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County Tyrone

Situated in Northern Ireland, County Tyrone combines the finest of outdoor Irish life – aided by a varied landscape that includes mountains, rivers and boglands that provide a scenic background for a variety of historical and cultural landmarks.

County Tyrone offers splendid accommodations in its towns, including Omagh, the county town and Strabane, the site of several castles, annual cultural events and regular heritage tours.

The elegant Sperrin Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to this enchanting slice of Ireland, where some of the country’s most intriguing and widely visited heritage attractions can be found. 

County Tyrone Highlights

Monuments to the distant past of Ireland and its inhabitants are plentiful in County Tyrone. They include the mysterious Beaghmore Stone Circles, the purpose of which remains largely a mystery -- though many theories exist -- along with the numerous ancient cairns that can be found nearby.

A passage tomb sits atop the hill at scenic Knockmany Forest, along with a serene lakeside path for those less inclined to climb the steep slopes. Gortin Glen Forest Park is located in the scenic heart of the Sperrins, with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the forests and mountains and encounter native plants and animals – whether you choose to walk or drive through the preserve.

History and culture in County Tyrone can be explored to the fullest at several excellent heritage centres in the area. Benburb Valley Heritage Centre focuses on the local linen making process, and the area’s industrial history is accurately chronicled at Cornmill Heritage Centre, appropriately housed in a former cornmill.

Music and traditional dance are the featured topics at Dun Uladh Cultural Heritage Centre; dedicated to preserving centuries old cultural traditions and printing arts from centuries past are showcased at Gray’s Print Museum in Strabane.

Ulster American Folk Park is one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions. Its exhibits tell the story of life in Ireland, including during the difficult famine years and the following period of widespread emigration. The museums here display poignant mementoes of that time, including personal property and authentic documents of those years in the latter part of the 19th century. 

County Tyrone History

Inhabited for more than 6,000 years, County Tyrone’s name is derived from Tir Eogain, meaning land of Eoghan (Owen). In Irish lore, Eoghan was the kidnapper of St. Patrick.

The main ruling family in the region was historically the O’Neill clan, and they held power in Tyrone until the Flight of the Earls in the early 17th century. They were replaced by the Scots and English settlers of the plantation period that followed.

Many Tyrone residents emigrated to America and populated entire settlements there. Perhaps the most famous were the Mellon family, who amassed great fortunes in the New World, and later became prime benefactors for the creation of the Ulster American Folk Park.

Evidence of the period in Irish history known as The Troubles can be seen on the streets of the town of Strabane, which was the site of several bombings in latter years.

Omagh town was also the site of one of the main events of the Troubles when, in August 1998, a car bomb exploded in the town centre killing 29 people and injuring hundreds, most of whom were ordinary shoppers. Planted by republican dissidents, the Omagh bombing had been intended to destabilise peace talks between British prime minister Tony Blair and leaders from all sides of the Irish conflict. The talks eventually succeeded, culminating in the Belfast Peace Agreement, signed on 1999. 

Popular Tyrone Surnames

Common surnames in County Tyrone include

  • Breshahan
  • Cahan
  • Cochrane
  • Crawford
  • Donnelley
  • Laverty
  • Ferguson
  • McAleer
  • O'Neill
  • Quinn
  • Rafferty
  • Stewart
  • Sharkey
  • Watters
  • Wilson

Image

Chapel @ Ulster American Folk Park, County Tyrone by Aidan McMichael

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