In the 15th and 16th Century, Enniskillen played host to a number of skirmishes as part of many wars over the lands of Ulster. During this time, the medieval military might of Enniskillen was bolstered by the presence of Enniskillen Castle in the town. Over a hundred years later, Castle Coole was constructed by Armar Lowry-Corry, the 1st Earl of Belmore, as a summer retreat. While both of these historic buildings were built with very different purposes, each have an intriguing past, possess impressive architecture and are a joy to visit.
Enniskillen Castle Showing its Scottish Influences
Enniskillen Castle was built during the 16th century by the son of the head of the Maguire family; Hugh “The Hospitable” Maguire. The castle was built in part to protect the Maguires from rival clans, as well as guarding one of the entrances into Ulster. As such, the castle was a place of importance during the Irish rebellions of the late 1500s as its founder was an important figure in the fight against English rule. Hugh Maguire was a bold and tactically gifted leader but went on to meet an untimely fate. The castle as it is today is much changed from when Hugh built it as over the years it was constantly added to. It is home to Fermanagh County Museum, which explores the county’s culture and history, and the Inniskillings Museum, the regimental museum of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
The Grandeur of Castle Coole
Open to the public during the summer months, Castle Coole is a contrast to the violent history of Enniskillen Castle. Built between 1789 and 1798, Castle Coole was the summer retreat of Armar Lowry-Corry who was a member of parliament in Dublin and heir to fortunes thanks to his ancestors being successful merchants. The land was chosen and bought by Armar’s grandfather due to its unspoilt rural surroundings yet with Enniskillen conveniently close. The family’s close tie to English rule is evident in that the estate was home to residences for King James and Queen Anne. The mansion today is a great example of neo-classical Georgian architecture and is home to a number of authentic furnishings. Famous figures James Wyatt (architecture) and Joseph Rose (plasterwork) both contributed heavily to making the house imposing, elegant and splendid.
While both are almost polar opposites, Enniskillen Castle and Castle Coole are both well worth the visit. Whether it’s exploring the history of the region or enjoying blissful walks through the grounds of Coole, they are both offer so much to visitors. Peer out over the River Erne and Enniskillen from its castle or peer into the lives enjoyed by the Georgian social elite.
Self Catering in County Fermanagh
Self Catering in Northern Ireland
Words by John Temke