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After nine weeks (and counting) of home renovation we were glad we could get away for a few days to a different location and a slower pace. The work on our house has not been overly stressful but, it’s fair to say we were tired and needed a rest. So, we’ve just returned from a week on Crom Estate in the National Trust owned Aspen Cottage.

Getting to Crom

I hate sitting in cars. I used to get travel sickness as a child so perhaps I’m scarred for life. I still hate it. Just over two hours to Fermanagh isn’t so bad I guess. We took a detour via M&S at Spucefield Shopping Centre which doubles up as a day care facility for elderly people in beige and men who like to wear pink shorts. A bizarre place. I imagine a retirement community like the one in the movie Cocoon to be not too far away.

Anyway, after your backside goes numb, and when you’ve passed through Newtonbutler – which takes about 6 seconds – you will see signs for Crom. The winding country road goes on for miles, getting narrower and bumpier until you reach the gates of the estate. Then you transition onto National Trust owned smooth tarmac which really is quite something.

Crom is a remote location, perfect for a quiet, tranquil and relaxing holiday. Crom Castle was built in 1820 and is home to the Crichton family/Earls of Erne. It’s really very impressive. A beautiful location.

Boat People

Our intention was to sit in the sun, read some books and pop in and out of our cottage to catch some of Wimbledon and The World Cup. That’s exactly what we did, most of the time. If you like boats and water related activities Crom places you right on the edge of Lough Erne which is perfectly wet and big for such splashing antics. We aren’t into boats and water so we spent hours in the sun watching all kinds of boats coming and going from the water. Boats, canoes, all kinds of inflatables and 4x4’s are common aspirations of a certain type of successful Northern Ireland person…

“Finbar, get Matilda her life-jacket from the BMW please and see if the Cafe sells cinnamon lattes”

I don’t dislike these people – much – but, they are certainly amusing to watch and listen to.

We need to talk about Fermanagh though.

Visiting Fermanagh is like taking a giant step back in time. Somewhere around the 1980’s.

Poor roads. Awful mobile phone coverage. Mythical broadband/Internet. Terrible restaurants – ok, one terrible restaurant. No decent coffee. And it takes flipping ages to go anywhere.

I don’t hate it. I don’t even dislike it but, it’s a little frustrating. Like so many places in Ireland, decent infrastructure hasn’t really arrived yet. Ironically our First Minister is from Fermanagh and hails from close to where we were staying. She was even spotted in a Tesco buying something orange I presume, her security detail outside, probably trying to get mobile phone signal or a transfer to some real work.

I might never complain about Ballymena again though. We are very modern by comparison.

We didn’t mind not having mobile phone or internet options because we were happy to switch off for a week. Finding that our phones worked randomly in certain corners of the estate was a nice wee tease. We didn’t really travel too far away from Crom either so we had minimal experience of those shoddy roads.

Bring a packed lunch

I wasn’t sure if I would mention this but, I simply cannot get my head around the ‘best restaurant’ award at last years NI Food Awards and the recent inclusion in the McKenna Food guide for a restaurant we ate in. Taste is subjective to be sure, and there wasn’t anything wrong with the ‘taste’ of the steak I had per se… and, maybe I’m too fussy. It wasn’t good though. We were fed and not poisoned of course but, it was a bit like a scene from a Fanny Craddock cook book. The sporadic French themed music blended with Simply Red was also enough for me to consider a frenzied knife attack on the dusty speakers. [*hyperbole intended]

We are spoiled in Northern Ireland with great fresh food and terrific modern restaurants and coffee shops. Perhaps as a result of it still being 1988 in Fermanagh, modern ideas and standards haven’t drifted into their county yet.

But I’m not about to start a restaurant/food review site here so we’ll just leave it and not name anyone!

Ps: There’s a decent Lidl in Lisnaskea if you need fresh bread and contents for your packed lunch.

And finally, The National Trust.

I think the National Trust is a great organisation. Admittedly I am not really into big castles and stately homes but, here in Northern Ireland they maintain, protect and monetise [*rolls eyes] some of our finest tourist attractions. However, you can see the clear dividing line between BIG tourist attractions like The Giant’s Causeway and lesser visited locations like Crom.

Location and ease of access obviously plays a huge part in this disparity. It is after all a bit of an arse-ache to get to Fermanagh unless you are already in Fermanagh.

The National Trust [at Crom] needs a bit of modernising though. Staying in the cottage was not a bad experience at all but, everything is a little old and tired. Cottage, visitor centre, facilities, shop etc. Not in and of themselves bad, just… a bit 1980’s. I loved the 1980’s, I just don’t want to go back unless I can be Marty McFly, in which case I’d come back to 2018 and bring someone from the National Trust with me.

All in all though, I’d recommend the location if you want tranquility. It was great for us to be still and relax.

In conclusion we had a thoroughly restful week of sitting in the sun, reading, walking, hoping Finbar and Matilda didn’t drown and spotting deer. We even managed pre-dinner drinks with the lovely Lady Erne. 🙂

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know eh!