It was Wednesday morning when Richard Fee, Jack Gilbert and I started loading the Hulk (The Company Landrover) and trailer with canoes, paddles, buoyancy aids and supplies. We set off from Antrim after picking up Mark Kennedy and David Kirkpatrick at around 4pm and started our journey over to the top of the Upper Lough Erne.
Few hours later and a quick stop at McDonalds in Enniskillen we arrived at camp. Glenglum Quay a remote part of the mainland with a church at the top of the embankment. Wild camping had started. We met up with Gareth Mahood and Mr M (BB leaders) and gave them the canoes they requested. Mr M was to accompany us on our adventure too. EFGO kept separate from the Antrim Boys Brigade and kept a distance at all times. This was the only time we camped in close proximity to the boys. The rest of the trip we kept hidden and away to allow the groups to have a true unaided expedition to complete their Duke of Edinburgh award.
The following morning EFGO packed up and prepared the canoes and set off down the Lough weaving in and out of the many islands that are scattered across the Lough. Whilst the BB set off on their expedition. The weather couldn’t of been any better, we had expected and planned for torrential rain as the weather reports had suggested but a few minutes into the paddle we had to strip down to t-shirts taking advantage of the hot sun. Glassy water conditions and a light breeze made for a very relaxing paddle…
Our first stop was Inis Rath or as I called it ‘Arry Christnaa Island‘… in my Scouse accent! Hare Krishna Island is a centre for the Hindu faith, a nature reserve and a retreat. We enjoyed a few of the woodland walks and came across many life-size illustrations from Hindu mythology. Leading up from the jetty passing an old ruined boat house we first glimpse the main building. We made our way around the woods and up to the front door. We didn’t go in but we said our hello’s to the 2 monks at the door way. On leaving the island we saw a bat flying in the day light catching fly’s over the water…
Naan Island was our next stop a very peaceful island with loads of wildlife and lushes vegetation. Hundreds of blue dragon flies flying about… I would highly recommend wellington boots for the islands as they are mostly marsh and bog land. Mark or Barefoot as he is now known liked to walk in sandals through the mud… bringing one back to nature as he called it.
The final stop of day one was at Knockninny back on the west coast of the lough. We set up camp in an orchid belonging to the very hospitable Knockninny Country House who supplied us with a bite to eat and a pint of Guinness. It’s so refreshing being out in the wild you really do appreciate good food and drink after a long days paddle. It wasn’t so much wild camping eating dinner at the country house so to make up for it we went for a wild swim from the private jetty below the orchid. Expecting it to be freezing I went in first making all the sounds and shrieks of a squealing pig… I was only messing giving Rick and Mark the impression of ice cold water but it was actually rather warm giving a great break from the heat of the day we had injured. One final laugh before bed was watching a couple of novices ramming their rather large cruise boat into the jetty at one point almost mounting the entire bow head first. After half an hour they eventually moored up.
The morning after we awoke to a mist over the Lough but this soon lifted as we set off towards Bellanaleck. We took the western route out of the Upper Erne and settled for lunch at a jetty just before the Knock Island. A friendly swan joined us for a bite to eat and a stretch, it seemed to like our company! Just before we set off again we had a bit of a fright as a cruise boat was coming towards use Tokyo Drift style! Luckily the 12 year old girl got it back under control and passed us unharmed!
Next stop was Bellanaleck where we stopped to check out the BB’s next campsite… all looked good so we carried on to Enniskillen for a look at the castle.
Wasn’t anywhere to camp as we had planned so we continued on to Trory after a stop at Devenish Island. Devenish Island for those who have never been is a 12th Century Settlement featuring a near-perfect round tower and abbey. The site dates back to as early as the 6th Century. It was about 9pm when we arrived at the island so was a bit spooky walking round the buildings and graves. When we arrived a Trory just as stones through away we set up camp and started a campfire. The rain started and by the morning the ground was fairly saturated. A quick morning wild swim and a wash before breakfast then set off towards Manor House. Quick stop at here then set off to Inish Davar Island where we found some excellent wild camping spots.
We set up camp on the windward side to keep the midges at bay, loads of dry wood scattered the island so we set about putting up our tents, hammocks and collecting fire wood. The fire this evening was the best fire of the trip, burnt like a beacon for guiding ships. Just as we settled down to dinner rave music started pumping out of the island. We went to investigate and discovered on the opposite side of the island an organised rave was kicking off. Hundreds of revellers and tents scattered everywhere with generators and lanterns lighting the area up. They partied to the early hours of the morning till their fuel ran out.
The next morning after a sleepless night I awoke to a fresh morning, fire was out and several sheep where in our campsite shouting at each other in load deep belly shouts. It had rained hard that night but the shelter from the trees helped and the inner forest was still fairly dry. We were all suffering by this stage so we decided to raft the canoes together and build a sail to make use of the northerly winds and made are way make to the Manor House where we waited for the BB groups to finish their Duke of Edinburgh award.
All happy and exhausted we packed away all the canoes and set sail back to Antrim.