423-425: Neo Classical Cave Cavan Cavorting

423 – Thursday 21st July 2016:  Coole in Enniskillen

A short drive to Castle Coole, just south of Enniskillen.  As we arrived, it dawned on us that we were back in N. Ireland … the Sterling wallet with the Italian National Trust cards had to be retrieved from its hiding place!  You have to book onto a house tour and no photos allowed inside, as the furniture etc. still belongs to the current Earl who has a wing of the house and the farm on the estate.  

One of the Earls was married 3 times.  Wife Number 1 died, so in his 40s he married an English 17 year old; she could not bear him or living in damp Ireland so they separated … unusually she was allowed to keep her daughter with her in London until the child was 5, when she had to return to be brought up in the family home.  It took 13 years and an Act of Parliament for the Divorce.  18 months later he married the neighbouring money and estate … sorry, I mean, his third wife.

Another story was that King George IV was touring Ireland and expected to stay … we saw the plush unused State Bedroom.  George had previously had an affair with ??? who now lived in Sligo – their passion was rekindled and he never got further than her House and it is said that this is why the road between Dublin and Sligo is so straight!

It is funny how you can have empathy with your fellow tourists … we were all aghast at one family who had the MOST obnoxious child … she kept sitting on the chairs, touching everything, running around and barging past people.  The parent’s made no attempt to restrain her.  I don’t know how the guide didn’t evict her … I know if I’d ever had to teach her, she have spent a lot of time outside the classroom and catching up work in detention with me!


Castle Coole – another neo classical edifice built by one of the ‘Plantation’ Lords  The Earl of Belmore owned a ship and barges, so he imported Portland Stone from Dorset!  The cost nearly bankrupt the first Earl, but not to worry … they all just married more money!

From here we travelled to Asda in Enniskillen and its free large carpark … very important to stock up on alcohol free beer …. it really has improved a lot since it first came out.  The TIC was very helpful and walked around the town, in between sunshine and really heavy downpours.  Enniskillen is actually surrounded by water, making it an island.  It is mostly known for the IRA bomb killing 11 people in 1987, but we did not go looking for any memorials … there must be something in recognition though.  We had read that both Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett both went to school here.  There should have been a Beckett Festival on at the moment, but the main sponsor had pulled out.  A lovely high street with lots of independent shops.

The castle was mostly being refurbished, but has a central Keep with the Inniskilling (old spelling) Regimental Museum.  Enniskillen had formerly two Regiments – all subsumed into the Ulster Rifles … now based in … wait for it …. England!


Tomorrow we planned to visit both Florence Court House and the Marble Arch Caves … we politely asked both receptionists if we could park overnight there …. not allowed, but the charming girl in the Caves told us about a carpark 13 mins down the road in Belcoo … where she came from.  A great pitch with a toilet and a park … we watched a group of ladies slogging their way around it whilst we consumed wine … not an alcohol free night!!!


424 – Friday 22nd July 2016:  Marble Arch Caves and Florence Court

A short run around the park … J in front stopped on lap 2 and that was no encouragement for me to carry on … all his fault!  So I did some punishing Pilates!  

The Marble Arch Caves were only investigated in 1895, but not open to the public until 1985.  We’ve ‘done’ caves before, the most notable being the Predjama Caves in Slovenia, but these were bit different.  It was really evident where the river had excavated its path through the limestone – we followed its path.  The tours includes a boat ride, a lot of head ducking and walking through a walled walkway with water waist height on either side.  Some unusual formations.  Unexpected flooding of the caves in the 1990s was due to mechanised peat cutting on the nearby bog … the peat retains the water: remove the peat and flood the caves.   As a result the whole area was designated a UNESCO Geopark in 2001.



 The colour is due to the peat minerals.


Not animal scales, but the effect of eddies of water.


A boulder had been washed away after the calcium had formed a canopy over it.


A salad lunch prepped in Chard and eaten on benches at the Caves centre and then back up the road to Florence Court House – another National Trust.  Yep, we are making excellent use of our Italian FAI cards :).  Yet again, we had to book onto a tour and no interior pix allowed … not explanation this time as to why!  Another Neo Classical Palladian house with perfect symmetry.  This one was really only notable for its plasterwork ceilings – really remarkable.  The house was passed to the National Trust in 1953 and fortunately they upped the insurance from £8 to £25 million as the central part of the house burnt down in 1955!  Most of the plasterwork has been recreated, but it does not detract from its effect … one room had pheasants looming down from the ceiling.  


Again, perfect symmetry, but a not particularly large house with only 9 bedrooms!


A lovely rose garden and walled garden.

We’d picked up a really useful booklet on the Geopark at the Caves and the helpful lass who’d directed us to our last night’s parking recommended one of the walks.  We drove up the Cavan Burren carpark, but the gates would be locked at 9.00.  Back down the hill then to a carpark outside a Church a few miles away.

J had volunteered to cook.  Now this may not sound remarkable, but it is … in all the many years I’ve know him, he has cooked me one cooked breaky and one evening meal.  The deal normally is that I cook and he washes up.  Fair enough.  As I write the blog, I have been giving some back seat driving instructions … just helpful hints, you know, and I do think he appreciated it.  I have just got involved though, as I could smell burning.  You did put water in the bottom of the steamer?  Yes, I definitely did.  I’m coming over to have a look …. the base of the steamer did have water in it … and all the veg, but it was sitting on top of the top part of the steamer … whoops!  But it was delicious.


He’s now volunteered to cook once a week … yay!  And I did the washing up, although he offered … nope – you cooked.  Fair enough! 


 425 – Cavorting in Cavan Burren and in Search of Innisfree

J here …

We had overnighted outside the most plain church – with free WC facilities!  K ran and I sort of dawdled but actually I did some tidying and readying the van for our graceful departure.  (K: he’s turning into a domestic Goddess!)   

A lovely relaxing walk at Cavan Burren – strangely unpublicised in the guide books? But it all quite new – 2014 – and huge expenditure and beautifully sign posted with info boards all the way round – Dolmen / tombs from 6,000 BC!!!  



Farming gave way to forestry in the 1950’s and this is the remains of an abode with the ancient Dolmen in the back being adapted for livestock shelter.


This hole in the ground is actually aline kiln from the C19.  We had not idea of all the multiple uses of lime: spreading on alkaline fields, white washing walls, building mortar when mixed with sand, fine plaster work, as a mild fungicide to keep buildings clean and as a slug deterrent.  We should all have them in our gardens!


To the hill of Dooney via Sligo town – John Joe, Fr Tom and Mammy all called this their home at Ardsoran on the Sligo/Roscommon border.   Since I was a small child, I have been spellbound by Yeats’ poetry and the magical Lake Isle of Innisfree – raised your parents on the lyrical words… “and peace comes dropping slow…” Such magical word music.

“I will arise and go now

and go to Inishfrre

and a small cabin build there 

of clay and wattles made

and peace comes dropping slow”

…  Peace? Yes!

The weather was not good and we could easily have passed on to other locations…we would have greatly regretted it… We will stay here for the night at the car park for Innisfree – quiet and very peaceful – have we used the word ‘peaceful’ a lot recently? With good cause… We are both a little fatigued – I’m knackered after my guest appearance on Celebrity Faster Chef – I did not say ‘Farter Chef’ although our blog may silently record otherwise…?  I really enjoyed cooking and since K has done 100% of our culinary masterpieces, it is time.. and ‘time and tides wait for no man’… There may be a minor out burst of poetry here…

Having spent another tasty night of zero alcohol-free beer – extremely tasty – we will permit ourselves a modicum of wine tonight…


Lough Gill and the sun is trying to make a brief appearance!


We came in search of Innisfree … J has been reciting verses of The Lake Isle of Innisfree to me since we met.



The right hand humps are the Sleeping Giant.




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