£2.4m revamp for historic castle
A centuries-old castle that bore witness to some of Ireland's bloodiest battles is to be restored in a £2.4 million lottery project.
Enniskillen Castle on the banks of Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh has been awarded the redevelopment grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Many of the historic buildings within the castle complex are to be refurbished and a new visitor centre will be built to replace a derelict building at the entrance to the site.
The castle was built by the Maguire chieftains almost 600 years ago and was fought over many times in the 16th and 17th centuries, with neighbouring clans and latterly English planters launching fierce attacks to seize what was a strategically important stronghold.
Built at the point where Upper and Lower Lough Erne meet, it guarded one of the few waterway routes into Ulster.
One of the best documented assaults on the castle took place in 1593. It was besieged and eventually captured by the English under Captain John Dowdall, but was recaptured by Hugh Maguire shortly afterwards.
The events were recorded at the time by the soldier John Thomas on a bird's eye watercolour, which is now held by the British Library.
The castle's Watergate was built in the early 17th century, after the planters had definitively seized control following the 'Flight of the Earls', and is acknowledged as one of the most important pieces of plantation architecture in the north of Ireland.
Sarah McHugh, manager of museum services at Fermanagh County Museum, said: "We're thrilled to have been given this funding. The Castle complex will become a great magnet for visitors, telling the story of the castle, the town and the county and become a true gateway to the entire region."
She said the plan was to develop a new 'History Hub' facility providing access to the museum's archives, photographs, library, oral histories and digital film archive.
There will also be four new galleries creating additional space to showcase the museum's important collections of objects, images and oral histories relating to the region.
Paul Mullan, head of HLF in Northern Ireland, said the £2.37 million award brought the total provided to museums in Northern Ireland to £32.5 million in the last 20 years.
"We feel passionately about this extremely important project which is genuinely world class," he said.
"Our investment will provide a lasting legacy, not just for Enniskillen, but for the whole of Fermanagh.
"We are very grateful to all the National Lottery players who make this kind of funding possible."