The National Trust’s Crom Estate offers an idyllic getaway without having to leave Northern Ireland
With the scorching sun shining down upon our grateful Northern Irish skin, sizzling sausages cooking away on our portable barbecue, and the breathtakingly picturesque view of the stunning Lough Erne situated just a stone’s throw away from our unique glamping ‘pods,’ when we visited Castle Crom recently, I was reminded just how seldom we really get the chance to properly ‘switch off’ in today’s fast-paced, non-stop, device-driven society.
But here, looking out at the clear blue water, listening to the sound of children’s laughter as they made new friends whilst mums and dads dutifully barbecued - clearly delighted their children were for once not glued to their various gadgets - switching off didn’t seem a hardship at all, but rather a natural reaction to the breath-taking surroundings, which must be seen to be believed.
My husband and I had taken the straightforward and not quite two hour’s drive from the heart of Belfast to the Crom National Trust Campsite, situated on the shores of Lough Erne in the heart of the 2,000 acre Crom estate in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh.
This spacious, family-friendly campsite is spread over two areas, Culliagh’s and Bell Hill, and offers tent pitches as well as collection of luxurious glamping pods; both of which proved seriously popular when we visited last weekend.
The glamping pods, which were once used to house pigs, was our home for the night - but I am happy to report they’ve certainly had an upgrade since then!
With our pod aptly named Wilbur, each pod is individually named after the pigs in Charlotte’s Web, thanks to its history as piggeries, simultaneously offering a wave of nostalgia whilst nodding to the pod’s amazing history.
Unsurprisingly, in 2016, after just one season, the National Trust’s Crom Estate pods were awarded the ‘Unique Tourist Accomodation’ award at the Northern Ireland Tourism awards.
It is easy to understand why; at just £55 per night, these historical (and delightfully surprisingly spacious) pods can sleep two adults and up to three children, offering a seriously budget-friendly little slice of heaven in such a fantastic location. Adding to the cost-effectiveness, families can easily cook up a storm thanks to the fantastic pod facilities, which included all the basics such as a kettle, microwave and mini-fridge.
I’d seriously recommend bringing a disposable or portable barbecue - ideal for creating delicious dinners - and as our neighbours proved - a seriously envy-inducing fry-up in the morning for the entire family who happily tucked in at the individual personal picnic tables looking out at picturesque Lough Erne.
For those with four-legged friends, three dog-friendly pods are available, and if our dog’s experience was anything to go by - they will have an absolute ball (pun intended). In fact, staff at the National Trust estate gave our furry friend a particularly warm welcome, making our golden-haired Working Cocker Spaniel and full-time live wire Dougal feel right at home, even allowing him to come aboard our pre-booked rowing boat, which suffice to say, he absolutely loved.
In fact, it was probably due to the dog-friendly reputation and fantastic surrounding countryside walks that meant well-behaved dogs lounging beside chilled out owners was a regular sight at Crom Camping. In fact, upon departure, our friendly neighbours, who owned an adorable pooch named Otto, told us: ‘‘We haven’t done this sort of holiday before, but it is a great way of combining all of the best bits of camping without losing your luxuries. And the best bit is, you don’t have to leave the dog at home - it’s a holiday for the whole family.’’ My thoughts exactly.
With fantastic walks available for all fitness levels in the immediate surroundings, which offer great opportunities for wildlife spotting and children’s activities, including a park plus great campsite amenities such as boat hires and guided walks, there is plenty to do at Crom to entertain young families.
Indeed, the variety of visitors at Crom during our stay spoke volumes of its wide-ranging appeal; from light-hearted families soaking up the water facilities, to young couples taking advantage of the romantic surroundings gazing out to the breath-taking sights, to more mature couples enjoying the peace, quiet and tranquility of the walks. Admittedly, as a bad habit formed from growing up in today’s app-obsessed world, we often find ourselves constantly reaching for our phones for news and updates. But at Crom, for once people were not absent-mindedly scrolling through social media. They were in the moment, looking around, soaking up the atmosphere and charming sights. Crom offered a chance to switch off, to enjoy conversation, to get back to basics and enjoy nature. Indeed, this venue encourages people to make small talk with strangers, enjoy quality time with loved ones, enjoy wholesome family-friendly fun, join in whole-heartedly with activities, swim in the water and enjoy the fresh air. And in today’s usually fast-paced world, I can think of no higher praise than that.
The pods at Crom Campsite, National Trust Crom Estate, Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, can be booked at a cost of £55 per night. Call 028 6773 8118 to make a booking. There are five pods available, three pods are dog-friendly, to be mentioned when booking. The pods can accommodate two adults and up to three children.
Visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/crom-campsite for more details.