Take me there: Fermanagh Lakes
Locals like to tell you that for six months of the year the lakes are in Fermanagh and for the other six, Fermanagh is in the lakes. And it’s true, this corner of Northern Ireland, with its reed-fringed loughs and rivers, can at times seem more liquid than land. It’s an evocative place that has made a lasting mark on Ireland’s cultural landscape. Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett both went to school in Enniskillen – a connection celebrated with A Wilde Weekend (launched in early May) and the Happy Days festival which brings to life the works of Beckett with readings and performances in unexpected locations (23 July-3 August, happy-days-enniskillen.com).
What to do
You could easily spend a week pottering around on Fermanagh’s waterways, either by motorboat or canoe (canoeni.com/canoe-trails/lough-erne). There are some 150 islands to explore. Don’t miss the monastic ruins on Devenish Island and the early Christian carvings on White Island. Float along a subterranean river beneath the limestone stalactites at the Marble Arch Caves (marblearch cavesgeopark.com). The National Trust-owned Florence Court and Castle Coole run regular events for families (nationaltrust.org.uk).
Where to stay
Geaglum Cottage is a cosy thatched hideaway on Upper Lough Erne. There’s an open fire, vintage furnishings and a beautifully restored gypsy caravan in the garden (sleeps three, plus two in the caravan, underthethatch.co.uk/rci).
Where to eat
Tully Mill is an intimate stone-walled restaurant in a converted millhouse in the leafy grounds of the Florence Court estate (028 6634 9879).
Sean Doran, artistic director of the Happy Days festival, recommends a pint in Blakes of the Hollow pub (blakesofthehollow.com): “The Irish writer Colm Tóibín described it as ‘a cathedral of a pub’. It’s got an old Victorian bar with peaceful snugs, and I use it as an unofficial festival club.”
Give me a break
Home: wild swimming in the Lakes Cragwood Hotel in the Lake District has teamed up with specialist open-water swimming company Head to the Hills to launch guided swims for its guests this summer. The packages are suitable for anyone who can comfortably swim 1,000m in a pool. A one-night stay, with four-course dinner and wild swim session, is £135pp. The first swim is on 1 July (lakedistrictcountryhotels.co.uk/cragwood-hotel).
Away: a relaxing place to stay in Turkey Four years ago the sleepy Turkish town of Akyaka became an officially designated ‘slow town’ to protect its relaxed pace of life. The Azmakhan Deluxe is a new, fittingly low-key hotel, with carved wooden ceilings and balconies, a Turkish bath and views over the Gulf of Gokova. Anatolian Sky Holidays is offering a week’s stay from £626pp B&B, including flights and transfers, in June (anatoliansky.co.uk).