THERE is no doubt that hiring a boat is a great way to discover the countryside if you like cruising and it’s far more affordable than one might think.
Last week I took a two night vacations with wwwbargingireland.com on board a traditional Iron Dutch barge. Once on board you soon realise you get all of the creature comforts you would expect to find in a vacation home including a wood burning stove!. Fully equipped galleys, hot and cold running water, lounges, and a full sized shower in your bathroom is a rare find, but my barge had one in fact all of Corraquill Cruisers have full sized showers!
Also provided are all the tools you need to be a good captain, from navigational charts, mooring tools, to life jackets and of course your binoculars to help you see those all important navigational markers. I arrived at the Corraquill Cruising at lock 1 just outside Derrylin near Belturbet. to collect my Double Dutch barge. Double Dutch is Corraquill’s smallest barge at 12.7m (42ft) and thus the easiest to handle.
She is fitted out as a 6-berth barge but can be easily managed by a crew of two. There are 3 double berths, which are situated in the foreword and aft cabins and the saloon where the table converts to a bed space. As with all the Corraquill Cruising barges, Double Dutch has a fully equipped kitchen, two showers, and two vacuum flush toilets. None of your pumping toilets for us! Corraquill Cruising obviously encourages all customers to take great care not to damage their barge, or that of anyone else, while on holiday. So once all the paperwork is out of the way and you have done your instruction you will be taken out and given some instruction on how to steer and moor your barge. It all sounds a bit technical but you do need to take heed of what is being said. After 20 minutes or so of instruction, you will be captain of your own barge and then the fun begins. What’s already on board? All boats are equipped with a 12-volt cigarette lighter (the same as a car), which can be used to plug in your adapter lead for a mobile phone or any other low power equipment with the http://www.corraquill-cruising.com/appropriate connection. Our barge Some also had 240V plug sockets (providing power when crusing or when ‘hooked-up’ to a shore power supply). You don’t need to bring much to the boat apart from your food and clothes as they come fully-equipped with just about everything else:
Linen, duvets, pillows
Towels and tea towels (not beach towels)
Fridge and gas cooker
Kitchen utensils and cutlery
Cushions and curtains
Security, mooring and safety equipment, including life jackets.
Power supply, radio and cd player
Crusing maps and documentation
Some barges have more features and equipment and you can also add optional extras such as Bicycles, Barbecue & Lanterns or Grocery Packs & Eco-Cleaning Packs etc. After setting off from Belturbet, I set a course for Crom Castle jetty. About and hours cruise or so from Belturbet. National Trust at Crom Castle Barging Ireland National Trust at Crom Castlenational trust logoThe wonderful Little Orchard Café in Crom Castle is not to be missed, a range of victoria sponges, cup cakes, gateaux’s etc, you name it they do all, with charm and flair. Crom Castle is a National Trust property it located on the southern shores of Upper Lough Erne, offers over 800 hectares of parkland, woodland and wetlands and is perhaps the best place to experience all that this area of has to offer.
Upper Lough Erne is celebrated for its peace, tranquillity, beauty and above all, its wildlife. The area is well known for its lichens and fungi, whilst a large number of rare or endangered plants also occur here, for example blue-eyed grass, unique to Fermanagh.
The area is also rich in butterflies and moths, including the majestic silver-washed fritillary, the largest breeding butterfly in Northern Ireland. Many birds make use of the extensive wetlands of Upper Lough Erne. Keen-eyed visitors can expect to see swans, geese, great crested grebes and many grey herons. Less obvious are some of the mammals to be found.
These include the rare and elusive pine marten, as well as all of Northern Ireland’s eight species of bat. Other mammals of interest include red squirrel, fallow deer, Irish hare and otter. There are many ways to experience Upper Lough Erne at Crom. The estate has many walks and trails through woodlands, wetlands and along the Lough shore.
More adventurous visitors can venture on to the water and see the area from a different viewpoint, by hiring a boat from the Visitors Centre at Crom. Finally, for a more in depth experience of Upper Lough Erne, Crom offers seven award winning Holiday Cottages, allowing visitors to explore and experience all the beauty and delight of Upper Lough Erne. The Jetty at Crom Castle is an idyllic setting for a peaceful nights sleep on the Erne, We tied up, cooked a meal had a glass of wine or two and spent the evening fishing.
Barging on the Erne, takes away all the stresses of life, mind you the heart does race a little when your mooring for the first few times, but once mastered its never forgotten. The beauty of life aboard a barge is that you have no set places to visit. You can literally go where the water and your mind takes you. There’s no rushing to the next destination, unless you want to. If you’re new to boating, it’s a kin to travelling in a cosy floating villa, with all the comforts of home. Each day you wake up in a beautiful new destination!
Gently pottering along at 5 knots gives you time to reflect on the mad racing world that happens on terra firma. Corraquill Cruising offers a number of barges to hire, which make it easier to find the right one for you. The best thing to do is simply visit their website and check out their selection of barges and find the right one for you.
After leaving Crom Castle it was off to Enniskillen, I moored at the marina right at the Erneside shopping centre. The Erneside is ideally located right at the waters edge, so if you need to fill up on supplies its just about the best place to do it. Inside the boat we had most of the luxuries of home, kitchen, two bathrooms, spacious living areas, comfortable seating and great cooking facilities. Surely it’s the best waterbed you will ever have.
The Erne and Shannon waterways are navigated using charts (supplied) and the numbered navigation markers make navigation extremely easy, and goes a long way to prevent you getting lost. My last night of my 48-hour sojourn was spent at Carrybridge. Although a big marina, Carrybridge has the infamous hotel. Its loved and visited by all, great food, generous portions and superb service makes this a “must visit” destination for boaters and landlubbers alike. Carrybridge is an ideal place to more your boat and maybe give yourself an evening off from cooking, so if you are down in that part of the world pop into the hotel for a meal, bar snack and some free wi-fi in the bar area. Food is served all day with an evening a la carte menu. Fish dishes are of course their speciality and there is weekend entertainment throughout the year. Needless to say with a bit of “Craic” at Carrybridge, I too decided to take my own advice and moored up for the evening, went to the hotel and had a beer or two and a great meal and a superb nights sleep. Next morning I was back to Belturbet to hand back my boat at 0900, cleaned, tidied up and everything packed up my boat was fuelled and the amount I had used charged to my account. I had only used 100 euros of fuel so it turned out to be very good value.
All in all if you fancy a great local holiday in superb surroundings, with world-class views, great food and some great fun they check out www.corraquill cruising.com and get yourself on the Erne and Shannon waterway.
Corraquill Cruising Head office:
Sean and Mary Drumm, Corraquill Cruising Holidays, Aghalane, Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh, BT92 9FT
Telephone/Fax: +44 28 67 74 87 12 Text: +44 7866 416 532 firstname.lastname@example.org