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The largest of Northern Ireland's six counties, County Tyrone is landlocked and interspersed with a rich plethora of stunning areas of outstanding beauty and a treasure trove of antiquities and historic sites that commemorate the county's illustrious heritage. Once an O'Neill stronghold until 1603, Tyrone has preserved traces of its early Christian and Celtic heritage and pays homage to its centuries of governance under the Earl of Tyrone prior to submission to the English, marking the end of a Gaeltacht Ireland in the county. From the 18th and into the 19th Century, large pockets of Tyrone's communities emigrated to the USA and ever since, the county has forged strong Ulster-American cultural links which continues to thrive in today's context.
The Ulster-American Folk Park situated to the north west of Omagh is firmly ranked as one of Ireland's finest attractions and certainly merits a visit when passing through or spending a vacation In Tyrone. The museum unveils the history and massive Diaspora of over 200,000 people emigrating from Ulster to the USA in the 18th Century through a host of life-size exhibits that include a forge, a log cabin, early streets from Ulster and Pennsylvania and a dockside gallery featuring reconstructed sections of an emigrants' vessel. It is recommended to spend at least half a day to absorb most of the park's attractions. The nearby town of Omagh provides a important base for exploring Tyrone and is within easy reach to the Sperrin Mountains lying to the north east. The area around Omagh is also a popular haven for fishing along stretches of the Camowen, Drumragh and Strule Rivers.
In North East Tyrone, The Sperrin Mountains is home to bogs and open moorland contrasting with wooded glens and rich farmland on the lower altitudes. Straddling the border with Derry, this spectacular mountain range reaches its highest point in Tyrone at Mount Sawel (678m) where a purpose-built heritage centre is located nearby focusing on the biodiversity and economic and social history of the region through computer assisted and audio-visual presentations. Gold has been found in the Sperrin Mountains and visitors can take the opportunity to pan for the precious mineral at the stream near the Sperrin Heritage Centre. The area is a popular haven for trekkers and hikers who trek sections or the whole of the Ulster Way Long Distance Footpath to Donegal which can be joined at nearby Leagh's Bridge. Alternatively, discover the hidden treasures and beauty spots of the Sperrin Mountains on horseback where you can bear witness to pristine lakes and thousands of standing stones such as the Beaghmore Stone Circles that flank the southeastern slopes.
Remnants of Tyrone's Early Christian past can be traced at Ardboe High Cross near Cookstown, standing majestically at 5.5 m before an ancient monastic site dating from the 6th-century. This particular high celtic cross is arguably the best preserved in Northern Ireland with its eastern face illustrative of scenes from the Old Testament and its west side depicting the New Testiment. With close examination, notable biblical figures can be identified, particularly Adam and Eve and Jesus Christ in Glory. Nearer to the market town of Cookstown, Tullaghoge Fort is an emblematic to Tyrone's ancient history, marking the burial site of the O'Hagan's, Ireland's earliest chiefs as well as the coronation site of Ulster's Kings in the 11th Century. Today, no traces of the coronation seat is found, however a map dating from 1601 marks the spot where the regal chair once stood.
A popular destination in Tyrone's cultural trail is the town of Dungannon, formerly one of the principal seats of the O'Neill Family until the early 17th Century. Today, this picturesque and immaculately preserved market town boasts an excellent provision of eateries ranging from cafe-restaurants to carvery and bar meals. On the periphery of Dungannon, visitors can bear witness to the various production techniques of Tyrone Crystal at the Tyrone Crystal Factory and Retail Outlet, where the visitor experience commences with a tour of the furnace where glass in its molten state is hand-blown to perfection. Why not indulge in retail therapy and purchase a fine collection of Crystal Glasses bearing the hallmark of genuine Tyrone Crystal. The Dungannon area also serves as an idyllic base for short breaks or long term vacations with a treasure trove of attractions situated nearby, including Parkanaur Forest Park, Castle Caulfield Stately Home and Leisure activities at Lough Neagh. Steeped in rich heritage and littered with remnants of its early Christian origins, Tyrone certainly serves a delightful cultural repertoire that is both awe-inspiring and moving.
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