Lisnaskea (Lios na Scéithe, "fort of the shield") is a town historically in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, midway between Enniskillen and the border with the Republic. This county has been abolished, to be contained within Fermanagh and Omagh District. Lisnaskea is a small place, but with a population of 2960 in 2011, it's the second-largest town in the former county, and it's the main base for exploring Upper Lough Erne.
A few miles southwest, waterways twist and turn through lakes and wetlands and islets. The UK border with the Republic of Ireland and the European Union twists and turns in a similar way, creating "pene-enclaves" - strips of land that can only be approached by traversing the other country, unless you flounder across fields and ditches. During "The Troubles" of 1970-1999 that made it bandit country. More importantly for the honest majority on both sides, from 1921 the border blighted travel and transport: a simple freight delivery or trip to town was a logistic challenge. So Lisnaskea is one of many places that depends upon the continuance of the 1998 peace accord.
By public transport travel via Enniskillen, which has buses from Belfast via Dungannon, from Dublin city and airport via Cavan Town heading for Donegal, and from Ballina via Sligo, Manorhamilton and Belcoo.
Ulsterbus 95 runs from Enniskillen via Lisbellaw and Maguiresbridge to Lisnaskea (30 min), continuing southeast to Newtownbutler and across the border to Clones in County Monaghan. There are five M-F and three on Saturday. 1 The Diamond is the main bus stop in Lisnaskea.
By road from Belfast follow M1 then A4 towards Enniskillen, branching south at Maguiresbridge onto A34.
The village is by Upper Lough Erne, which is connected to the entire Irish navigable waterway system, reaching all the way to Athlone, Limerick, Carlow, Waterford and Dublin. Expect some push-back if you plan to take a hired boat all that distance.
You need wheels to explore this scattered district. A bike would do.
- Town centre is a typical Plantation lay-out, with 18th / 19th century low-rise along the one long street. But it's the main road with no bypass, so trucks are always thundering through to and from the border. The High Cross in Buttermarket at The Diamond has a carved 10th century shaft, brought here from a vanished monastery, but the cross on top is modern.
- 1 Castle Balfour is the ruin south side of the village, next to the parish graveyard. It was built in 1618 and abandoned after it was set on fire in 1803.
- 2 Hill of Cornashee is thought to be Sciath Ghabhra, the coronation seat of the kings of Fermanagh, atop a burial mound. The hill itself is just a field, but there are nice views north. Approach via Moat Lane / Road and you'd best walk, it's barely wide enough for two bikes to pass let alone cars.
- 3 Aghalurcher Monastery or St Ronan's was founded 6th / 7th century and re-built in 1447. However it was abandoned the next year when a murder upon the altar discouraged church attendance. There's an atmospheric 18th century graveyard.
- 4 Crom, Newtownbutler BT92 8AP, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily Apr-Oct 10:00-18:00, Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00. The neo-Tudor castle of 1840 is a private residence, though occasionally used as an events venue. You come for the extensive lakeside grounds, with ancient woodland, wetland and a scattering of islands; the old castle of 1611 is a scenic stump. The visitor centre has an exhibition on the area. There are self-catering lodges and a campsite. Adult £5, child £2.50, NT free.
- 1641 AD: At Lissenskeah they hanged, or otherwise killed, above 100 persons, most of them of the Scottish nation.
- Upper Lough Erne with its 150+ islets is the big local attraction, for fishing, boating or just lazing. Boat hire might be best organised from Enniskillen. Its southern pool (Drummard Lough) is the start of the 63 km / 38 mile Shannon-Erne waterway, which forms the UK-Irish border for several miles before descending through Ballyconnell to Leitrim and the rest of the navigable network.
- Lidl on Main St is open M-Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 13:00-18:00.
- The Kissin Crust by the Diamond is a deservedly popular cafe open M-Sa 08:30-17:00.
- Bombay Spice at 125 Main St is open daily 16:00-00:00.
- Fusion Brasserie is within Donn Carragh Hotel, see Sleep.
- 1 Watermill Restaurant, Kilmore Quay Cottages, Lisnaskea BT92 0DT, ☏ . M-Sa 17:00-21:00, Su 12:00-20:30. Great Irish cuisine in a charming thatched lodge on the lakeside. They also have 7 rooms. B&B double £120.
- Along Lisnaskea main street are Frank's, Roche's, Blake's, Balfour Arms, Mac's and Silver Dollar.
- Donn Carragh Hotel, 95 Main St, Lisnaskea BT92 0JD (100 yards north of Diamond), ☏ . Friendly midrange place with 18 rooms in village centre.
- 1 Mullynascarthy Holiday Park, 253 Gola Rd, Lisnaskea BT92 0NZ, ☏ . Clean well-run site open mid-March to Oct. Pitch £25.
- 2 , Newbridge Rd, Lisnaskea BT92 0JZ, ☏ . This is a residential centre for outdoor activities, mainly used by school and youth groups, but with a campsite and caravan park adjacent. Visitors can buy day-access to the facilities and activities. Tent £16, hook-up £24.
- 3 Knockninny Country House, 104 Knockninny Rd, Derrylin BT92 9JU (off A509 northwest shore of lough), ☏ . Hotel in 1870s villa, on lakeside with marina, also has self-catering lodges. Good reviews for comfort and food though rooms are showing their age.
- 4 Belle Isle Castle, Lisbellaw BT94 5HG (north end of lough), ☏ . Splurge hotel in 17th century castle and outbuildings, on private island reached by road. It's often used for wedding parties. They also run a residential cookery school.
As of April 2021, Lisnaskea and the main road from Enniskillen have 4G from EE and O2, a mobile signal from Vodafone, but no signal from Three. There's little coverage along the minor roads, eg towards the lough, or further south on the main road to the border. 5G has not reached this area.
- Enniskillen the area's main town has the grand Castle Coole.
- Belturbet south across the lough is in the Republic, with similar landscape for boating and angling.
- Belcoo on the border stands in limestone terrain: explore Burren Park above ground and Marble Arch Caves below.