So the McGonigles (aka McGoonies) hit the road again last weekend in search of some epic family fun and boy did we have some!
With two teens to entertain for a weekend we were a little worried about what to expect from our family getaway in Fermanagh and Tyrone.
But we soon found, to our delight, that our fears were groundless as we packed in adventure after adventure; intermingled with some great local, tasty food – the WiFi connection helped, too!
Journey to the West
We took the M1 and headed west to Blessingbourne Estate in Fivemiletown, the family home of the Lowry family.
Set in 550 acres, Blessingbourne is steeped in history and a jewel in the crown of County Tyrone.
Checking into our award winning, beautifully appointed, two-bedroom courtyard apartment we were greeted by Colleen Lowry who gave us the warmest of welcomes.waterslides for sale
A surprise welcome pack was also waiting for us in our apartment which included the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted (and I’ve tasted quite a few!) along with some other local produce for breakfast the next morning.
After coffees and hot chocolates at Pinocho’s coffee shop, we made the short distance to the start of the mountain bikes trails where we were matched with our bikes for the day ahead.
Feeling rather nervous about my first ever mountain bike ride, I followed the rest of the brood along the blue (easy) track… not so easy for us beginners but so much fun winding through the trees around the estate.
There are a few climbs but nothing too challenging – even I could manage them. We weren’t alone on the trails either, as we met quite a few other cyclists and people out walking their dogs on the walking trails, another popular activity at Blessingbourne.
A lot less energetic, but much more competitive, was our next stop at the newly installed ping pong table which seems to be popular with all the guests.
After a quick change for dinner, we made our way to the Valley Hotel in Fivemiletown, a five minute walk from our accommodation.
A family run business, the hotel is situated on the main street in Fivemiletown. We ate in the Loco Bar and Grill area which was full to capacity – always a good sign!
The menu was varied with a great selection to suit all tastes and great value for money. The staff were unbelievably friendly, and the service and food was top notch - I can’t recommend this hotel enough.
All Aboard the Waterways
After another decider game of table tennis we opted for an early night, to be woken the next morning by the sound of the Peacocks – what an alarm clock! Breakfast was made from the lovely hamper that Colleen had prepared for our arrival, before we set off for our next adventure.
We made our way to Enniskillen to catch the Erne Water Taxi. This family run business is making waves in Fermanagh with its Lough Erne Food Trail, a must for people who enjoy great local food, stunning landscapes and a good story.
Our host for the next 2-3 hours was owner, Barry, who kitted us out with life jackets and gave us a safety briefing before we boarded the boat.
This was our first trip to Lough Erne, and as we sailed out of the town we were given a brief history of Enniskillen Castle before our first stop, the monastic site of Devenish Island.
Founded in the 6th century, Devenish still retains ruins from different time periods and a round tower where we posed for some photos before returning to the water taxi where Barry had some local treats for us to sample – locally made Erin Grove whiskey marmalade and wheaten bread.
Our second stop was the ruins of Tully Castle. Built in the 1600s and once residence to Sir John Hume, this fortified house and bawn has a recreated 17th Century style garden for visitors to enjoy.
We also took the Loughshore Walk, a 45 minutes long 1.2 mile walk.
On our return to the shore Barry had cooked up a feast of local produce including black bacon, white pudding, black pudding, some Kettyle Foods pork and boxty.
After washing this down with some local Seriously Juicy fruit and vegetable juice we made our way to White Island where Barry accompanied us to the mesmerising White Island Figures – a group of 8 carved stones dating back as far as the 8th or 9th century, which alone were worth the trip.
A Leap of Faith
Bidding farewell to Lough Erne, we made our way to Ballygawley for something completely different – some adrenaline fuelled activity at the multi award winning Todds Leap Activity Centre.
Greeted by the bubbly Laura and Janet who made us feel very welcome over a nice cup of tea, they talked us through what they had planned for our visit which included the Giant Swing, The Zipline and the Off-Road Drive.
There was a lot of laughing, and screaming, mainly from me – according to Laura I had the “Best Scream of the Day”! The twins absolutely loved it and the off-road drive was hands down everyone’s favourite.
Lee didn’t spare the throttle either as he put his foot to the floor for what can only be described as the most hair-raising trip EVER – make sure you cross your arms and hold on tight to the straps!
Whether it’s a family day out, a venue for team building, or stag/hen party; fun is guaranteed and with accommodation and restaurant on site, you can even plan a short break and stay for a while.
We enjoyed our weekend away and were exhausted by the time we got home. Even though we crammed in so much in one weekend, we could have spent a fortnight in Tyrone & Fermanagh with all that there is to see and do.
Until next time, Jacqueline, whatsonni.com
If you’ve been inspired by Jacqueline and her family’s trip to Tyrone and Fermanagh, visit discovernorthernireland.com for more ideas on family short breaks.