Fancy a walk down an 18th century street? How about getting your teeth into some traditionally cooked Irish bread? Maybe you’d even like to trace the journey of distant relatives who emigrated to America during the Potato Famine without the hassle of sailing the Atlantic? The Ulster American Folk Park in Tyrone allows you to partake in all of these nostalgic activities and more.

In essence, the park is a large outdoor ensemble of reconstructed (and carefully restored) buildings from that era of Irish history.

Each is authentic down to the last intricate detail. What’s more, they all reside within a naturally rural environment, meaning it feels as real as it once was.

A placard at the front of the school classroom.

An 18th Century Cottage.

Inside, the buildings are preserved very close to their original state. Some of them even come complete with traditionally dressed staff illustrating everyday skills from the period, such as metal forging, baking and embroidery.

Damaged cart wheels laying by the side of a decaying house.

Beyond the agricultural setting, there’s also a reassembled 19th century town street containing an old Chemist, Pub, General Store and Post Office.

The true meaning of snail mail.

Many of these shops are open – so it’s possible to have a traipse around inside and spy all the bygone products that were once on offer.

More everyday household goods in the General Store.

The good old liquor store – popular both then and now.

But that’s not all! The name ‘the Ulster American Folk Park’ exists for a reason – namely because it’s designed to showcase the past way of life from both sides of the Atlantic. And to do this, it employs a rather clever device.

At the end of the main street is the ‘port’, and inside of that is the ‘Brig Union’ – a recreated emigrant ship which transported weary souls all the way to America during the mid 19th century. This voyage would often take between 6 and 12 weeks, and as you can see, conditions were far from merry.

Arrival in the new frontier occurs as you step off the other side, and is confirmed by the sight of a black man tending his horse and grotty Bostonian streets where debauchery and disease presumably once thrived.

An early incarnation of the Travelodge.

Once out of ‘Boston’, the scene transitions to something more domestic and homely. We’re now apparently in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, where log cabins and wooden houses provide shelter for those many miles from home.

It had been years since I last visited the Ulster American Folk Park, and while I initially scoffed a bit at the thought of returning, I’m glad I did. There are lots of shoddy ‘tourist attractions’ about these days, but this certainly isn’t one of them. Visitors and locals alike will find plenty to be interested in here.

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