Ireland

Posted: 28/08/2012 in Worldwide accommodations
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Ireland – place to stir your soul

Stretching across Counties Tyrone and Londonderry, the heather-clad slopes of the Sperrin Mountains impart an unsurpassed sense of space and solitude. In this area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the walks take you over vast, empty moors, through huge spruce forests and along dancing streams, bright with dragonflies, where you may not encounter another person for miles. Be quiet and you might glimpse a shy Sika deer. Keep your distance from any lone thorn bush in the middle of a field, it could be a fairy tree, and to damage it will bring bad luck.

The pace of life is slower here, so relax and let the region slowly reveal itself. Start at an Creagan Visitor Center. It’s interpretive exhibitions provide clear, concise information about the rich archaeology and biodiversity in the area.

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The ancient bog gives this land its character. It yielded an age-old secret in the 1940’s when turf cutters unearthed dozens of monoliths, the Beaghmore Stone Circles. They were created almost four thousand years ago, perhaps as an observatory and ritual site for the people who farmed the high pasture of the Sperrins. But the soil and elaborate stone alignments were gradually covered as a cooler, wetter climate caused the bog to expand.

The library of Seamus Heaney’s work at Bellaghy Bawn includes original manuscripts and an archive of broadcast and film material. The Bawn is a legacy from the Plantation,when Scottish and English settlers loyal to the Crown were granted lands. Built as protection for the village of Bellaghy, it still retains much of the original complex and is a wonderful place to visit for those interested in built and cultural heritage.

If your interests are outdoor, you’ll love the white water thrill of canoing down the Mourne. The sinuous Blackwater is slower, but has a number of small weirs and rapids. There’s good fishing, with the wild brown trout and salmon of the Finn, Derg, Mourne and Gortin rivers always putting up a fight.

For anyone interested in Northern Ireland’s links with the USA, the Ulster American Folk Park is unmissable. It tells the story of the remarkable contribution generations of Scots-Irish made to American frontier history. If you visit in August, make a date at the Folk Park’s Annual Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival. It’s an experience guaranteed to stir your soul.

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