Clough Oughter Castle towers from amid a setting of farmlands and wooded hills which end at a water's edge coloured by purple-hued rushes, striking yellow water lilies, and white swans dotting the dark shadows of the shoreline. The lakes surrounding the castle are a favoured haunt of the great blue heron and the great crested grebe.
Famed as the site where the beloved Bishop Bedell was imprisoned and died, Clough Oughter Castle is a circular tower , which stands on a man-made island, a crannog. Believed to have been built in the early 13th century, the castle belonged to the largest clan in Ireland-the O'Reillys-for almost 300 years. A stronghold and fortress for the family, it remained in their control until the 1600's when, during the Ulster Plantation and takeover by the British, it became a Royal castle. In 1641, it was recapture by the O'Reillys and remained theirs until it was badly damaged and subsequently abandoned in 1653.
Though the castle can be easily seen in a drive along the shoreline of Lough Erne, an hour's boat ride along the waterway, with a local guide, offers a natural respite in which to appreciate the abundant wildlife and croppings of purple rushes and yellow lilies. For the very fortunate nature enthusiast, perhaps there will even be a sighting of the rare, cobalt blue damsel fly.
A photographer's paradise, a nature enthusiast's dream, a historian's retreat, Clough Oughter Castle, standing empty for 350 years, worn by time and weather, is at once mystical and mysterious. Its history is unique. Its presence, undeniably powerful. A magic lurks here in the shadows...
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Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007