Vintage fun around Fermanagh
ETHICAL TRAVELLER:CATHERINE MACK on responsible tourism
IT WAS A vintage Easter. We felt as if we had, literally, stepped back in time into a chocolate box thatched cottage, with Romany caravan attached, all restored with attention to historical detail but infused with the on-trend fashion for all things vintage.
The fine restoration is the work of Keri and Paul Johnson, who must spend every spare second at car-boot sales seeking out 1950s memorabilia which adorn Geaglum cottage and caravan located at the end of a remote lane in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, just a few minutes stroll from Upper Lough Erne.
The cottage, with its sloping floors, red painted window frames, crocheted blankets, woolly hot water bottle covers and painted vintage furniture, is an orgy of Cath Kidston and Avoca. Although there is plenty of the real thing too, with antique pots hanging over the open fire, old re-upholstered armchairs and even a rubber shower thingy that attaches to the taps of the rolltop bath.
As if it wasn’t enough being given the keys to this exquisite dolls’ house, Geaglum comes with its own wooden Romany caravan too.
The caravan has had just enough restoration to make it cosy (lighting the pot belly stove and watching the smoke come out the top was the kids’ highlight), but has plenty of original features left to admire. I camped out here with one son, tucked up in our comfy raised bed, the caravan rocking on its wheels every time we moved, while my husband and other son opted for the cast- iron comforts of the cottage beds, reading the collection of 1950s cartoon books by the fire. Bring your canoe, one more child, and you’ll feel as if you have walked into the pages of a Famous Five book.
As much as I loved our nostalgic retreat, we didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket this Easter.
So, with two active boys and our batteries recharged, we continued our “Four have Fun in Fermanagh” on the shores of one of its lesser known lakes, Lough Macnean, at the EU ecolabel-accredited Corralea Activity Centre.
Ecolabels don’t mean much to kids, but giant water trampolines anchored off the shore of this family-run centre certainly do. This is just one of the activities on offer here, as well as canoeing, archery, caving, windsurfing, an outdoor climbing wall and the superb “pumptrack”, a training zone for mountain biking.
Corralea is set in 16 acres of woodland, with six self-catering cottages, four of which have solar panels and all with wood-burning stoves. It is more like the home of a really cool friend who has all the best toys. Everything is a few minutes’ walk from the cottage, including a farm shop for stocking up on meat and eggs.
It’s all about the outdoors at Corralea, with accommodation verging more towards high-end hostel than hip. The equipment, activities and the instruction is what counts, and all are second to none, including the use of full-body wetsuits.
There are great value family packages, with seven nights accommodation and two-and-a-half days of activities from £742 (€827) for the family. We took a midweek package with one day on the water and then a second morning of pumptrack training.
We all did so well at the pumptrack we were given the opportunity to try out the real mountain-bike trail in their woodland where, in biking lingo, “bunny hops” took on a whole new meaning, resulting in me creating a new relationship with the forest floor.
I was, according to the new “pump” language my son has now adopted, completely “biffed” while he was totally “stoked”. No matter what language you choose, it was definitely a vintage trip.
* Catherine Mack is the author of a new travel app, Ireland Green Travel,available on iTunes. Ethicaltraveller.net and twitter.com/catherinemack