History is fun in Tyrone
Travel back in time in with migrant tales and a carriage museum
Spending quality time with the family is priceless, but finding something that you can enjoy together can be tricky. Not so if you head to Co Tyrone, where family-friendly activities are plentiful and the stunning landscape is a natural outdoor playground. Pick a weekend, pack the bags and prepare for a super break that will create a multitude of memories.
For excellent, family-friendly accommodation, the three-star Valley Hotel in Fivemiletown is hard to beat. The hotel offers interconnecting family rooms that sleep four, plus a baby cot if required. There is a TV in each room and a Wii console featuring 12 games — plenty to keep young and old alike entertained.
If your family includes a four-legged friend, they can come too, as the hotel also has dog kennels.
Once checked in, waste no time in heading up the road to the beautiful Blessingbourne Country Estate, where stacks of fun awaits.
The historic estate, on the edge of the Clogher Valley, has 550 acres of woodlands and lakes, and is teeming with wildlife.
Hire a bike and get pedalling. If your family has any mountain bikers, they will revel in the world-class trails, while gentler routes through the woodland will delight the less adventurous. Alternatively, enjoy a family walk along the bespoke trails and try spotting a peacock, pike or perch.
Younger children will enjoy visiting the animals in Blessingbourne’s working farm and playing in the play area, while the whole family will be captivated by the Carriage and Costume Museum, a unique collection of coaches, buggies, Penny Farthings, a Romany caravan, old farm machinery and even a UN helicopter.
Back at the Valley Hotel, a hearty meal will be welcome after all that fresh air and exercise. The Loco Bar and Grill offers an extensive menu and a great-value kids’ menu. Then there’s just time for a few Wii games before bed.
Start the next day with a filling Valley Hotel breakfast before making for the Forest Stables for a spot of pony trekking. The BHS-approved riding school and trekking centre has a lovely river trail and is known for its friendly and attentive staff. Never been on a horse before? Don’t worry, the centre specialises in novice and nervous riders, and the ponies are unflappable. Children as young as four can saddle up for a guided walk.
How to spend the afternoon is easily solved as one of Northern Ireland’s most popular attractions, the Ulster American Folk Park, situated in nearby Omagh, is not to be missed.
It’s a first-class family destination packed with things to see and do, and has the added benefit of slipping in a bit of history without the kids even noticing.
Telling the story of the migrants who braved the journey across the Atlantic to America hundreds of years ago, the park has 30 buildings and exhibits to explore, as well as a full-scale emigrant ship to board, which shows the conditions people endured on their voyage to the New World. It’s a hands-on, immersive experience that will keep everyone fascinated for hours.
After a fun-filled two days of walking, cycling, riding, playing, dining, discovering and storing up some great memories, it’s time to return home. You’ve packed a lot into your short break, but there’s so much more to explore and lots more opportunities to spend quality family time in Co Tyrone.
LOTS TO DO: Blessingbourne Country Estate, and (below from left) the Valley Hotel and Ulster American Folk Park