“There is no place that conjures up in my mind more Irish romance than the wide and fair domains of Crom,” John Ynyr Burges of Parkanaur, County Tyrone, wrote this observation in his diary when staying as a house guest at the Fermanagh Castle in 1863. His words are as fitting a tribute today to the magnificent seat of the Earls of Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
Encompassing two romantic castles within a parkland of some 1,900 acres, the Crom demesne is surrounded by the glistening waters of Lough Erne, which now forms one of the longest inland waterways in Europe. Dotted with a myriad of mysterious islands, the lake is stunningly timeless and peaceful, making Crom one of the most charming castle rentals in Europe.
Not far from the lough shore ruins of the plantation castle, the present Crom Castle stands on elevated parkland. Built for the third Earl of Erne in the 1830s, it was designed by the English architect Edward Blore, who was responsible for sections of Buckingham Palace. With its turrets and crenellated towers stretching far into the sky above, this neo-Tudor mansion is both magnificent and enigmatic. The outward strength of the building is further softened by the beauty of its surroundings – an idyllic setting, most definitely influenced by the watercolourist and garden-designer William Sawrey Gilpin, who worked closely with Blore on the project.
Such is the attraction of this veritable paradise, visitors to Crom do not even have to leave the demesne for entertainment. Who, for instance, could resist walking through the rolling parkland to the romantic ruins of Crom Old Castle where Jacobite battles raged so long ago? It is all too true that castles which include scenes of particular terror in their history are often to be found in the finest surroundings and Crom Old Castle, situated so close to the lakeshore, offers a stunning vista from the remains of its round and square towers. To the South of this old castle there are traces of a late 17th century formal garden and bowling green, enclosed by a battlemented ha-ha.
Visitors to the West Wing of Crom Castle will have access to the use of a hard tennis court and a rowing boat with outboard motor for exploring the lakes.
At Crom there is no escaping the call of the lake. For generations the Ernes have enjoyed sailing on the Upper Lough and in the upper room of Crom’s stunning Victorian boathouse, the Lough Erne Yacht Club held its first meetings.
A port of call in your boat could be a visit to Crichton Tower on Gad Island – a stone folly built as a famine relief project c.1847 to serve as an observatory. Other eye-catching attractions that are picturesquely situated throughout the estate are the Old Saw Mill and the Crom Tea House, where it was once customary for the family to take refreshments.
At the original entrance of the old castle garden, two magnificent yew trees, one male and one female, have formed a citadel of branches. Over 800 years old and reputed to be the oldest in Ireland, this giant of nature is testimony to the longevity that is Crom. Legend even has it that O’Neill, at the time of ‘The Flight of the Earls’, bade farewell to his lady love under the ancient yew tree at Crom.
In May and June each year a walk through the magical Culliagh Wood with its flowering rhododendrons is an experience not to be missed.