To fully experience Irish life as it was in the late 1800s and early 1900s, visit this extremely popular outdoor attraction. As soon as you enter, you’ll be immersed in this turbulent period of Irish history. You’ll see demonstrators dressed in period costumes and engaged in daily activities such as weaving, spinning and forging, or baking bread on peat fires.
At the middle of the park sits an old whitewashed cottage, currently serving as a museum. This is the ancestral home of Thomas Mellon, born in 1813. A famous banker and philanthropist, Mellon made his fortune in America; his son Andrew ultimately became one of the richest men in the world. The Mellon family, which settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, donated funds to create and maintain the Ulster American Folk Park.
You’ll also see authentic exhibits portraying thatched peasant cottages, Pennsylvania farmhouses and even the interior of a New York tenement building likened to that in which many emigrants lived upon their arrival to the New World. Event highlights include re-enactments of Irish wakes in America, and period weddings on the frontier. Check the schedules for periodic festivals that include music, storytelling, and even a Halloween celebration.
Walking exhibits offer some intriguing recreations, including a forge, a weaving cottage, a post office, a smoke-house and a famine cabin in the Sperrin Mountains. The park’s central attraction – where the emigration experience is most thoroughly explored – is known as the Ship and Dockside Gallery. The Union Brig is a replica of an emigrant ship similar to the ones used by so many Irish emigrants during the years of the Potato Famine. On the docks and on board you’ll have a unique opportunity to realistically experience the sights, sounds, and scents of those turbulent, long-ago voyages.
Visit the adjacent museum to view collections, presentations and exhibits of authentic emigrant property and possessions. A computerized database holds documents from the period, such as diary entries, letters, family papers, shipping passenger manifests and advertisements. Certain exhibits describe in detail the contributions of specific Irish citizens and emigrants to the growth and development of America. The Ulster American Folk Park also contains a lovely craft shop and café.
The Park is located 5 kilometers north of Omagh, on the main A5 route to Strabane/Lifford.