Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Travel

Schools out for summer: Take to the road, trees and forests in the natural playground of Tyrone

As schools finish up for the summer, parents across Northern Ireland will need to find ways to keep everyone entertained during the holidays – and nothing enriches more than the great outdoors.

Connecting with nature allows us to escape the everyday and create summer memories that last a lifetime. Families looking for adventure will find the natural landscapes of County Tyrone make the perfect outdoor playground.

The Sperrin Mountains, described by the National Geographic as one of the world’s top driving routes with ‘wild beauty, ideal trails and dreamy villages’ is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Northern Ireland. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Sperrins are full of natural trails and walks. And as the birthplace of our great poet Seamus Heaney, the stunning views were the subject of many of his well-known poems.  

Stretching from the shores of Lough Neagh towards the Atlantic Ocean, visitors to the Sperrins can look out over a vast mountain wilderness or marvel at the megalithic wonder of the Beaghmore Stone Circles. 

Even a hint of summer boredom will be quickly forgotten once you encounter the rolling pathways of Gortin Glen Forest Park, at the western gateway to the mountains. Waymarked trails provide the opportunity to use all five senses to explore the natural flora and fauna at its best this summer.

The Gortin Glen Forest Park in County Tyrone lies six miles north of Omagh (Discover NI)

You can also experience the area ‘in the saddle’ from the comfort of a mountain bike on undulating routes through Gortin Glen, or pony-trekking with one of the many riding schools and stables in Tyrone.

Inspired by its natural surroundings, wooden sculptures at Gortin offer children the opportunities for exploration and play.  The centrepiece, a family of Red Deer standing four metres tall, was chosen specifically to reflect the importance of the Forest Park’s relationship with its much-loved inhabitants.   

If the buzz of outdoor activities or simply breathing in the fresh natural air leaves you hungry, opt for a family meal under the sky or stars. Picturesque picnic locations dot the natural landscape across Tyrone, with Gortin Glen offering barbecue facilities and camping on site. 

Outdoor adventurers can also avail of a well-earned sleep in family-friendly self-catering cottages. Shepherds Retreat is exactly that – a renovated shepherd’s house in the middle of the Doravil Estate sheep farm that’s perfect for a tranquil escape for a family of four. Or try Drumaneir, an 18th century cottage that sleeps ten in the foothills of the Sperrins.

To plan your short break in Tyrone visit

Nearby attractions

Ulster American Folk Park

Ulster American Folk Park (Discover NI)

Step back into the 18th century at the Ulster American Folk Park, which tells the story of centuries of Irish emigration to America. A fully immersive journey into the past, it offers young and old the chance to help the blacksmith, chalk up a lesson in the old schoolhouse or grab a photo opportunity dressed up in period costume.

Blessingbourne Country Estate

The stunning Blessingbourne Country Estate in Fivemiletown offers pet-friendly self-catering accommodation and a host of outdoor activities for all ages.  Younger children will enjoy meeting the animals on the working farm, while older children and adults can experience the exhilaration of mountain biking on the estate’s premier trails.

Davagh Forest

A hidden gem, is a beautiful rural landscape with rolling hills and sweeping forests.  Just a short drive from Cookstown, it has a great network of walking and mountain biking trails for unforgettable forest adventures.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


From Belfast Telegraph