Assuming you aimed to get here for about 5pm, but then the traffic was worse than expected due to a truck load of balloons being overturned on the motorway by a team of monkeys taking instruction from your children on how to sabotage your break (probably), and you actually get here for 7pm, start simple, give yourself permission to relax. You don’t need to meet me here. The best thing about this weekend is ‘no deadlines’. So I’ve left you a key and you can get here whenever jolly well suits you. And when you get here, do RELAX, pull your shoulders out of your ears, light some candles, open a bottle, get on the sofa, and put on the next episode of whatever Netflix series is currently the bedrock of your marriage’s romance.
Food First! Tuck into the goodies in your welcome basket for a great breakfast, because you are going to need it to get yourself up and down Cuilcagh. Yes, the wooden Legnabrocky Trail on Cuilcagh mountain, sometimes known as the “Walkway to Heaven’, is only a skip and a hop from Belcoo. And it really is worth it for the views which are your reward as you get closer to the top, plus the perfect Instagram worthy selfie of you both living your temporary, responsibility free, 48 hr dream. It’s an ideally sized challenge for a weekend morning. But make sure you’re prepared with suitable clothing, and some drinks and snacks, because the weather can change up there sharpish (Top tip: if I know you’re doing it, take a look in your welcome basket for some pre-wrapped, home baked treats to put in your rucksack).
Why aren’t you in the pub already?! There’s something very special about the village of Belcoo, and that’s where it sits, nestled onto the banks of Lough Macnean, and cosied up to its neighbouring village Blacklion, which you can walk to just by crossing the bridge which straddles the border – with Blacklion sitting in Co. Cavan and Belcoo in Co. Fermanagh, and each distinct in character. So when it comes to pubs you can toddle between the two. Top tip: Check out Maguires in Blacklion for that quintessentially Irish experience, where you could pick up a tin of beans with your pint. Follow this with a nice long, candle lit soak in the bath to rest your satisfyingly walk weary muscles, and I can’t imagine you’ll want for much more.
Did I say ‘food first’ this morning? Well, for me, food is first now and always. I am that person who, even though they’re starving, will walk past 10 restaurants until ‘The One’ calls to me and picks me off the street, because I refuse to eat ‘unloved’ food (I know!). And my favourite romantic thing to do in the world is to share fantastic food. We are very lucky in Fermanagh to have great restaurants, probably even more than our fair share given our size. Most wonderfully, just across the bridge in Blacklion is Macnean House, the marvellous, award winning restaurant of celebrity chef Neven Maguire. I don’t need to sell that one to you! My list for other wonderful options is long – but my top picks include ‘Tullymill’ at Florencecourt (intimate and cosy), and in Enniskillen, ‘Café Merlot’ (fabulous wine list AND happily tucked under the characterful pub ‘Blakes of The Hollow’ – home to Door no. 4 for Game of Thrones fans), or the ‘mini-holiday feels’ which come with a visit to the superb Greek restaurant ‘Dollakis’.
If you can bear to tear yourself away from a leisurely breakfast on the decking, make the most of your last few hours with a hidden gem. Even I didn’t know about this place until last year, but if you follow the signpost just as you exit Blacklion, and make your way into the hills over looking the Lough, you will come to The Cavan Burren, part of the Marble Arch Global UNESCO Geopark. There’s free access, and a car park and Visitor centre when you get there, so you can read a bit about the amazing things to be discovered on your walk. The views are spectacular, surrounded by the mountains of our neighbouring counties. You can take in pretty woodlands, with a mini wooden walkway, multiple megalithic tombs, and fascinating geological structures, all within a very short distance. Its’ magical atmosphere makes this a place which truly captures the imagination, and the stories of giants which echo through its history may not seem so far fetched by the time you’re done.
There are so many things I could add to this list; the Marble Arch Caves, a romantic trip on the water, cycling, a trip to Devenish Island, water sports etc. etc., but for me parent escapes are all about chilling out and taking it easy, enjoying the novelty of moving at your own pace rather than someone else's. A couple only weekend away is an essential component in the world of the smartphone and children’s activity lists which would rival that of Richard Branson, I think. I’m pretty sure you’ll still be pressing the ‘settings’ button on your phone and inputting the cottage’s wifi code as soon as you get through the door (let’s not be setting impossible goals like a tech free weekend here. Because disappointment will only seep through the weekend like the disgust of a teenager into your soul), but you just finally might get a beautiful, relaxed, well slept selfie of the two of you living your best life, which you can put on your home screen.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably already be romanticising the children by the time you’ve finally driven out of earshot of the sound of their bickering on Day 1. But that’s ok. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s good (definitely not a reason to stay home). And at least next week when you’re dislodging a toilet roll from the U-bend, whilst shouting the correct spelling for 'FEBRUARY' and thinking about your Rachel Allen recipe burning on the cooker, you will have the memories to help carry you through. And I find those have a lifespan of about 6 weeks before I need to start planning the next one……..
*Weekends in the cottage are £200 for 2 nights, for up to 4 people. Weeknights are £90 (minimum of 2 nights). Full weeks are £495. All include welcome baskets, with Prosecco when bookings are direct via our website www.thecottagebelcoo.com .