Charlie Lawson swaps Corrie cobbles for a relaxing break in Co Fermanagh
Charlie Lawson swaps the cobblestone streets of Corrie for a relaxing break to explore Northern Ireland's lake district
County Fermanagh is home to one of the UK's largest freshwater lakes, beautiful scenery, historical landmarks, diverse experiences and to ME.
If you are searching for a place to explore and holiday within Northern Ireland, the Fermanagh Lakelands is the perfect base. When Tourism NI invited me and my fiancee Debbie to take part in a trip on the stunning lakelands, where I experienced most of my fondest childhood memories, I said yes without hesitation.
Having grown up in Fermanagh it always has had a special place in my heart no matter where my acting work takes me. I try and return every year and never tire of its beauty.
The best way to see the Fermanagh Lakelands is by boat as it allows you to be up close to enjoy the outstanding scenery on the journey in peace and solitude. We took charge of the Noble Captain, hired from Manor House Marine, which became our home for the week. The staff at the Manor House Marine made sure we settled into our new home with an incredibly friendly welcome and lots of advice and tips to ensure we made the most of our lakeland journey.
The Captain is very comfortable and spacious with two large bedrooms plus two shower rooms. It is fully equipped and was a joy to be on board. Debbie and I had plenty of room to lounge about, relax and breathe in the fresh air as we made our way across the lake for seven days.
Our first activity on the itinerary was a Cutting Edge Helicopter ride over the Fermanagh Lakelands which I was very excited about as, even though I have returned to my home town many a time, this was a new experience for me. Being able to see the beautiful lakes from the point of view of a helicopter allowed us to soak in the spectacular scenery, historic sites and small islands along the way.
When we arrived at St Angelo Airport, we climbed aboard our helicopter and after a fully comprehensive safety check, we were off. It was especially poignant for me as I know this part of the Lower Lough inside out and it gave me a completely new perspective on the place I spent my early childhood. Our pilot was knowledgeable and also very accommodating as he flew us over places we were eager to see.
Once we landed back on the ground we made our way over to Enniskillen Castle to meet our Enniskillen Taste Experience tour guide. Mark, our host, was funny and well-informed as we walked around the town and after five minutes, he had given us several recommendations of where to eat. It was clear we were to be spoiled for choice and indeed, we could have moored up in Enniskillen and stuffed ourselves morning, noon and night for the week. We first stepped into 'Joe the Bakers' which was a wonderful and an almost spiritual introduction to sourdough baking. Joe is a magical character and tasting his produce was a delightful experience.
You cannot complete a tour of Enniskillen without calling into Fermanagh's oldest pub, Blakes of the Hollow, where I have been having a few pints for a few years now. It's always nice to see my best pal Aidie (Adrian) Dunbar on the wall and look at a very old picture of the cast of Corrie from 1989 when I first joined. My dad was a regular in this establishment and was a pal of Donal Blake many moons ago which very much influenced my love for the bar.
As the taste tour was coming to an end, we sampled some of Shane Stewart's sausages, which were washed down nicely with a couple of pints of local beer. For any Game of Thrones fans, make sure you pay a visit to the famous Door of Thrones which hangs in Blake's pub and features key moments from the show.
Onwards to a trip I was really looking forward to, The Boatyard Distillery. A German couple accompanied us on the tour and were very patient with us, as the fabulous gin and the craic flowed freely. Our host, Stanley and the owner's family, were very charming and accommodating.
Most important of all, the product is exceptional with its local ingredients. We left the distillery with two bottles that we had personally labelled, to look forward to enjoying back at home in England. I highly recommend the tour and I can say with great sincerity that the Boatyard Gin is undoubtedly the best gin in the world.
I must admit, when it was suggested that we try "the wee Greek spot" in Enniskillen, I was surprised as I hadn't heard there was a Greek restaurant in town. Nevertheless off we went to Dollakis as we agreed that it must be worth investigating. We had a splendid time and the food was delicious, very fresh and flavoursome. A highlight of our dining experience at Dollakis restaurant was the staff. Great young people who took the time to talk and laugh with us and it really added to the enjoyment of the night.
What can I say? Well, it's simple, the Fermanagh lakelands are a must visit. The 'quiet people' of this part of the world have gone about their business and the entire population have transformed this wee county into a wonderful destination for the discerning traveller. It has always been here and it has always been stunning, but it is very accessible now and offers a wide range of experiences that even impresses a Fermanagh native like me.
The wildlife surrounding the lakelands and warmth of the folk shine through. Its delicious produce is second to none, indeed our Sunday lunch at 28 Darling Street was some of the best food I've tasted in Northern Ireland.
I would recommend this trip on the lake to all of you. But please, don't tell everyone, let's keep it to ourselves!
Charlie and his partner spent seven days on the Fermanagh Lakelands, staying on the Noble Captain boat provided by Manor House Marine. Check out their site at www.manormarine.com or call 028 6862 8100;
On day two they experienced the thrill of a helicopter flight, as well as amazing views over Lower Lough Erne. Check out www.cuttingedgehelicopters.com or call 028 71812555;
Once the helicopter landed, Charlie and his partner headed straight over to Enniskillen Castle were they met Mark Edwards from Enniskillen Taste Experience for a guided tour. Visit www.enniskillentasteexperience.com or call 07734055452;
Next stop on the packed itinerary was the Boatyard Distillery where Charlie and his partner sampled a variety of delicious Boatyard gin flavours, distilled in Fermanagh. Visit www.boatyarddistillery.com or call 07757219431;
After a busy day, they made their way over to Dollakis Restaurant, located in Enniskillen town, to unwind and try some traditional Greek food. Check out www.dollakis.com for menu details or call 028 66342616.
÷ For further information about places to stay or things to see and do in NI, please visit www.discovernorthernireland.com