Hidden Irish travel gems: A journey through the north and northwest
It’s a quick step from here to the St. Patrick’s Trail, which leads to Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland. This dignified city boasts Saint Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral and Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral. At Downpatrick visit St. Patrick’s Grave and St. Patrick’s Centre and Down County Museum. Nearby scenic villages include Dromara, Hillsborough, Moira and Banbridge.
The Craigavon area around Portadown and Lurgan features important landmarks associated with the Ulster Scots. At Lurgan Park you can learn how English linen barons designed their estates. The National Trust maintains an 18th century gentleman’s farmhouse at Ardress. Nearby is the site of the Battle of the Diamond and the cottage where the Orange Order is said to have been founded, still run by the Winter family down through all the generations.
Day Three (South West: The Lakelands of County Fermanagh)
Fermanagh offers stunning lakeland scenery and an abundance of castles. The twin lakes of Lough Erne cover one-third of Fermanagh. Visit the Marble Arch Caves European Geopark, a fascinating natural underworld of rivers and waterfalls. Here one finds a number of the country’s Anglo-Irish family homes. Florence Court, built in the mid-eighteenth century, is noted for its rococo plasterwork, while Castle Coole, completed in 1798, is one of the best neo-classical homes in Ireland.
Eniskillen’s famous Portora Royal School, founded in 1608, boasts such literary alumni as Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. You can stay with the Brooke Family at Colebrooke; the Duke of Abercorn, a member of the Hamilton family, has opened Belle Isle School of Cookery where visitors prepare lunch with local produce, and can stay overnight. A visit to Fermanagh would not be complete without shopping at Belleek Pottery. For a luxurious stay follow the road to Lough Erne Golf Resort, a stunning new resort located between Lough Erne and Lough Castle Hume, with spectacular views over rippling lakes and green landscapes.
Day Four (North West: County Tyrone)
About an hour’s drive from Fermanagh is the Ulster-American Folk Park. Give yourself a few hours to appreciate a living history experience; the installations and reenactments tell of the formidable contribution that generations of Scots-Irish made to American frontier history. Costumed performers carry out everyday tasks in the traditional manner in Old World and New World buildings.
From Omagh, drive through the glorious Sperrin Mountains, which span Counties Tyrone and Londonderry. Learn how many of the Scottish settlers became engaged in the production of linen. Enjoy shopping at Moygashel. Drive through Tyrone to Cookstown and the Wellbrook Beetling Mill. The Springhill Costume Collection is one of the foremost exhibits of 19th and early 20th century Irish costume and textile history. Stop in Dungannon, with its exquisite Tyrone Crystal; here the art of crystal making has been going strong since the 18th century.
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