The small golf cart I’m perched on rumbles down a rocky trail as idly as the grazing sheep that dot the distant emerald fields. Tall, leafy alders flank our path, awarding only brief glimpses of the verdant hills. I nearly miss the transparent top of my bubble forest dome peeking through the trees as the driver sidles up to an arched wooden gate that looks like it’s been plucked straight from The Secret Garden.
At Finn Lough, a boutique resort on the edges of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, this total immersion in the natural landscape isn’t by accident. “We really wanted to maintain the integrity of the land,” says owner Gillian Beare, who grew up in this secluded corner of the country. “The forest is one of the few remaining indigenous woodlands in County Fermanagh.”
Beare’s parents were born in the county and built the bones of the present-day lodge in the early 1980s. By 2013, the upkeep proved too much for them and Beare moved home from Australia where she was working at the time, renovated the eight cottages and main lodge and rebranded the property Finn Lough. “Adding the bubble domes appealed to us because it was a way to connect our guests with nature and allow them to really experience where they are while having a very low impact on the land,” explains Beare. Inside my dome that evening, only paper-thin, transparent walls separate me from the dense, leafy forest and a fading indigo sky. As I lie in my four-poster bed, I watch transfixed as the inky darkness cloaks the trees and a brilliant wash of stars form a shimmering canopy over my head.
The walls of the property’s 14 forest domes echo the clean, geometric lines that run through the main lodge, lakeside cottages and hydrotherapy spa. Beare hired local woodworker Ronan Lowery to create bespoke wood furniture throughout, including the solid oak beds in the bubble domes. While modern, the property’s aesthetic is far from austere. Inside the lodge’s first floor, plush velvet teal sofas invite guests to lounge in front of a crackling fire. A small library holds oversized leather armchairs and a navy bookcase full of tomes on design and the history of whiskey—which they have plenty of at the adjoining bar.
Before retreating to my forest dome that night, our group met in the restaurant on the lodge’s second floor for dinner. Chef Ryan McFarland changes the menu seasonally, incorporating produce grown on-site and sourcing other ingredients locally. We start with homegrown, sweet summer tomatoes and local goat cheese baked into a flaky tartlet with a side of fresh, peppery arugula salad. I feel like it’s the first time I’ve really tasted a tomato. Next to arrive at our rustic candlelit table is a salt-cured piece of cod caught in neighbouring Donegal served over a bed of curried cauliflower pureé and drizzled with a creamy lime yogurt.
The next morning, my eyelids flicker open to a blue sky above me and past the foot of my bed, leggy alder trees crowded along the forest’s edge. After coffee and a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes, I head to The Element Trail, Finn Lough’s hydrotherapy spa. I’m buzzed in through a wooden gate and follow a quiet path down to three modernist structures, including the reception and forest lounge, which stand resolutely amidst the forest like old-growth trees. The two-hour trail includes an invigorating dip in the lake in between the saunas and ends at an inground hydrotherapy pool with a view of the water. I steep in the bubbling tub in my post-sauna trance, taking in the rugged beauty of Lough Erne.
“There’s lots to do in County Fermanagh,” says Beare, “but people tend to come to Finn Lough—and stay here.” I get it.
Rooms from $270/night; “Forest dome” rooms from $420/night. finnlough.com
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