Florence Court: 18th Century House in County Fermanagh

Florence Court

Updated On: May 05, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Another location to make the list of remarkable Irish buildings is the 18th-century estate known as Florence Court. This house looks more like a castle; it is located in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. This spectacular Irish estate is the sister property of Castle Coole, both of which are looked after by the National Trust.

Florence Court is surrounded by stunning woodland trails and set against the backdrop of the Cuilcagh mountains. It is considered one of the most important Georgian houses in Ireland. However, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the house. There are no building records, and little is known about its architectural development.

History of Florence Court

Florence Court Co. Fermanagh

Although Florence Court is full of mystery, we will share what we know. It is believed to have been the creation of three successive generations of the Cole Family. The Cole family were powerful landowners in County Fermanagh, with roots in the plantations of the 17th century. Sir John Cole laid the house’s foundations and named the estate after his wife, Florence Bourchier Wray.

The estate offers fascinating stories of the many generations of Earls of Enniskillen and their families who spent time there. It is also home to a magnificent collection of Irish furniture, some of which is considered the best Rococo plasterwork in Ireland.

Florence Court was the seat of the Earls of Enniskillen until 1973. The 5th Earl handed the house and its fourteen acres to the National Trust in 1953. In 1855, a terrible fire destroyed much of the upper part of the house.

The National Trust did its best to restore Florence Court to its original glory. Improvements were also made to the estate, including a park and drive area designed by Willaim King and the creation of the Grand Gates.

Guided tours are available of Florence Court, where visitors get to see the house up close and personal and learn more about the stories and history that surround its 250-year-old life. The building from the outside looks so breathtaking that all you want to do is spend the day there!

Florence Court
Full view of Florence Court

Features at Florence Court Estate

The estate has many exciting features, especially the different gardens for a visit to explore.

First, there is the pleasure garden, which was landscaped during the 19th century and offers beautiful panoramic views of the nearby mountains. The notable features in this garden are the Victorian specimen trees and an exciting display of tropical plants.

Then there is the Summer House, also known as the Heather House. It is a reconstruction of an 18th-century thatched summer house that overlooks the pleasure garden.

Another essential feature is the walled garden laid out in the 18th century. Charlotte, Countess of Enniskillen, later added to it in the 1970s. It includes two pounds, a rose garden, various fruit trees, and a vegetable garden.

Once you have explored Florence Court and its surrounding landscape, don’t forget to check out the gift shop located in the Stable Yard. There is a wide selection of gifts and souvenirs, including local craft items, ladies’ clothing, speciality food items, and more. Also, not to forget the second-hand bookshop that’s worth exploring. Maybe you’ll find a hidden gem amongst the books to enjoy.

Gardens and Grounds

In addition to its magnificent house, Florence Court is also renowned for its stunning gardens and grounds. Designed in the formal style typical of the Georgian era, the gardens feature manicured lawns, meandering pathways, and vibrant flowerbeds that bloom in a riot of colour throughout the year.

One of the estate’s highlights is the Walled Garden, which dates back to the 18th century and is home to a diverse collection of plants, flowers, and herbs. Visitors can stroll through the tranquil surroundings, marvel at the ornamental fountains, and admire the intricate patterns of the parterre beds.

For nature enthusiasts, Florence Court offers ample opportunities for exploration and discovery. The estate is crisscrossed by scenic walking trails that wind through ancient woodlands, past cascading waterfalls, and along the shores of picturesque lakes. Birdwatchers will delight in the diverse avian species that call Florence Court home, while wildlife enthusiasts may catch a glimpse of red deer, squirrels, and other native animals.

The Cole Family Legacy

Throughout its illustrious history, Florence Court has been home to generations of the Cole family, who left an indelible mark on the estate and the surrounding community. The family’s passion for art, culture, and philanthropy is reflected in the mansion’s exquisite interiors, extensive art collection, and ongoing conservation efforts.

In addition to their contributions to the arts, the Cole family played a vital role in the development of County Fermanagh, supporting local industries, funding charitable initiatives, and championing social causes. Today, their legacy lives on through the Florence Court Estate, which inspires and enchants visitors worldwide.

Conservation and Preservation

Florence Court
Florence Court

As a National Trust property, Florence Court is dedicated to conserving and preserving its historic buildings, gardens, and landscapes. A team of skilled craftsmen and conservationists works tirelessly to maintain the integrity of the houses and grounds, ensuring that future generations can enjoy their beauty and splendour.

In recent years, the National Trust has undertaken extensive restoration projects to protect and enhance Florence Court for the enjoyment of visitors. From repairing delicate plasterwork to replanting historic gardens, these efforts are vital in safeguarding the legacy of this architectural gem for years to come.

Visiting Florence Court

Florence Court welcomes visitors from near and far to explore its treasures and uncover the secrets of its past. Guided tours of the house offer a fascinating insight into the lives of the aristocratic families who once called it home. At the same time, self-guided walks allow visitors to meander at their own pace through the gardens and estate.

In addition to guided tours, Florence Court hosts various events and activities throughout the year, ranging from garden festivals and craft workshops to historical reenactments and musical performances. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life, Florence Court offers something for everyone to enjoy.

Exploring the Surrounding Attractions near Florence Court

While Florence Court is a majestic destination offering a wealth of history, architecture, and natural beauty, the surrounding area of County Fermanagh is also filled with attractions that are well worth exploring. From picturesque landscapes to historical landmarks, there is no shortage of things to see and do near Florence Court. Let’s delve into some of the nearby attractions that complement a visit to this magnificent estate.

Marble Arch Caves

Located just a short drive from Florence Court, the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is a natural wonderland waiting to be explored. This UNESCO Global Geopark boasts an extensive network of underground caves, rivers, and waterfalls, guiding visitors through its stunning subterranean landscape. Marvel at the intricate limestone formations, crystal-clear pools, and otherworldly caverns as you delve deep into the heart of this geological marvel.

Enniskillen Castle

Situated on the banks of the River Erne in Enniskillen, Enniskillen Castle is a historic fortress dating back to the 16th century. Once the stronghold of the Maguire chieftains, the castle now houses the Fermanagh County Museum and the Inniskillings Museum, where visitors can learn about the region’s rich history and heritage. Explore the castle’s ancient walls, discover artefacts dating back thousands of years, and immerse yourself in the stories of the people who shaped County Fermanagh’s past.

Lough Erne

Lough Erne County Fermanagh; NI Second Biggest Lake System-Irish Fishing – Enniskillen Fermanagh

Stretching across the heart of County Fermanagh, Lough Erne is a vast and picturesque waterway that offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Whether you’re interested in boating, fishing, or simply taking in the serene beauty of the landscape, Lough Erne has something for everyone. Cruise along its tranquil waters, explore its secluded islands and hidden coves and soak up the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

Castle Coole

Another grand estate located near Florence Court, Castle Coole is a magnificent neoclassical mansion that dates back to the late 18th century. Designed by the renowned architect James Wyatt, the mansion boasts an impressive array of period features, including grand reception rooms, ornate plasterwork ceilings, and a stunning Marble Hall. Visitors can take guided tours of the house, stroll through the elegant gardens, and learn about the history of the estate and its former occupants.

Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail

For outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure, the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail offers a challenging yet rewarding hike through some of County Fermanagh‘s most spectacular scenery. Known as the “Stairway to Heaven,” this 7.5-mile trail takes hikers through rugged terrain, past tranquil lakes, and up to the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain, where panoramic views of the surrounding countryside await. Along the way, visitors can marvel at the diverse flora and fauna of the area and experience the beauty of Ireland’s unspoiled wilderness.

Belleek Pottery

Located just a short distance from Florence Court, Belleek Pottery is one of Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious pottery manufacturers. Founded in 1857, the pottery is renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship and timeless designs, which have earned it a reputation as one of the finest producers of fine china in the world. Visitors can take guided tours of the pottery, watch skilled artisans at work, and browse the beautiful collections of handcrafted ceramics available for purchase.

Conclusion

Florence Court is a beacon of elegance and refinement, a shining example of 18th-century architecture and design. With its majestic house, enchanting gardens, and breathtaking landscapes, it continues to captivate and inspire visitors worldwide. As custodians of this historic estate, the National Trust remains committed to preserving its legacy for future generations, ensuring that Florence Court will continue shining bright for centuries.

Florence Court is a great place to spend the day, tour the house and explore the walking trails that offer visitors views across Fermanagh and beyond.

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