Instead of doing the wedding stuff that I have been meaning to do for two weeks, I decided to take a drive down to Fermanagh to visit some of the National Trust properties down there. They have two stately homes, of which Florence Court is one.
Florence Court was built in the 18th Century for the Earls of Enniskillen. I decided to take one of the house tours so I could see what it looked like inside.
After a devastating fire in 1955, much of the house has been restored (as much as budget would allow the National Trust). It was the Countess (Mary, Lady Enniskillen, wife of the 5th Earl) herself who discovered the fire while it was a mere flickering light under her bedroom door.
As the Earl was staying overnight at his club in Belfast, she woke the butler, and raised the alarm. Upon hearing what was happening, local people came to help take things out of the house. Fortunately a lot of the collection is intact; most of the damage being caused by the water used to quell the flames.
The fire started through an electrical fault and the great irony is that the Earl had only just decided to have electricity in the house after years of proclaiming that it would never catch on.
Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the house. They have some interesting pieces of Orange memorabilia, a bit of a hobby of the 5th Earl, which really marks Florence Court out as a plantation property.
The real beauty, in my opinion (aside from the famed plaster ceilings) is the venetian window overlooking the entrance. The landing behind it was used as a morning room by the ladies of the house and I could imagine spending all day sitting there doing my letters and things. It’s a really nice landing.
After visiting the upstairs, the tour continues downstairs into the servants areas. Underneath the main house are sprawling tunnels leading to the kitchen, wine cellar, butler’s room and all the other rooms used by the staff. I was surprised by how cold it was down there. What wasn’t surprising was the confession that food regularly came up from the kitchen cold due to the long journey.
The wider estate of Florence Court is quite lovely. It sits at the foot of Cuilcagh Mountain and the site is quite elevated so it looks as though it is surveying its surroundings.
A lot of work is being done to bring the walled garden up to the standard of the 1930s. Although still a long way from complete, the rose garden is very sweet. Rose Cottage, which is available for short term rent I believe, sits amongst a little apple orchard and looks down on the rose garden. It would be grand to stay there and be able to walk about the grounds after regular hours.
I think Florence Court deserves a lot more time than I was able to give it; I spent about two hours there tour inclusive. Although I saw the house and walled garden I hardly got a chance to experience the pleasure grounds. One nice idea would be to hire a bike and do one of the wider estate trails. Just another excuse to go again. I know I always say that, but there is definitely more to see here!