought that our new two story home, complete with a turret, resembled Rapunzel’s tower! Needless to say the kids decided they wanted the upstairs bedroom. Both bedrooms were extremely spacious and certainly deserved the five star rating. The bathrooms were equipped with large double showers and a free standing baths. The main living room was spacious too, although the kitchen area was quite small. One other thing to point out is that while our kids (ages 7 and 10) were at the perfect age, families with younger children may not like sleeping on a different floor to their parents.
I loved that breakfast is included in the hotel when you book one of the self catering lodges. I haven’t found this at any of the other hotels that I have stayed in and I think it is a massive bonus. Not only does this give you an incentive to rise early in the mornings (breakfast is served until 10.30) but to have a delicious a la carte breakfast served to you each day was greatly appreciated. This is standard for anyone staying in one of the twenty five, 2 or 3 bedroom lodges at Lough Erne resort.
Speaking of food…. Lough Erne Resort is renowned for its culinary delights and locally sourced produce. The Executive Head Chef Noel McMeel has worked with some of the world’s most respected chefs and is no doubt the reason why Lough Erne resort is the proud winner of the Hotel Restaurant of the Year. We dined in the Catalina Restaurant, Lough Erne’s fine dining offering and we were suitably impressed. While myself and Cormac were given an ‘amuse bouche’ of goats cheese to start, the kids were not overlooked. They two were given their own ‘amuse bouche’. A strawberry, blackberry and raspberry on a cocktail stick – what a nice surprise!
My starter of braised cheek ravioli was perfectly cooked as was the halibut, but the pièce de la resistance was the chocolate soufflé. It really was superb! The kids were happy too with plenty of options to choose from the kids menu. Alex had a tasty pasta dish while Luke enjoyed the chicken curry. Prices for two courses are £45 or £52 for three courses, quite reasonable I thought for such high quality food in a five star hotel.
There are other more casual options if you don’t fancy fine dining. The Blaney Bar where we had pre dinner drinks, served light bites and the Loughside Bar and Grill offers tasty steaks and seafood, overlooking the Nick Faldo golf course. Did I mention there were two championship golf courses here?
The following morning the hotel staff recommended we take the 40 minute walk around the Nick Faldo designed golf course, so off we went. Although freezing, (it was actually -2 degrees), it was bright and sunny which showcased just how stunning the hotel grounds are. We stopped at the 10th hole which offers breathtaking views over Lower Lough Erne. For someone who has never played golf I suddenly began to understand the attraction!
Can you see me? That’s me on the 10th ⛳ at @lougherneresort – probably the closest I’ll get to actually playing #golf 😉 . . . . . . . . . . . #lougherne #lougherneresort #luxuryhotel #luxurytravel #enniskillen #northernireland #travelblogger #familytravelblogger #familytravel #familytrip #familytime #staycation #fivestarresort #outdoors #walking #ireland #outdoors #freshair #golfcourse #golf #golfstagram #drone #dronephotography #dronestagram #dronegolf #dronesdaily #droneselfie @discoverni
After about 40 minutes we realised that we must have taken a wrong turn because we were still miles away from the hotel. We popped into what was aptly called The Halfway House at the 9th green only to find out that we had still another 20 minutes to go. We left our room without wallets or cash but thankfully the friendly barman said he would call reception and allow us to put any purchases on our room. We opted for some tasty homemade soup and hot chocolates before we set off back to the hotel.
The grounds are superb and there are many different walks to take. The following day we walked across Reeds Bridge on Castle Hume Lough. This is located at the rear of the hotel and offers the perfect view of the hotel and it’s conical lodges.
If you are feeling adventurous there are much more arduous walks in the surrounding area, the most famous being the newly opened boardwalk at Cuilcagh Mountain, which is only 15 miles from the resort. Often described as Ireland’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, this is now considered one of the top things to do in Northern Ireland. However the walk takes approximately 6 hours in total and is not for the faint hearted. With cold temperatures and two small kids in tow, we decided we would have to try this another time. We opted for Lough Navar Forest instead. Only a 15 minute drive from our lodge, this is a beautiful forest walk. You can actually take the 7 mile drive through the forest and stop at many of the viewpoints, if you don’t fancy walking. Make sure you visit Magho Viewpoint which offers panoramic views over Lower Lough Erne, Donegal Bay and the Blue Stack and Sperrin Mountains. Other popular tourist attractions in the area are the Marble Arch Caves , Belleek Pottery, Castle Coole and EnnisKillen Castle.
Of course, staying in such a luxurious hotel, it can be difficult to leave…. The following day we enjoyed a morning swim in the large indoor pool. Children are allowed in from 8am-11am and 4.30-5.30pm. There is also a Light Therapy Sauna and Tropical Rain Shower, a Steam Room and relaxation areas. There are ten spacious treatment rooms including a dual treatment room. I thought it would be a nice Mother and Daughter treat perhaps. The Thai Spa offered a winter saver package of a 30 minute facial, 30 minute body polish and full use of all the facilities for £75 which I thought was good value for a luxury spa.
While Lough Erne Resort is not a typical family hotel, children are well catered for. At check-in, Luke and Alex were delighted to receive a nice swim bag with a colouring book and crayons inside. There is also a kids playroom called Ernies Den that offers a range of fun games including, table football, air hockey, table-tennis and a pac-man machine. Open from 9am – 9pm, we enjoyed a drink in the bar while the kids played happily for an hour. This is handy for older kids who don’t need to be supervised and I am sure there are many new friendships formed here in the busier Summer months. Children can also have golf lessons on site or try mountain bike trails or take a guided pony trek nearby.
We were only there for two nights so we decided to go into Enniskillen for our second night and suss out the local scene. We were amazed at how busy the town was. There was no sign of anyone opting for ‘dry January’ in Enniskillen. We had promised the kids pizza but unfortunately Francos, the restaurant that was recommended to us, was fully booked all evening. We decided to make use of our luxury lodges and went back to Lough Erne resort and ordered pizza from the local delivery service. On a cold January night, I decided to do something I hadn’t treated myself to in a long time, soak in a hot bath, chill out in front of the TV and enjoy some take away pizza! It was our home away from home.
Of course my FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in and I still wanted to see if Franco’s lived up to the hype! We decided to pop in for lunch on our way home. Decorated from head to toe, it was the perfect place to finish off our Christmas holidays. With tasty food and a family friendly atmosphere, it is a great choice if you can manage to tear yourself away from the fabulous Lough Erne Resort…