The Walkers’ 15th Anniversary

The Walkers’ 15th Anniversary


It hardly seems 15 years since I met Leslie at a Lent Course run by the now Bishop of Connor, Rt Rev Alan Abernethy. Out of that chance encounter grew the St Columbanus Walkers, a group of like–minded men and women who love exploring new places and revisiting old, with occasional challenges. The group consists of people from all walks of life, from different churches and none, but who all have made lasting friendships. We are fortunate to have beautiful scenery and destinations on our doorstep and have learned much about the Northern Ireland countryside. As WB Yeats wrote “Time to put off the world and go somewhere”.

So over with the sentiment and on to our Anniversary weekend in Fermanagh based in the friendly Mahons Hotel in Irvinestown. The party of seventeen became nineteen on Saturday when Sean and Annette joined us and became 21 on Saturday night for dinner when Joy and Colin turned up unexpectedly.

Off to Lough Navar

Saturday’s outing in warm sunny weather, led by Brian, took us first by car to the Cliffs of Magho Viewpoint on the southern side of Lower Lough Erne. We could see as far as the Atlantic and Slieve League, 36 miles to the west and the Sperrins to the east. Notable was the poignant war grave to the crew of an RAF Catalina which crashed into the Lough in 1941. These flying boats were based at what is now Lough Erne Yacht Club at Killadeas. On then back to Lough Meenameen for the start of the seven–mile trail through Lough Navar Forest which is part of the Marble Arch Global Geopark. This spectacular forest extends across 2600 hectares of bog, heath, open water, native woodland and coniferous forest. We met fishermen but few others until we reached the section which is also the Ulster Way and the Fermanagh Lakeland Way where we did our bit for Discover Northern Ireland having encountered a couple of American tourists. It was steep in places as we made our way back up to the finish. A worthwhile rewarding venture! Some went to Beleek Pottery coffee shop and others made their way back to Nora’s in Irvinestown.

The Garden of the Celtic Saints

In need of a walk after another generous dinner, some headed off to the Garden of the Celtic Saints just a quarter mile from the hotel. Not knowing what to expect we got a real surprise at how big and detailed the display was. This beautifully designed garden beside the Catholic church was filled with intricately carved statues of the Saints of the Golden Age of the Irish Church.

The names of Patrick, Brigid, Columcille, Gall, Killian, Molaise and our own Columbanus were beautifully presented in stone beehive type houses, sensitively lit and all with the stories on display boards. We reckoned that Columbanus must have been a Remainer as he is quoted as saying: “We are members of one body whether Franks or Britons or Irish or whatever race”!

Most atmospheric was the church music played quietly in every one of the five houses depicting different stories such as St Patrick and the Legends and Mysteries, the Monasteries and the European Journeys.

Also in the Garden was a Clachan made up of several stone buildings telling the story of the Irish Famine and across the road was a memorial Famine Graveyard.

The figures of the Saints are the work of Lithuanian sculptor Jonas Raiskas who came to Irvinestown in 2007. Devenish Parish commissioned him to carve the figures from native Irish oak and they took nearly five years to complete.

Sunday in Castle Archdale

Castle Archdale

Sunday’s walk was in the Castle Archdale Country Park. Peter Gibson led this one and told us some of the history of the place. It was once owned by the Archdale family who arrived in 1614 during the Plantation of Ulster and the castle was built in 1615 by John Archdale, an Englishman. There are a variety of walks and cycle trails along the lough shore passing the deer park enclosure, wildfowl ponds, wildflower meadow and butterfly garden. Evidence of the 1939–45 War can be found throughout the park in flying–boat docks, ammunition dumps, Slit trenches, etc. 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. One of the places is named ‘Skunk Hollow’, once the sleeping quarters of Canadian aircrews. We walked past the marina and the White Island Ferry Service base.

How many can you squeeze into a Bird Hide?

The answer is 13! Sunday’s weather wasn’t quite as kind as Saturday’s so with a couple of heavy downpours during our walk, we resorted to the Bird Hide solution. After lunch we visited the ‘Castle Archdale at War’ exhibition which explains the role it played during the war. There was also the ‘Our Limestone Landscapes’ exhibition promoting the value of the Limestone Landscapes.

Mahons was an ideal centre, with excellent food, accommodation and very friendly staff. Altogether a very enjoyable weekend and thankfully we escaped the torrential rain which was worst on the drive home.

The next outing on July 6 is to the National Trust’s Ardress House and Peatlands Park near Craigavon. For non–NT members the standard entry is £5.45.


Added by: RobbieJackson
Added on: Wednesday 12th June 2019

Category: Walkers

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