Reimagining Enniskillen…

I am just back from a short break in sunny Fermanagh. As my main photo shows, when the sun is shining there are few places more beautiful. Fermanagh has massive potential to increase tourism, it could be a real growth industry for an area that has had its economic issues in the past.

I had some thoughts I wanted to share about the main town Enniskillen. These are only my impressions as a visitor; I would appreciate input from locals.

The core issue with Enniskillen seems to be that it has been completely given over to cars to the detriment of people. We had lunch at the wonderful Bees Knees cafe, but the outdoor dining was spoiled by the crazy amount of cars that pass you on Townhall St. At one stage a wormhole opened up and a souped-up 1984 Ford Sierra passed us leaving a plume of toxic exhaust emissions. You can get an idea of the car issue from the photo below:

Here is a photo I took of the same street early the next morning:

Townhall St is a wonderful collection of pubs, restaurants and shops. It is a street crying out to be pedestrianised. It is probably the prettiest street in Enniskillen and it should be the council’s focus for regeneration. There are lots of beautiful abandoned buildings like the old AIB bank. That building would make a lovely hotel or a co-working space. One of the future trends of post-pandemic life is going to be near working. In simple terms, people crave human contact and separation of home and work life. They don’t want to have to traipse into Belfast every day but they would like to work somewhere close to home. An ideal vision of work-life would be you come into your co working space, you work for a few hours before meeting a friend for lunch. Then after work you can take a relaxing walk along the lough shore before heading home.

Pedestrianising the main street of Enniskillen is a very easy task as the surrounding areas are completely blanketed with car parks. Here is the view 50 feet from the main street.

The real tragedy of Enniskillen has been the complete disconnect from its most valuable asset, the lough shore. To get down to the lough shore from the main street you have to make a treacherous voyage across several car parks, 4 lanes of constant traffic, then several carparks on the other side. Enniskillen seems to suffer more than most of our local towns with our addiction to car culture. I understand as a market town there will be a lot of people driving into it, but the town completely revolves around cars to the detriment of its people.

An obvious development strategy would be to develop an area of bars and restaurants at a location next to the lough. This has worked well in the new Antrim Lough Shore Park. But would this draw business away from the main street? If an American developer came over and saw that a town was basically ignoring its genuine castle and beautiful lough they would think we are crazy.

Enniskillen and Fermanagh desperately need a Sean Quinn of tourism. Someone with the vision to see the potential of this wonderful area. The council should be courting NI entrepreneurs like Bill Wolsey or the Hastings group, as well as encouraging local business startups.

As I said these are my impressions as a visitor. I would be keen to hear the views of locals.