Lakeland idyll made for perfect Fermanagh getaway

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Before I go any further it might be worth pointing out that I had never set foot on a cabin cruiser prior to taking charge of an initially intimidating 32-foot long vessel at Bellanaleck marina.

Like many others, I frequently admired the ever-majestic Lough Erne from the shoreline - secretly wishing I was a member of the boating community sailing quietly and effortlessly into the sunset against an array of scattered islands and ancient woodlands - but never thinking it would be me.

Now, having spent a glorious few days afloat in late September, my only regret is that I didn’t discover the ultimate weekend getaway much sooner.

As the cruisers are built for comfort not speed, no special skill is needed to take command and the fun begins once the hire company has conducted a short safety brief and supervised a couple of practice launch and berthing manoeuvres. After that, the sense of freedom is nothing short of intoxicating.

And, with the glistening water stretching out in front of you as far as the eye can see, there is an immediate, easy going, sense of being at one with nature. Simple to read charts are provided to guide you along the way, but you are never more than a mile or two from one of more than 50 public jetties if you feel the need to tie up to get your bearings. The navigational guide also highlights the many monastic ruins and sites of historical interest close to the public jetties.

The cruisers come in various sizes, sleeping between two and 12 people, with fully equipped galleys - including oven and hob, showers, flushing toilets and lashings of hot water.

Bicycles can be taken on board and are a great way of exploring the many attractions beyond the shoreline. The Natural Trust’s Crom Estate to the very south of Lough Erne (near Newtownbutler) is one of the great cycling locations around the waterways with a 2,000-acre demesne crisscrossed with forest trails and quiet laneways. Crom has its own jetty which also allows access to a coffee shop and picnic areas.

The Share Centre at Lisnaskea offers a range of water sport activities, as well as canoe hire for those wishing to get a closer look at the many small islands not accessible from larger boats.

Whether you want a family adventure or a romantic getaway, take the helm and immerse yourself in the majestic beauty of Fermanagh’s unspoilt haven.

• The boating season runs from March to October and prices with Carrickcraft start from around £300 for a 2-berth boat for three nights.

All boats come fully prepared for sailing with enough fuel for up to two weeks cruising. Fuel is an additional extra with the boats refilled on return and the customer debited the cost.

My daily fuel bill, having been on the move much more than I was berthed, worked out at around £20 per day.

Carrickcraft boats are available from The Moorings, Bellanaleck, Co Fermanagh, BT92 2BA. Telephone (028) 3834 4993, or email sales@carrickcraft.com.

Further information is available at www.cruise-ireland.com