Home » Travel » Bracing swims and fire-pit picnics on a lovely Irish lake

Bracing swims and fire-pit picnics on a lovely Irish lake

Come for a cold dip! Bracing lake swims and fire-pit picnics are on tap at this rural retreat in Northern Ireland

  • The lake of Lower Lough Erne is at the heart of luxury nature resort, Finn Lough
  • Embrace the full spa-trail experience by dipping between the hot-tub and lake
  • You can easily drive to the coast for glorious beaches, or windblown cliff walks

Lower Lough Erne is so inky black, it’s like bathing in Guinness. Put your head under and you can’t see a thing. It’s nearly 200ft deep in places, apparently.

‘Meet me in the middle,’ says my boyfriend Rob, before launching off as I linger on the edge, toes turning white.

We’re staying at Finn Lough resort in Northern Ireland. It’s built around the lake (Lower Lough Erne) where you can kayak, swim or fish.

Great lake: Lower Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, where you can kayak, swim or fish

It’s more tempting to plunge in as part of the spa trail — a Nordic-inspired experience where you tiptoe from cabin to cabin amid the woods. Salty to hot, hot to cold and back again. Rob thinks it an odd way to pass the time, but enjoys the refreshing lake dip.

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The resort’s bubble domes are popular, but we like our villa for its enormous window overlooking the water. And we can wander down for a swim to help justify the full Irish breakfast. 

Not to mention delicious evening meals and gin from nearby Boatyard Distillery. One night we try the ‘fire-pit experience’ sitting by the lake watching the sky dapple into darkness.

Finn Lough is a wonderful spot from which to explore. You can hire bikes and pedal into Tullychurry Forest, where we see red admiral butterflies and not another soul.

Another day we climb Mount Cuilcagh (2,180ft), where a wooden staircase has been installed to protect the bog land and your feet. The top sits under cloud, but the views are exhilarating.

Driving in and out of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, through villages that sit astride both, you can see why the border is such an emotive issue in the Brexit negotiations.

Cosy: Finn Lough resort offers ‘bubble domes’, as well as villas overlooking the water

 Soak it all in: The Nordic-inspired ‘spa trail’ experience features a hydro-pool hot tub

We’re lucky with the weather so don’t make it to Florence Court nor Crom, but both come recommended. Instead we head for the Wild Atlantic Way, under a two-hour drive from Finn Lough.

We follow the white squiggle sign to The Silver Strand in Malin Beg, a curved bay buttressed by cliffs, then Ardara, where we walk along the sand flats.

When we roll up at Magheroarty Beach, a near two-mile, dune-backed stretch in County Donegal, I know it’s the one. The sand tapers to a point and catches the last of the light. We don’t make it to the end because it’s time for a drink.

The following day we take a windblown walk out on the cliffs near Dunfanaghy to Horn Head.

Gorgeous and, at Dunfanaghy beach, there’s time for one last, brisk dip.


Stay at Finn Lough from £295 a night including breakfast, finnlough.com. See more at ireland.com. Flights to Belfast from £48 return, easyjet.com.


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