The Ulster American Folk Park
The Ulster American Folk Park is a popular, mostly open air attraction near Omagh in County Tyrone. It is built around the theme of emigration from Ulster to America. In the 19th century for many Irish immigrants America looked like a land of opportunity. Many made their way there. When one looks at American statistics about immigration Irish form a substantial proportion of the total number of immigrants. The Ulster American Folk Park is built to commemorate these people who travelled across the ocean seeking a new life.
"Emigration" means to leave one country and to settle in another. "Immigration" means to settle in a country that is not the person's native. The two words are closely related. The Park begins with an indoor exhibition the contains a host of information about Ulster emigration – from passage receipts, to leaflets advertising emigration agents, to facts and figures about immigration Irish, to information and exhibits about the mode of travel. The exhibition is fairly comprehensive and extremely interesting. At a time of material abundance, freedom and easy of travel, it is sobering to contemplate the hardships these people had to go through in search of a better life.
Life in Ulster of Old
Once you leave the initial exhibition of the Ulster American Folk Park the remaining exhibits are mostly open air and aim to depict the life of immigrants both before they left Ulster and after they reached America. The section about old Ireland includes whole streets with houses and shops, carriages and other exhibits that aim to reproduce the look and feel of Ulster in times past. Throughout people dressed in costumes of the time will bring you closer to life as it was two hundred years ago.
Life in the New World
Bridging the sections on the Old and New worlds is a full size replica of an immigrant ship with realistic depictions of living quorters and a layout that makes you feel you are actually sailing. Once you cross to the New World section you get a taste of life in early America complete with English soldiers in their bright red uniforms.
If you happen to be in the area around July 4, the American Independence day make sure you visit to see the spectacular celebrations. Another highlight is the annual Appalachian Bluegrass Music Festival. All in all the Ulster American Folk Park is well worth a half day's or even a day's visit. Small children will love the lovely walks and activities as well as some of the presentations but may not fully grasp the drama and change involved for those who left their homes in search of a better future. Older children and adults on the other hand should find the experience of a visit not only enjoyable and interesting but also extremely educational. We visited and certainly recommend it. Keep in mind, however, that it is a popular attraction. We visited on a public holiday and discovered that is was crowded enough to make parking somewhat difficult. But once in the park the area is spacious enough to accommodate large crowds.
Address: Castletown, Mellon Road, Omagh BT78 5QY
Telephone: +44 28 8224 3292
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