Blackwater Heritage Trail
Blackwater Heritage Trail gives you an opportunity to explore the hidden gems along the border Counties of Tyrone, Armagh and Monaghan. The series of Village Trails lets you experience life as it once was and learn more about the many hidden treasures of the Blackwater Valley. Here the Blackwater and Cor Rivers provide a unifying theme within this beautiful part of Ireland with its rolling drumlin hills, parkland landscape, historic estates, romantic gate lodges and estate walls. This region has a rich industrial heritage with bridges, embankments, former and other buildings associated with the Great Northern Railway, the Clogher Valley Railways and the Ulster Canal. The Blackwater Valley is steeped in ecclesiastical history with many important sites including several High Crosses and ancient graveyards. Each village has its own distinct character however they also compliment each other. Settlers have come and gone but old family names such as Trainor, McMahon and McKenna are still important today. Comparatively unspoilt this romantic landscape remains a best kept secret with deep connections to the past and much more to offer the visitor.
Village Trails include:
Caledon, Co. Tyrone
Middletown, Co. Armagh
Tynan, Co. Armagh
Killylea, Co. Armagh
Glaslough, Co. Monaghan
Emyvale, Co. Monaghan
Mullan, Co. Monaghan
Formerly known as ‘Kinard’, Caledon appears to have been originally settled by the O’Neills and it was for a long time an important military post. Caledon was a relatively prosperous settlement and has developed over the years in a tight form along its Main Street and has largely maintained a compact shape. The village displays a wealth of architectural styles within it’s built up area and has not suffered from unsympathetic modern developments.
Middletown was formerly an important market town. The old Gaelic name for Middletown was Kilcanavan meaning ‘Canavan’s wood’ or ‘Canavan’s church.’ It was subsequently named Middletown by the Hamilton family because of its central position between Armagh, Monaghan, Keady, Caledon and Glaslough. Its early development was associate with Dr Sterne the former Bishop of Clogher who owned seven town lands in the area, including Middletown, as well as other neighbouring town lands in Donagh parish, Co Monaghan.
After his death in 1745 income from these town lands was dispensed to many charitable causes and developments in Middletown by the Trustees of the Bishop Sterne Charities. This included a Dispensary, Market House and School House.
Tynan is situated 7 miles from the City of Armagh. The Irish meaning ‘Place of Water Course’. As a village with much character, this is the site of a medieval parish church by the graveyard of the Church of Ireland. In the village you will have an opportunity to view an ancient Celtic Cross.
Killylea is a small picturesque village slightly to the west of Armagh City. A small population ensures a close-knit community spirit. The village originally formed part of an endowment of land to Trinity College Dublin. In 1610 when the Rev Robert Maxwell arrived from Scotland to become the Dean of Armagh, his family has much associated with the village. Killylea has been the centre to many important historical events.
Glaslough is situated on the margin of the lake, from which it derives its name, signifying ‘the green lake’. It is a striking and attractive village with excellent slated houses, and the beautiful and extensive castle and gardens of the Leslies adding much to the built and natural beauty of the village.
Modern day Glaslough displays most of its historical character with largely unspoilt attractive buildings clustered around the centre. It is served by a number of shops and pubs.
Emyvale is situated at the heart of what is frequently referred to as ‘McKenna Country.’ It was close to here that the McKenna clan had their principal base from the 12th to the 17th Century, with most of the clan graves and the McKenna High Cross situated nearby. According to tradition the McKenna’s first arrived in the 8th century, while history records that, by the 12th century, they had established a semi-independent kind of ‘buffer state’ between the O’Neills in the north and the McMahons in the south. The earliest recorded Chieftain was a Patrick McKenna who fought alongside Hugh O’Neill at the battles of Clontibret in 1595, the Yellow Ford in 1598 and Kinsale in 1601.
Mullan is a picturesque 19th century mill village located just to the west of Emyvale and has many similarities with other Ulster Mill villages such as Bessbrook and Sion Mills. McCutcheon describes the Ulster Mill Village in his book ‘The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland as a compact cluster of regular terrace housing.’ Most of the village was built during the Victorian period and many of the existing buildings reflect this period. Their character usually reflected the nature and the outlook of the proprietors who either built them or provided the finance to do so.
Mullan had many advantages. It was well connected with good access to the Clogher Valley and Great Northern Railways, the Ulster Canal and the main Belfast to Enniskillen road. The river provided the possibility of using water power to help power the Mill.