The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Lakeside town where Samuel Beckett and his pals had a blast

- ENNISKILLE­N County Fermanagh Rob Crossan

OF ALL the reasons to be expelled from school, blowing up a castle stands out. There’s not much of Portora Castle left these days – testament to teenage bad behaviour and perhaps an overly influentia­l chemistry teacher.

For it was here, overlookin­g Lough Erne, that a group of boys from Portora School in 1859 stole gunpowder and destroyed the medieval structure built for Sir William Cole (1571-1653), who establishe­d the settlement that is now lively Enniskille­n.

Austere as the current school building looks, the gunpowder experiment may have been a cause of lurid inspiratio­n to future pupil Samuel Beckett, who, a century later, ignited his own explosive influence on British theatre when Waiting For Godot debuted.

The script to his bleak, causticall­y funny play lit a (metaphoric­al) fuse under the world of post-war theatre 72 years ago, though it seems unlikely the inspiratio­n for Vladimir and Estragon came from Enniskille­n. That said, Beckett – a boarder at Portora in the early 1920s – later described his fellow pupils as being ‘a pretty rough lot’.

Lough Erne, where Beckett swam during PE classes, dominates Enniskille­n. Placid farmland, seething ash trees, groves of hawthorn and the siren call of curlews make for an atmosphere barely changed from his time as our taxi speeds to Devenish Island. Here stands the eerie remains of a 6th Century monastery founded by St Molaise.

Further ancient discoverie­s are a 30-minute drive away at Marble Arch caves, a subterrane­an labyrinth of needle-sharp stalactite­s, circuitous rivers and vast chambers. Intriguing­ly, guide Jordan tells me there’s almost certainly far more to this cave system yet to be discovered.

Above ground, Enniskille­n may be small but it’s not short of excellent places to eat. Try the gargantuan farls (filled soda bread) at the Jolly Sandwich cafe. Or tuck into the sublime tasting menu of local produce including dazzlingly fresh cod and a peanut parfait dessert at 28 At The Hollow – a taste (if not a castle)

explosion.

Where to stay:

Scattered along Lough Erne, the Lakeside Lodges at the Killyhevli­n are Scandi-style, selfcateri­ng retreats with wooden decks over the water. The breakfast buffet in the main hotel is indulgent with white pudding plus bacon and eggs. There’s a pool and a sauna free for lodge guests to use, too.

Lodges for four from £171 a night (killyhevli­n.com). Stena Line Liverpool to Belfast crossings for two adults plus car, with a cabin, from £466 return (stenaline.co.uk). More info at tourismire­land.com.

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 ?? ?? SMOOTH SAILING: A boat pootles along Lough Erne. Inset: Samuel Beckett, who was boarder at Enniskille­n’s Portora School
SMOOTH SAILING: A boat pootles along Lough Erne. Inset: Samuel Beckett, who was boarder at Enniskille­n’s Portora School

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