The Ulster History Park was created back in 1990 by the local council but sadly never really attracted visitors in the numbers that are necessary to support such a park. Thus even when I went in it’s peak years in the mid 1990s there were very few people around which is as you’d expect for a place receiving around 30,000 visitors which at around 150 per day is a number that’s easily lost in a 35 acre park. The park was closed down for almost eight years and is starting the long process of reopening by way of school visits, special events, etc.
In the early days the emphasis was on the pre-history period ie around 8,000BC to the middle ages. The earlier aspects are still there but sadly the Neolithic houses of yesteryear are are poorly maintained. The stone age dwellings, tombs and stone circles are still there but the emphasis has very much shifted to the plantation era and the more easily maintained stone buildings. That’s very sad as it means that the distinction between the “archie park” and the more well-known Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster-American Folk Museum is much less clear-cut than it used to be.
In some ways the presentation of the older dwellings and tombs is probably more realistic than the very tidy and clean park that I saw in my last visit some 15 years or so ago. Certainly when these things were originally constructed by our ancient ancestors, they definitely didn’t have a well-maintained path leading up to them! What does need work are the various information signs associated with each of the buildings as some are barely readable.
These days most people start in the area of the plantation settlement which is where the historical re-enactment by the company of Northern Period Productions was put on today to introduce us to how people of the time of the plantation lived. Quite a good performance but events like this need to be more regular to attract the audience that the park needs and deserves. This area has around a dozen buildings spanning a plantation era settlement and monastery.
The visitor centre houses a nice presentation of the prehistoric settlement in Ireland along with a video describing events through the plantation era and a small cafe. It’s best to start here as both presentations place the buildings that you’ll see in their historic context and help to direct your tour; that’s particularly important for the prehistoric area of the park these days.
Getting there is just as hit and miss as it always was. Basically you go to Omagh, then take the B48 towards Gortin, staying on that road (which has lots of twists and turns) until you see the park on your left (it’s right on the road).
Worth going to see on the European Heritage weekend (it’s open on both days 11am-6pm) next year which, at present, the only time that the park is open to the public.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.