It was once said that for half of the year Lough Erne is in Fermanagh and the other half of the year Fermanagh is in Lough Erne, and this saying derives from a time before flood controls were put in place,and these necessary institutions lowered the level of Lough Erne by about ten feet. The lower lough is the heart of the Fermanagh Lakeland and drains several smaller loughs into Lower Lough Erne on the Erne's journey to the sea. Upper Lough Macnean, half in Eire and half in the North, the lough on whose lovely shores I dwelt for a year in 1969-1970, is part of the Erne catchment area, draining ultimately into the Upper Lough. If you look at the map you will see where I dwelt, which is to the west of Belcoo, just before where the border turns northwards.
It is said that there are as many islands in Lough Erne as there are days in the year, but this is an exaggeration, there being about 97 in the Lower Lough and 57 in the narrower Upper Lough. The reason for there being so many islands is that the area is drumlin country, a terrain well-endowed with small mounds of glacial deposits pushed ahead of advancing glaciers, and when the land flooded after the Ice Age the drumlins stood out as islands
Between the two loughs is Enniskillen Island, on which is the historic centre of the town of Enniskillen. It is a pleasant market town, and when I lived in the region I often did my shopping there,hitching in th fourteen miles with a shopping list, passing the mediaeval castle of the Maguires on the way in. I have pleasant memories of the town.
In the distant past many of the islands were the sites of cranneogs, dwellings erected on wooden piles to raise them above the flood. Sometimes at the drier centre there was a rath, a small stone fortification, and several of these raths have survived as archaeological sites. As the lough was liable to swell in wet weather the shoreline was quite boggy, so it is likely that there were cranneogs inland from the modern shore. The cranneog dwellers must have been well fed, for the lough is rich in fish and wild fowl. Pollan, a freshwater type of herring is still found in the lough and there used to be a fishery that harvested it, and there were eels a-plenty, along with roach, trout and salmon.
A few of the islands are now inhabited.Some others are archaeological sites, but some have reverted to smal patches of semi-natural woodland, with trees such as alder and willow along with other small trees.