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Walk of the Week: Castle Archdale

By LInda Stewart

Make a flying visit to historic wartime siteCastle Archdale Country Park was once the frontline of the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

RAF Castle Archdale was vital in the fight against Nazi Germany and the men and women stationed there played their parts in operations to combat German U-boats in the Atlantic.

The country park lies about 10 miles north-west of Enniskillen and extends to cover 230 acres along the shores of Lower Lough Erne.

The region is abundant in historical features, with many monastic sites such as Devenish and White Island. Castle Archdale is based on the demesne of the Archdale Manor House, which was built in 1773, although now only the courtyard buildings remain.

Directions

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

A popular short walk (2.2 mile) demonstrates Castle Archdale Country Park’s ability to combine natural beauty with evidence of its role as a vital flying-boat station in the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

From Castle Archdale Courtyard, follow the sign for the Woodland Walk down the hill to the caravan site where you’ll see a large green tank, one of a few surviving WWII structures — it once provided drinking water from Lough Erne to the camp.

Walk on into the caravan site — on your right is the shop and restaurant that was once the Operations Block, the nerve centre of RAF Castle Archdale. Operational briefings took place here before aircrew went out on patrol the Atlantic to search for U-boats or give protection to convoys.

All operational flying was coordinated from this building and next door, now the playground, stood a cottage where flying rations were issued for the duration of the flight.

Continue past the caravan site office towards the loughshore. You are now at the slipway, a timeless and unchanged view from which aircraft emerged for servicing. This expansive cement area, now home to the Caravan Park, once bustled with the sound of Catalinas and Sunderlands being hauled in from the water for urgent maintenance work.

Walk back onto the main avenue, exiting the caravan park. Follow the pedestrian path along the avenue past the walled garden. As you pass the walled garden, directly on your right is an area referred to as ‘Skunk Hollow’. These were the sleeping quarters for the Canadian aircrew and were named after the cartoon character L’il Abner in the comic strip. A prominent sign stated “No women, no swearing, no spitting, no nothing, Drive like hell!”

Carry straight on past the mature oaks to a junction, once the security checkpoint marked by a memorial stone and a lime tree arch woven together by airmen on guard duty. Go right to the car park adjacent to the loughshore, then follow the first pedestrian path to the ‘Burma Road’, cut through dense forest to give access to bomb and ammunition stores.

Walk along the ‘Burma Road’ until you approach a bomb store on your right hand side. These surviving stores comprised concrete bases surrounded by blast walls and were built to accommodate depth charges which were loaded onto the flying boats for their patrols in the mid-Atlantic. Continue on to a T junction, go right and up the steps back to the courtyard where you started.

the backdrop

Features within the park include a red deer enclosure, wildfowl ponds, nature trail, butterfly garden and wildflower meadow. To make the most of your visit, be sure not to miss the Archdale Centre, which is in the corner of the main courtyard.

Boats are available for hire for those wishing to explore the nearby islands. Pony trekking and bicycle hire are also available.

The most important of Lough Erne's many island church settlements, Devenish was founded in the 6th century by St Molaise. It was raided by Vikings in 837AD and burned in 1157AD, but in the Middle Ages flourished as the site of the parish church and St Mary's Priory.

There are extensive low earthworks on the hillside, but the earliest buildings are St Molaise's House (a very small church) and the fine round tower close by, both with accomplished Romanesque decoration of the 12th century.

further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN 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.

Walk Name: Castle Archdale.

Area: Fermanagh.

Nearest big town: Irvinestown.

Distance: 2.2 miles, circular.

Terrain: Loughshore & woodland walk.

Access Restrictions: Ensure all dogs are kept on leads.

Publications: World War II Heritage Trail leaflet available from the Countryside Centre in the Courtyard.

Refreshments: There is a café open from 11am–5pm every day during July & August and at weekends during March-June & September.

Walk Developed By: Environment and Heritage Service in conjunction with Fermanagh Flying Boat Association.

Map: Sheet 17 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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