Explore the region’s cultural and built heritage as you travel along the Southern Scenic Route, Sample the history of settlement from the first human presence and their ancient customs and monuments, acquire an understanding of the vast exodus to North America by emigrants from Ireland and learn about some of those people who have shaped the future of their new adopted country. Breathe in the many outstanding vistas that have been used as inspiration for poetry, music and prose by local literary heroes who grew up amid this rural, unspoilt landscape known as the Sperrins.
Why not sample one of the other three scenic driving routes where you can take a journey of exploration through the Central Sperrins, enjoy the breath-taking views of the North Sperrins, or discover the hidden beauty of the Eastern Sperrins.
Omagh was host to the O’Neill era from the early Middle Ages up to 1602 when Mountjoy defeated the Earl of Tyrone. The town began to develop from the Plantation period onwards but most of the town was destroyed by fire in 1742. By the latter quarter of the 18th Century it became the County Town of Tyrone.
2- Cappagh Old Church and Graveyard
The main body of this church dates back to the 16th Century but this site may have been used as a church site since the Early Christian Period. A bell associated with this parish, known as the “Cappagh Bell”, is in the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin.
3- Gortin Glen Forest Park
A major recreational feature of the forest is the five-mile long drive, which offers some breathtaking views. A number of vista parks have been created where the motorist can pull in and enjoy the magnificent scenery. This forest also offers; an off-road cycle trail and walking trails.
4- Gortin Lakes Picnic / Amenity Site
These two lakes are known in geological terms as “kettle hole” lakes left by uneven melting of glaciers. A path encircling the lakes opens up spectacular vistas of the high Sperrins.
5- Gortin Village
Gortin is a small picturesque village nestling in the Owenkillew river valley. The village is an ideal starting point for exploring the surrounding hills and glens by bike or on foot, as well as offering welcoming hostelries to unwind after a day’s exercise.
6- Harry Avery O’Neill Castle
Newtownstewart provides the setting for the majestic ruins of one of the Gaelic strongholds of the O’Neills. Although traditionally associated with Henry Aimbreidh O’Neill who died in 1392 it is not certain whether it dates from the 14th century or 15th century. It is an unusual and interesting structure and is especially important in relation to the study of native Irish Medieval life prior to the plantation period.
7- Ulster American Folk Park tells the story of
Emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries and provides visitors with a “living history” experience on its outdoor site. Traditional thatched buildings, American log houses, and a full-scale replica emigrant ship help to bring a bygone era back to life. The Centre for Migration Studies is also on site.
8- Bessy Bell Hill & Wind Farm
It is believed that Besy Bell was so named by Scottish settlers 400 years ago after a character in an old Scottish folk tale to act as a reminder of home. Today its wind swept slopes have a very different role to play, providing an ideal location for the supply of renewable energy.
9- Baronscourt Estate
Baronscourt, the home of the Duke of Abercorn’s family since the early 1600’s, is among a handful of remaining old family estates which combine great historical and architectural interest with a landscape of outstanding natural beauty.
Famous associations include Joe Sheridan – inventor of Irish Coffee; Davy Crockett – King of the Wild Frontier, and Cecil Frances Alexander who penned “All Things Bright & Beautiful.
11- Davies Bawn Castlederg
Built on a site previously occupied by an O’Neill Tower House, this defended stone house commands a site of once strategic importance on the River Derg. The Bawn would have been a refuge for planter families and was eventually rendered unfit for occupation after an attack by the O’Neills. The ruins today consist of a rectangular bawn with the remains of 3 square flankers at each corner still visible. Locally there is an intriguing legend that tells of an unfortunate piper lost forever in a forgotten passage way under the ruins. On still quiet nights his musical laments can still be heard.
12- The Derg Valley – St Patrick
According to tradition St. Patrick travelled through the Derg Valley on returning from a period of Lenten Penitential Service at Lough Derg - today the location of one of Ireland’s most prominent ecclesiastical centres. While in the area check out St. Patrick’s Well, the water from which is said to help ease the pain of a toothake.
13- Bolaght Mountain
The northern slopes of Bolaght Mountain provide an excellent viewpoint from which to survey the rich diversity of the Derg Valley, the Sperrins uplands and the hills of Donegal.
14- Sloughan Glen
This pleasant woodland walk along the Blackwater River takes the visitor steadily upwards to be greeted by the roar of its waterfall thundering over a rocky edge.
15- Pigeon Top Picnic Site
This site overlooking Omagh, offers spectacular panoramic views of the region. Close by in the townland of Cavanacaw a seam of gold is being mined.