Lough Erne is a new resort built in an attempt to put Enniskillen on the map for something other than its unhappy past.
Learning about life from history
All cities have a history, it's just that some have a more recent, bloodier history than others. We felt quite comfortable taking our kids to see the Bayeux tapestry in France, with all those chopped-off Norman heads and severed Saxon limbs. There was even a children's audio guide, to fill in the details behind the savagery. Battles don't have to have been fought 10 centuries ago to lose their horror: we've also been on holiday to Normandy, where the Second World War landings on D-Day left an estimated 10,000 dead and we sat at a cafe overlooking the huge, broad sandy beaches on which the bloodshed occurred, not in the least deterred from our coffees and croissants.
Taking the kids to Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, then, seemed perfectly ordinary. In 1987, a bomb exploded on Remembrance Sunday in that small town in County Fermanagh, killing 11. Of course, we weren't going to see the town itself - the memorial to the dead is one of the town's sights. What took us there was Lough Erne, a new resort built on its undulating outskirts in an attempt to put Enniskillen on the map for something other than its unhappy past. But the resort doesn't whitewash over it. There's the Gordon Wilson Library, named after a man whose daughter was killed in the bombing and spent the rest of his life campaigning for peace.
Despite all of this, Lough Erne couldn't be better for families. It's large and lustrous, in the style of a sprawling Victorian estate, all turrets, crenulations and chandeliers. We stayed in a lodge on the lake, stuffed with sofas. It included a small kitchen, so we could boil an egg any time. We played the free DVDs for kids on our laptop, watching the ducks land by the bulrushes through the binoculars. It was very, very peaceful. Even my teenager calmed down, impressed to learn that the band Westlife were already regular guests.
Lough Erne has lofty ambitions. With a world-class golf course; it hopes to be Ireland's answer to Gleneagles. Having stayed in both, I think Lough Erne is far better. Gleneagles is a golf course that happens to have a hotel in the middle of it. Lough Erne is a top-notch family hotel that happens to have a golf course attached. Did we care about the history of bitterness and strife? I didn't shirk from telling the kids about it. But to be honest, 1987 - before they were born - is almost as distant to them as the Norman conquests. And at a time when travel is sometimes portrayed as an activity in which we ought only hesitantly to engage with the culture of a country, it's important to remember how it can help children learn about life - and help a place rebuild theirs.
Dea and family visited Lough Erne Golf Resort (www.loughernegolfresort.com; 00 44 28 6632 3230). *Do you have tips and experiences of family travel to share? E-mail Dea at dbirkett@ thenational.ae