County Tyrone

Blessingbourne Estate

Northern Ireland's largest county is rich with character and is a true tonic for the soul

Tyrone is dominated by the heather-clad Sperrin Mountains. These are the largest and one of the least-explored mountain ranges in Northern Ireland – just an hour from Belfast or City of Derry airports, yet offering up dramatic valleys, hills, forests and lakes, not to mention prehistoric tombs and standing stones.

A walkers' wonderland

But there’s more… the Sperrins are also popular with horse-riders, parachutists, gliders – the Ulster Gliding Club takes full advantage of the swirling air currents above Magilligan Point – and even gold-prospectors. Yes, gold has been found in them there hills, so watch out for glints and glistens in the mountain streams.

For a deeper insight into the surrounding landscape, An Creagán Visitor Centre interprets the surrounding bogland and its origins from the last Ice Age. Families can explore the nearby stone circles at Beaghmore, or venture off to walk or cycle several forest trails, such as the scenic Forest & River Trail.

Folk heroes

As well as links with the distant past, Tyrone has fascinating connections with the New World. Did you know US President Ulysses S Grant’s grandfather emigrated from Dergina to Pennsylvania in 1760, for example? His restored homestead can be visited near Ballygawley.

Bank tycoon Thomas Mellon, another famous emigrant, may only have lived a few years in Tyrone, but his legacy forms the core of the Ulster American Folk Park near the town of Omagh. Mellon left for the USA with his parents as a young boy, kick-starting a rags-to-riches tale that would culminate in his son, the banker Andrew Mellon, becoming one of the richest men on the planet.

The old, whitewashed cottage Thomas Mellon left is today the centrepiece of the Folk Park, which recreates a Tyrone village as it may have looked two centuries ago. Other features include replica Pennsylvanian farmhouses, peasant cottages, living history areas with costumed actors and a thatched replica of the boyhood home of one John Hughes. Later an archbishop, Hughes was the man who founded St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Arts and crafts

Though many have their origin in the traditions of yesteryear, Tyrone’s local crafts are also a celebrated modern pastime. Why not browse through locally designed crafts from talented locals such as textile-designer Andrea Hayes or a turf pendant from Island Turf Crafts?

When you’re done shopping, tuck into supper at one of Tyrone’s Good Food Circle Restaurants, before polishing off your day with a relaxing pint in one of Tyrone’s many village pubs.

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