History and Heritage: Discovering Enniskillen’s Past

1 June 2024

Enniskillen is a town rich in history and heritage, offering visitors a fascinating journey through time. From ancient castles and historic buildings to museums and cultural landmarks, there are plenty of ways to explore Enniskillen’s storied past. Here are some of the top historical sites and attractions to discover during your visit.

1. Enniskillen Castle

Where: Castle Street, Enniskillen

What to Expect: Built in the 16th century, Enniskillen Castle is one of the town’s most iconic landmarks. Originally a stronghold for the Maguire chieftains, the castle now houses the Fermanagh County Museum and the Inniskillings Museum. Explore the castle’s historic rooms, learn about the region’s military history, and enjoy the exhibitions showcasing local archaeology, natural history, and folklore.

2. St. Macartin’s Cathedral

Where: Church Street, Enniskillen

What to Expect: St. Macartin’s Cathedral, dating back to the 17th century, is a beautiful example of Gothic Revival architecture. The cathedral is not only a place of worship but also a significant historical site. Inside, you can find memorials dedicated to the Inniskilling regiments and stained glass windows commemorating local history. The cathedral tower offers stunning views of Enniskillen and the surrounding area.

3. St. Michael’s Church

Where: Darling Street, Enniskillen

What to Expect: St. Michael’s Church is another historic landmark in Enniskillen. This Roman Catholic church, with its impressive architecture and beautiful interior, reflects the town’s religious heritage. The church is a peaceful place to visit and appreciate the craftsmanship of its design.

4. Castle Coole

Where: Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

What to Expect: Castle Coole is a magnificent 18th-century neo-classical mansion set in a picturesque estate. Managed by the National Trust, the house offers guided tours that provide insights into the lives of the aristocracy and their servants. Explore the lavish interiors, extensive gardens, and wooded trails that make this estate a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

5. Florence Court

Where: Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

What to Expect: Another National Trust property, Florence Court is an 18th-century Georgian mansion known for its exquisite architecture and stunning gardens. The house is filled with period furniture, artwork, and family heirlooms. Visitors can also enjoy the extensive parkland, which includes woodland trails, the famous Florence Court Yew Tree, and beautiful walled gardens.

6. Headhunters Barber Shop & Railway Museum

Where: Darling Street, Enniskillen

What to Expect: This unique museum combines a working barber shop with an extensive collection of railway memorabilia. The Headhunters Barber Shop & Railway Museum is a treasure trove for train enthusiasts, featuring model trains, historic photographs, and artifacts from the heyday of rail travel in Fermanagh. The friendly owners are passionate about local history and happy to share stories with visitors.

7. The Buttermarket

Where: Down Street, Enniskillen

What to Expect: The Buttermarket is a restored 19th-century market square that now serves as a vibrant arts and crafts centre. The historic buildings house a variety of artisan shops, galleries, and studios where you can purchase handmade crafts, artworks, and local produce. The Buttermarket is a charming place to soak up the local culture and history while enjoying some shopping and refreshments.

8. Portora Royal School

Where: Portora Hill, Enniskillen

What to Expect: Founded in 1608, Portora Royal School is one of the oldest schools in Ireland. It boasts a rich history and notable alumni, including Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. While the school itself is not typically open to the public, the grounds and buildings are of historical interest, and the school often features in local heritage tours.

9. Devenish Island Monastic Site

Where: Lower Lough Erne, near Enniskillen

What to Expect: Devenish Island is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Northern Ireland, dating back to the 6th century. Accessible by boat, the island features the ruins of a round tower, several churches, and beautifully carved stone crosses. It’s a serene and atmospheric site that offers a glimpse into early Christian monastic life.

10. Enniskillen Workhouse

Where: Queen Street, Enniskillen

What to Expect: The Enniskillen Workhouse, built in the 19th century, is a poignant reminder of the harsh realities faced by the poor during the Victorian era. Although much of the original workhouse has been repurposed, some parts remain intact, providing insight into the lives of its former inhabitants. Guided tours are available, offering a deeper understanding of this aspect of local history.

Exploring the historical and heritage sites of Enniskillen provides a fascinating journey through time, revealing the town’s rich and diverse past. From ancient monastic settlements and grand estates to poignant reminders of social history, Enniskillen offers a wealth of experiences for history enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.

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