Golf: Lough Track
A decade after the end of the Troubles that divided Northern Ireland in two, the region’s stability has sparked a boom in tourism and tourist developments. Among the many signs of this prosperity and optimism is Lough Erne, the first true golf resort in Northern Ireland.
The resort opened in late 2007 on a peninsula between Lower Lough Erne and Castle Hume Lough, a 90-minute drive west of Belfast. The property’s golf course, which debuted in July, is the work of England’s Nick Faldo, and nearly every hole is either on or within viewing distance of the water. However, the Faldo Course at Lough Erne is hardly a traditional Irish links layout.
The course begins in a small forest hard by Castle Hume Lough. The initial holes hug the shoreline, but the layout then rises high above the water, yielding vistas of lush countryside for miles in every direction. From there, the course leads out onto a spit of lake-licked land and then back into more trees, before ending dramatically behind the resort: The final four holes all demand carries over water and feature phalanxes of bunkers and perilously perched greens. The back entrance to the resort’s Blaney Bar, with its 100-plus different Irish whiskeys, is just steps from the green of the long par-3 18th—close enough for golfers to find immediate solace, should they need it.
The hotel at Lough Erne is not yet two years old, but it was built to recall days of yore, with peaked roofs, chimneys, and even turrets. Dark-wood decor in the public spaces evokes a British men’s club, while the resort’s 120 guest rooms and 25 lodges (perfect for traveling foursomes) feature soaring ceilings and elegant appointments.
In the dining room, chef Noel McMeel, a Northern Irishman who trained under Alice Waters in the United States, transforms local beef, lamb, and fish—and vegetables besides potatoes—into haute cuisine. The chef and his ingredients may be local, but the masseuses at the resort’s Thai Spa are, as the facility’s name suggests, from Thailand. Experts at using their hands and feet to unknot mashed muscles, the therapists offer both pre- and post-golf treatments that are sure to ease the pain incurred on the Faldo track or any other nearby course.
Indeed, such classic links as Portrush, County Sligo, and Ballyliffin are within a few hours’ drive of Lough Erne, making the resort an ideal base for an extended golf vacation in Northern Ireland. The concierge can schedule tee times at these and other courses, as well as arrange for fishing or water sports on the lough, walking and cycling tours, horseback riding, and helicopter and seaplane trips. Such diversions—plus the Faldo Course—make Lough Erne a perfect place to leave your own troubles behind.
Lough Erne Golf Resort, +44.28.6632.3230, www.loughernegolfresort.com