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Practical Guide

Practical Guide – Lough Erne Canoe Trail


This practical guide has been designed by local experts to help you make the most of your next trip on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail. The choices offered by this amazing 50km trail can sometimes be overwhelming; you have so many places to explore in so little time. This inside knowledge will make your decision making much easier.

Planning a Trip

Suitable For

The Lough Erne Canoe Trail is the most popular canoe trail in Northern Ireland, because it is suitable for such a wide range of abilities. As with all our canoe trails, access is free and no licence is required.

The maze of bays, narrow channels of slow moving water and innumerable islands and peninsulas in Upper Lough Erne offer a superb venue for families or those embarking on their first canoe trip.

Lower Lough Erne, north of Rossigh Access Point is known by locals as the ‘broad lough’ and can become very rough in strong winds – so this is an area best left to the experts.

The benefit of paddling on Lough Erne is that you can often start and finish from the same place, therefore there is no requirement for shuttles. However many of the local canoeing hire providers will be happy to offer a shuttle service.

Best For

Rough Camping

Lough Erne is a haven for rough camping which makes it ideal for those seeking a true wilderness experience. There are several rough camping sites identified on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail Guide on both islands and isolated areas along the shore. As the name suggests these rough camp sites have no facilities and are free to use. Please only use these sites when rough camping or ensure you have received permission from landowners for other areas. There are a number of official campsites which offer toilets and showers etc, these should be booked in advance.

Direction of Flow

The Erne System flows from south to north i.e. from Upper Lough Erne to Lower Lough Erne. The flow is insignificant on the lough sections (wind direction is a much more important consideration) and therefore should not impact on your decision of which direction to travel.

There is a small flow along the River Erne section from the Killyhevlin Hotel (GR H248 422) to the Portora Lock Gates (GR H222 452). It is possible to paddle ‘upstream’ most of the year; however, flow can become significant during periods of high rain fall so please check in advance.

The Arney River flows west to east from Lough MacNean Lower to Upper Lough Erne and is faster flowing Grade 1.


The CanoeNI team has combined their knowledge with that of many local experts to design a variety of canoeing itineraries to allow you make the most of your next short break or day trip to the Lough Erne Canoe Trail. These are our favourite itineraries, however the glory of this 50km trail is that these can be mixed and matched to create an almost infinite number of itineraries.

Useful Info

Visitor Information Centre Enniskillen: +44 (0)28 6632 3110
Police Station Enniskillen: +44 (0)28 6632 2823

Currency: County Fermanagh is in Northern Ireland. Pounds Sterling are accepted everywhere in Northern Ireland. Pounds and Euro are accepted around the trail. Euro are accepted everywhere in the Republic of Ireland.

Local bus services Ulsterbus: +44 (0)28 6632 2633


General Safety

Canoeing is an adventure sport and as such should be treated with respect. If you are new to the sport, it is advisable to join an organized club or take some lessons with a canoeing provider, both options will offer expert coaching.

When participating in canoe sport note should be taken of the following safety advice:

  1. Do not canoe without adequate buoyancy in the form of a personal life jacket or buoyancy aid. Canoe buoyancy should be sufficient to keep the canoe afloat if you capsize

  2. It is recommended not to canoe alone – three boats is the minimum required for most rescues

  3. Remember – a canoe may be difficult to see from a larger craft – carry a whistle

  4. You do not need to be able to swim vast distances but you will need the water confidence to deal with a capsized boat and get ashore safely

  5. Carry and know how to use a map and compass

  6. Wear adequate clothing, prolonged immersion in cold water leads to hypothermia – hypothermia can kill.

  7. Leave details of your journey with a responsible adult

Lough Erne Specific

  1. The Lower Lough can become very rough in strong winds – carrying rafting poles is a sensible precaution (rafted canoes are more stable in rough conditions)

  2. Always use OSNI Maps for navigation – The Lough Erne Canoe Trail Guide is only designed as a useful reference. The OSNI 1:25,000 Lough Erne Activity Map is printed on water resistant paper and is the most useful navigation aid for this trail. You can download the necessary maps for the Lough Erne Canoe Trail from this website.

  3. Navigation markers (red and white spade shaped) are indicated on the 1:25,000 OSNI map and are therefore a useful navigational aid.

  4. Boat traffic is minimal but be wary of wash from speed boats and motor cruisers.

  5. Exercise care at the Portora Lock Gates (GR H222452). Use the channel to the left hand side as you paddle downstream. If paddling upstream, give way to craft approaching from downstream.

  6. The Cliff Hydro Power Station (GR H934599) presents a serious hazard to canoeists and therefore journeys from Lower Lough Erne should cease before the disused eel fishery (GR H938950).  Once, the Hydro Power Station begins to generate (often at short notice) the flow of the river can increase to 200 tonnes per second.  Access to Belleek remains at Belleek Marina (GR H943588) which is a 200m walk to the village centre. 

Emergency Telephone Numbers

Both the Coastguard and Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) cover Upper and Lower Lough Erne. In the unlikely event of an Emergency use the following numbers:

Police and Ambulance 999 (all phones) or 112 (all phones)
Coast Guard 999 (all phones) or VHF channel 16

Note that mobile phone reception is unreliable in many areas.

Earning a welcome

Have respect for locals:

  • Be friendly and polite to local residents.
  • Drive slowly with care and consideration and park sensibly without causing obstruction.
  • Be as quiet as possible.
  • Get changed discreetly out of public view.
  • Get permission before going on to private property.
  • Avoid wildlife disturbance and environmental damage - only go ashore at recognised landing places.
  • Be considerate to other water users.
  • Follow the Leave No Trace Principles.

Have respect for anglers:

  • Keep well clear of anglers fishing from banks and boats.
  • Keep clear of shallow gravel areas of rivers where salmon and trout may spawn - especially during November, December and January.

Restricted Access

The following islands on Lough Erne are important sites for bredding birds and as such should be avoided between March and August:

Lower Lough Erne Islands:

  • Cleenishgarve
  • Cleenishmean
  • Inishmackill
  • Gay Island
  • Ferny Island (south)
  • White Island (south)
  • Horse Island at Killadeas
  • Rabbit Island
  • Hare Island
  • Gravel Ridge Island
  • Stallion Cows
  • Screegan Island
  • Cruninish Island
  • Lusty More (except for the footpath from the jetty)
  • White Island North (except for jetty and the area around the church ruins)
  • Muckinish
  • Rosscor Island

All of the above islands and those following are inhabited by cattle, including bulls from April to November. Caution is advised when accessing these islands:

  • Devenish (except at the historical monument)
  • Inishmore (except around the church ruins)

Nutell's Pondweed - Commonly Asked Questions

Lough Erne Invasive Species Group has devised of Commonly Asked Questions in response to the spread of Nuttell's Pondweed on Lough Erne.

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