A Tour of Ireland ~ Episode 27

Tyrone

Tyrone is the largest county in Northern Ireland, with prehistoric sites, forest parks  and is great hiking country providing access to highest peaks of the beautiful Sperrin Mountains.   Sawel is the tallest at 678 m.  The Sperrins are a haven for hill walkers and cyclists.

Dungannon is a flourishing town that was once home to the O’Neills, kings of Ulster for 500 years.

Off the Dungannon-Ballygawley road at Dergenagh, is the ancestral home of Ulysses Grant, President of the US from 1869 to 1877.  The house, restored to its appearance of 1880, is set on a farm that is worked by traditional methods from that time.

Near Cookstown, you’ll find the 10th Century Ardboe Cross, it is believed to be the first High Cross of Ulster.  It measures 18.5 feet high and 3.5 feet wide with 22 panels depicting various biblical scenes.

Northeast of Cookstown is Springhill, a 17th century house, often described as the prettiest house in Ulster.  It is home to a costume museum dating from the 18th century to the 1930s.  Living history tours tell the tales of ten generations of the Lennox-Conyngham family.

Wellbrook, Corkhill, lies in a wooded valley.   As you come over the hill, the Beetling Mill comes into view beside the river.  It is the last working water-powered beetling mill in Northern Ireland.  The mill is a hive of activity when the machines are running, pounding the linen with heavy mallets to make it less porous.  Hands-on demonstrations are given by costumed guides of a cottage industry in the 19th century.

Drum Manor Forest Park is one is small but very attractive.  The tower and the ground floor walls of the early Victorian manor-house remain intact.  It opened as a forest park in 1970.  The manor-house was partially demolished in 1975 and a ‘Japanese’ garden was created within the ruins.  Part of the walled garden is designated as a butterfly garden. The Gardener’s House lies between the walled gardens and is in good repair.

The largest town in County Tyrone is Omagh sits high on a hill, it makes a great base for exploring the surrounding areas, including the picturesque Gortin Glen.  has a fine forest park with a herd of Japanese sika deer.  There are a variety of walks and at the entrance there is a stone seat beside a cool stream with the inscription ‘Rest and be Thankful’.

The Ulster History Park traces settlements from the Stone Age in Ireland to the Normans.  Full scale models of houses and monuments vividly recreate life of that time.

6kms from Gortin on the B48 road look out for the place known locally as Magnetic Hill, it gives the illusion that your car is travelling uphill, when it is really going downhill.

The nearby Ulster-American Folk Park, one of the country’s best museums, tells the story of Northern Ireland’s unique contribution to the ‘New World’.  The park combines the two cultures – Ulster’s tradition of emigration from the thatched cottage (the Old World), to the log cabin (The New World of America). There is a recreation of the brig, Union, an emigrant ship, where visitors can experience the dreadful conditions, smells, and sounds of a transatlantic passage.

Strabane a charming town, is home to Gray’s Printing Press on Main Street.  Behind the elegant façade you will find the story of ink, galleys, presses and emigration.  This is the place where John Dunlap, printer of the American Declaration of Independence, and James Wilson, grandfather of President  Woodrow Wilson, are said to have learned their trade.

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