Northern Ireland Stories and Tips

Gortin Glen

Gortin Glen Photo, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Gortin Glen is a forest park 6 miles outside the town of Omagh in Co. Tyrone. It is open every day between 10am and dusk. The charge is supposed to be £3 for cars, or if you walk in and don't use your car it is £1 for adults and 50 pence for children. There was no-one there to take any money though during our visit, so it cost nothing.

We found plenty of parking spaces and a nice little picnic area. There were spaces where you could have a BBQ and toilets. There is also an information board, with details of all the hikes and trails through the forest.

It is a lovely setting - very leafy and green, right in the Sperrin Mountains with coniferous woodland. The whole place was peaceful and quiet - although there were plenty of cars in the car-park, we didn't meet anyone else while we were hiking the trails.

The first trail we hiked was very short - just one mile - the Nature Trail. It was nice, very gentle and easy and we saw lots of wildfowl and deer. All the trails are colour marked, you can't get lost.

We had a picnic, then tackled the 3.5 mile Ladies View Trail. This was slightly more challenging, though still not difficult if you are moderately fit. It climbed up quite a way and followed a path cut into a river gorge. There were lots of bridges to cross, steps to clamber up and a lovely little waterfall. This was definitely more fun to hike and far more scenic.

We finished by doing the 5 mile scenic drive through the park. This promised stunning views and vistas. All we could see were trees - the views were not as promised. There are lots of places you can pull over and look out without having to get out of the car.

We spent about 4 hours in Gortin Glen, then decided to drive to Omagh. After coffee and cakes in a little cafe on the main street, we headed to the Peace Garden. This is a memorial to the 29 people (plus unborn twins) who were killed in August 1998 when an IRA bomb ripped through the town centre.

The garden is peaceful and quiet. It is a good place to sit and reflect. There are 31 tall posts with mirrors on top - representing the 31 people killed. A mirror in the garden tracks the sun and reflects it onto the top of the posts. The mirrors are somehow arranged so that the sunlight is then carried to a glass sculpture containing a Tyrone crystal heart which glitters with the reflected light. This is not in the garden, but right at the centre of the bomb site. What a special and beautiful memorial.

Be sure to cross the bridge over the river and notice the name of the river - the Strule - this is an anagram of Ulster.

You don't need to spend a long time at the Peace Garden - 15 minutes is probably enough, but it is a special place and well worth coming to visit.

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