Last updated on November 25, 2023
A cruiserboat (or houseboat) holiday in Ireland, that would be something for next summer – on the Shannon, of course…wouldn’t it?
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It doesn’t always have to be the Shannon (although it is very beautiful), because further up north there is a special gem waiting for you – how about a houseboat holiday on the Erne?
Where, please? Don’t worry, we’ll clear that up in this article: You’ll find out where the Erne is, why it’s a dream spot for houseboats and what else you should know about the subject.
By the way, I know the Irish island very well. Coming from Germany, my family and I (second home) have been living in Ireland for several years. At our location south of Dublin we run our motorbike rental business in summer (www.easycruiser.tours) and also offer nice guest rooms (www.the-view-accommodation.ie).
I know boats well, too. I’ve taken several German sailing and motorboat licences and have spent several holidays on different boats – including houseboats, of course.
But don’t worry, you don’t need a licence for a houseboat in Ireland, you just have to be over 18.
So let’s get started:
Why Lough Erne – and where is it?
The River Erne lies in the north-west of the island of Ireland. It has its source in Ireland, forms the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland for a short distance and expands into a lake system in Northern Ireland.
The picturesque Upper Lough Erne lies more inland and is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts due to its many small and large islands.
The following Lower Lough Erne is a little more open, but also has several islands. In total, the lake system probably has over 150 islands!
The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is a green border that is completely open in both directions – on land and on water.
The Erne system, by the way, is connected to the River Shannon – through the Shannon-Erne Waterway. This is also a beautiful stretch of water and consists of small canals and little rivers.
What’s so great about the Erne? Well, the lake-island landscape is uniquely beautiful and tends to be less busy in the north than in the south, so you can cruise in peace and quiet with little traffic on the water – also nice for beginners and easier than the Shannon, which is busier in summer.
You can find the exact course of the waterways and lots of detailed information at: www.waterwaysireland.org.
Where can you rent a cruiserboat on Lough Erne?
The town of Enniskillen lies between Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne. A short distance south of Enniskillen, you will find one of three rental bases from www.carrickcraft.com. You can hire a boat there and return it at the same place, or hire a trail and continue through the Shannon-Erne Waterway to Carrick-on-Shannon.
On Lower Lough Erne is www.manormarine.com. Here you will find a holiday park with a marina right on the lake and you can also get a boat there, which you can return at the same place.
Also on Lower Lough Erne is abcboats.com, which has been in business for 40 years, with a marina and rental service.
If you have plenty of time, you can also book your boat with one of the other rental companies on the Shannon and do a combined Shannon-Erne tour. You can find more rental companies in this article.
What routes can you take there by cruiserboat?
You can explore Lower Lough Erne from Enniskillen to Belleek. Behind Bellek the Erne flows into the sea, but you are not allowed to go there with the houseboat.
You can also head east from Enniskillen and explore the islands of Uper Lough Erne.
If you prefer less open water, you can explore the idyllic Shannon-Erne Waterway from the upper reaches of Upper Lough Erne. This joins the Shannon at Leitrim and you’re almost to Carrick-on Shannon, one of the larger houseboat centres on the Shannon.
What can you see and do in the Erne area?
The area is rural and the lakes of the Erne are particularly scenic.
But there are also a few places of interest to visit on your trip.
Enniskillen is an island. At least the town centre is completely surrounded by the River Erne. On its banks you will find the imposing Enniskillen Castle. It has two museums and an exhibition and is well worth a visit.
On the other side of the river you will find Fishing Tackle and Bait. Passionate anglers will find everything they need for angling on the lakes, plus valuable tips from local specialists.
About 15 kilometres away you will find the Marble Arch Caves. The stalactite caves are quite large and beautiful to see.
For children, there is a water fun park on Lower Lough Shannon called Share Discovery Village. The camping/glamping site is right on the lake and offers all kinds of water fun.
Fancy an adventure? Around Enniskillen there are several adventure providers who specialise in water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, water-biking, e-boarding, paddleboarding and many other activities. For example: the Enniskillen Blueway Water Activity Zone, Blue Green Yonder or Erne Adventures. Just have a look at their pages.
There are also several adventure and activity providers along the lakes. You can find more information at the tourist office in Enniskillen.
On Devenish Island, north of Enniskillen, you will find the remains of a medieval monastery with a well-preserved round tower, churches and outbuildings. Of course, the island can only be reached by boat, but you bring your own. Interesting information can be found on this website.
The Shannon is very well known outside Ireland, the Erne less so. Yet the lakes of the Erne are a fantastic place for a houseboat holiday in dreamlike surroundings.
The landscapes are magnificent, the lakes offer over 150 islands and islets to explore and if that’s not enough, there is a wide range of activities for the whole family in and around Enniskillen.
What’s more, with all the leisure activities on offer, it’s still more tranquil here than on the Shannon. So, especially in the early or late season, you often have the lake to yourself.
The Shannon-Erne Waterway, which connects the Shannon and Erne, also offers a tranquil and beautiful area for a comfortable houseboat holiday in Ireland or Northern Ireland.
So come on, the island is calling your name!
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Photo credits cover image: Photo by Alex Lesik on Unsplash