Portora Castle is located on the south bank of the River Erne overlooking the narrowest part of the river before it widens into Lower Lough Erne. Archaeological digs have recovered Stone Age axes, Bronze Age swords and Iron Age ornaments proving that this has been an important and busy crossing point between the provinces of Connacht and Ulster back to prehistoric times.
The current castle – more a fortified manor – was built in 1613 by Sir William Cole, Constable of Enniskillen. It is one of a number of castles built around this time to consolidate the Ulster plantation in Country Fermanagh.
In 1619 it was described as a square bawn of lime and stone, with walls approximately 4 meters high, with 4 circular flankers and a stone house 3 storeys high. A bawn is a defensive wall surrounding an Irish tower house.
In the 1620s the castle was occupied by Dr James Spottiswood, Bishop of Clougher, the local diocese. Outside this, it was mainly occupied by members of the Cole family. During the 1641 Rising and again in 1688 when Enniskillen rallied in support of William of Orange (William III) the castle was an important and effective military outpost for Enniskillen. The castle survived both events without damage but fared less well in 1859 when truant students from the nearby Portora Royal School put into practice what they had learned in chemistry class and with some home-made gunpowder blew up part of the, by then derelict, castle. They also dug tunnels under it. The castle was further damaged by the “big wind” of 1894 and the missing circular east flanker was lost in river dredging works some year later.
The castle is certainly worth a look if you are in town or passing by, as you would be, if driving around the Lower Lough.
Below the Castle on the River you will see Portora lough and sluice gates. These were installed to control the level of water in the lower lough to suit the requirements of a hydro-electric power station downstream at Ballyshannon.
Opening hours: 24/7
Entrance fee: Free
Address: Lough Shore Road – Past Portora School Entrance
Directions: Follow Lough Shore Road out of Enniskillen and take the first right exit about 500m past the entrance to Portora Royal School main entrance. Continue to the end of this road – about 500m.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Enniskillen. I suggest you continue with my next entry – M.V. Kestrel – Tours on Lough Erne – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – “Fare thee well Enniskillen, ………..”