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Walk of the Week: Castle Archdale Family Trail

By Linda Stewart

Castle Archdale Family Trail is the first in a series of articles showcasing Northern Ireland's finest cycling routes, winding through some of our most spectacular landscapes.

This trail meanders through Castle Archdale Country Park, situated 15km north west of Enniskillen, and runs along the shores of Lower Lough Erne and through the woods of Castle Archdale Forest.

This six mile cycle trail weaves its way through 230 acres of mature forest situated on the shores of the lough, enabling the cyclist to explore more than 1,000 years of history.

Directions

Castle Archdale Country Park is situated on the main Enniskillen to Kesh road (B82). It is well signposted and can be found 1 mile on the Enniskillen side of Lisnarick village.

You have two starting options, either from the Marina in Castle Archdale Country Park or from Old Castle Archdale. Both locations have interpretation panels mapping out the cycle route. Posted directional arrows clearly signal the route.

From the marina car park, a two-way cycle section gently limbers you up before heading into the longer loop through the forest toward Old Castle Archdale. This loop swings right into a narrower single track section. You suddenly find yourself darting between trees in soft spruce-filtered light before arriving back onto firmer track once again.

Follow the arrow right and through another short, thrilling single track section. This mix of forest roads and single track is a great introduction for all ages and abilities and just might whet your appetite for something more adventurous.

The Old Castle ahead, destroyed during the 17th Century Irish Rebellion, roughly marks the half-way point from the Marina and is a unique spot to grab a quick breather. Also, check out the WWII features situated along the Burma Road, including the bomb store and petrol store.

The return leg offers a different experience to the secluded enclosure of the forest. Hugging the shore of Lower Lough Erne for a mile or so, it offers stunning panoramic views across to Davy's Island, White Island and further across Lower Lough Erne. Both Christians and Vikings settled on these Islands and each turn of the pedal feels like a journey back in time.

From here head back towards the two-way track just south of the courtyard and follow the trail back to the marina. Visit the Castle Archdale at War exhibition for information about the fascinating links with WWII. A café and Countryside Centre are also housed in the courtyard and in summer you can take advantage of the boat trips to White Island to see the world famous carved figures.

The Backdrop

Castle Archdale is based in the demesne of the Archdale Manor House, which was built in 1773 and of which now only the courtyard buildings remain. Features within the park include a red deer enclosure, wildfowl ponds, nature trail, butterfly garden and wildflower meadow.

Also, evidence of the Second World War can be found throughout the park in flying boat docks, ammunition dumps and in slit trenches. This is because Lough Erne played an important role as the most westerly flying-boat station, from which aircraft protected the Allied convoys from the U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic.

White Island is situated at Castle Archdale Bay off the east shore of Lower Lough Erne. The island's main feature is the ruined 12th-century church with its fine Romanesque doorway. The island is also known for its archaic carved stone figures which sit in a line and are set into the wall. These figures were used as building stones when the church was being constructed which means that they pre-date the church. There are eight figures in total including a frowning face or 'mask', and also an uncarved figure.

Further information

For further information on cycling or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation NI at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or cycleni.com.

Outdoor Recreation NI in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation NI and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Factfile

Cycle Name: Castle Archdale Family Cycling Trail.

Area: Fermanagh.

Nearest big town to start point: Irvinestown, Kesh.

Distance: 6 miles, circular.

Terrain: Off road, mostly forest roads and single track paths.

Facilities: Toilets, car parking, tea rooms (seasonal opening), Castle Archdale at War Exhibition. Seasonal pony trekking, cycle hire and boat trips are also available.

Publications: Information on this route can be found in Castle Archdale Visitor Brochure available from the Countryside Centre in the main courtyard buildings. Further information on this route is available from cycleni.com.

Map: Sheet 17 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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