Sion Mills | Old Herdman’s Flax Mill | Things to See in County Tyrone, Northern Irelan

Old Herdman's Flax Mill, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

Updated On: April 30, 2024 by   Maha YassinMaha Yassin

Walking around Old Herdman’s Flax Mill is one of the best ways to discover the history of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Your time here will be between natural landscapes and coming closer and personal to a historical site.

County Tyrone, nestled in the heart of Northern Ireland, is a region known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and captivating heritage sites. One site that stands out is the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill in Sion Mills, a historic village. This article takes you on a journey through the picturesque village of Sion Mills, delves into the fascinating history of the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill, and explores other remarkable attractions in County Tyrone.

Sion Mills | Old Herdman’s Flax Mill | Things to See in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

Sion Mills: A Glimpse into the Past

Sion Mills, located along the River Mourne, is a quaint village that dates back to the 19th century. The village was founded by the Herdman brothers, Thomas, John, and George, pioneers in the textile industry during the Industrial Revolution. Their legacy lives on through the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill, which remains one of the most iconic structures in Northern Ireland.

Old Herdman’s Flax Mill: A Historic Gem

Old Herdman’s Flax Mill

The Old Herdman’s Flax Mill is an architectural masterpiece that served as the heart of the Herdman brothers’ linen manufacturing empire. Built in 1835, this imposing mill was a testament to their innovative spirit and entrepreneurial vision. Today, it is a remarkable heritage site and a symbol of Northern Ireland’s industrial heritage.

As you approach the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill, you can’t help but be awestruck by its grandeur. The mill is an elegant blend of Georgian and Victorian architectural styles, characterized by its red-brick façade, towering chimneys, and rows of large windows that once allowed natural light to flood the working areas. The intricate detailing on the building, including the carved stone embellishments and decorative ironwork, adds to its charm.

Visitors can explore the mill’s exterior and learn about its fascinating history. While the mill is no longer operational, it serves as a museum and a reminder of the industrial revolution that transformed the region. Inside, you’ll find exhibits showcasing the machinery and tools used in linen production, providing insights into the craftsmanship and innovation of the Herdman brothers.

The mill is surrounded by beautiful gardens and green spaces, making it a perfect spot for a stroll or a picnic. The serene atmosphere allows visitors to appreciate the tranquil surroundings, starkly contrasting the bustling industry that once thrived here.

Guided tours are available for those eager to delve deeper into the mill’s history. Knowledgeable guides offer engaging narratives about the Herdman brothers and the impact of the linen industry on Sion Mills and the wider region.

Discovering Sion Mills: 5 Must-Do Activities in Northern Ireland’s Historic Gem

Sion Mills | Old Herdman’s Flax Mill | Things to See in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

Sion Mills Heritage Trail: A Walk Through History

To fully immerse yourself in Sion Mills’ heritage, stroll along the Sion Mills Heritage Trail. This self-guided walking tour explores the village’s historical sites and provides a deeper understanding of its development. The trail includes informative signage that highlights crucial landmarks and their significance.

One notable stop on the heritage trail is the Sion Stables. Originally built as a stable block for the Herdman family, it has been beautifully restored and now houses a visitor centre. Here, you can access additional information about the village’s history, the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill, and the surrounding area.

The village is a picturesque setting with charming cottages, a stone bridge over the River Mourne, and a peaceful ambience that transports you back in time. The heritage trail meanders through these scenic spots, offering ample photo opportunities and a chance to appreciate the simple beauty of rural Northern Ireland.

Gortin Glen Forest Park: Nature’s Paradise

To fully immerse yourself in Sion Mills’ heritage, stroll along the Sion Mills Heritage Trail. This self-guided walking tour explores the village’s historical sites and provides a deeper understanding of its development. The trail includes informative signage that highlights crucial landmarks and their significance.

One notable stop on the heritage trail is the Sion Stables. Originally built as a stable block for the Herdman family, it has been beautifully restored and now houses a visitor centre. Here, you can access additional information about the village’s history, the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill, and the surrounding area.
The village is a picturesque setting with charming cottages, a stone bridge over the River Mourne, and a peaceful ambience that transports you back in time. The heritage trail meanders through these scenic spots, offering ample photo opportunities and a chance to appreciate the simple beauty of rural Northern Ireland.

Ulster American Folk Park: A Journey to the New World

Ulster American Folk Park

A short drive from Sion Mills will take you to the Ulster American Folk Park, an immersive museum that tells the story of emigration from Ulster to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. This living history museum offers a unique experience, allowing visitors to step into the shoes of those who embarked on this transformative journey.

The museum features a range of historical buildings, including authentic thatched cottages, a Presbyterian meeting house, and a full-scale replica of a ship used during the transatlantic crossing. Costumed interpreters bring the past to life, sharing stories and insights into the challenges and aspirations of the Ulster emigrants.

As you wander through the museum, you’ll learn about the reasons behind emigration, the hardships faced during the voyage, and the opportunities that await them in the New World. The Ulster American Folk Park beautifully captures the spirit of adventure and resilience that defined this historical period.

Beaghmore Stone Circles: Ancient Mysteries

Sion Mills | Old Herdman's Flax Mill | Things to See in County Tyrone, Northern Irelan
Beaghmore Stone Circles

For those intrigued by ancient history and archaeology, visiting the Beaghmore Stone Circles is a must. Located in the Sperrin Mountains, about a 40-minute drive from Sion Mills, this mysterious archaeological site dates back over 4,000 years.

Beaghmore has a complex arrangement of stone circles, cairns, and alignments. The main feature is a series of seven stone circles, some perfectly round, while others are more elliptical. The purpose of these stone circles remains a subject of speculation, with theories ranging from religious and ceremonial use to astronomical observations.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Beaghmore is the “Dragon’s Teeth” feature, a pair of parallel lines of small stones that align with the sunrise and sunset during the solstices. This alignment has led researchers to believe that Beaghmore had significant astronomical importance for the ancient people who constructed it.

Visitors to Beaghmore can explore the site at their own pace and ponder the mysteries of its origins. Interpretive panels provide information about the history and significance of the stone circles, making it an educational experience for all ages.

Sion Mills Swinging Bridge: A Unique Suspension Experience

Swinging Bridge

One of the most distinctive features of Sion Mills is its Swinging Bridge, a charming suspension bridge that adds character to the village. This pedestrian bridge spans the River Mourne, connecting the two sides of the village. While it may not be as well-known as the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill, the Swinging Bridge is a local treasure with its fascinating history.

The Swinging Bridge, also known as the Sion Mills Suspension Bridge, was built in the late 1800s to provide easy access for workers at the Old Herdman’s Flax Mill. The bridge was designed to be lightweight, allowing it to sway gently as people crossed over the river. While this might sound daunting, the bridge is entirely safe and has undergone maintenance and refurbishment.

Today, the Swinging Bridge is a functional part of the village and a unique attraction. Walking across the bridge, you’ll feel a slight sway beneath your feet, adding adventure to your visit. The views of the River Mourne and the surrounding scenery from the bridge are breathtaking, making it a popular spot for photographers and visitors seeking a unique perspective of Sion Mills.

The Swinging Bridge serves as a reminder of the village’s industrial heritage, as it once played a crucial role in connecting the workers of the Flax Mill to their homes. Strolling across this historic bridge, you can’t help but imagine the daily lives of the mill workers who depended on it to cross the river.

Visiting the Swinging Bridge is a delightful experience for visitors of all ages, and it’s an excellent addition to your Sion Mills itinerary. Whether you’re seeking a tranquil walk along the riverbanks, a glimpse into the village’s past, or simply a memorable photo opportunity, the Swinging Bridge in Sion Mills is a must-see attraction that adds to the charm and character of this remarkable village.

Cuisine and Hospitality in County Tyrone

After a day of exploring the wonders of County Tyrone, you’re sure to work up an appetite. The region offers delightful dining options showcasing the best Northern Irish cuisine. From traditional pub fare to modern gastronomy, you’ll find something to satisfy every palate.

Local pubs and restaurants often feature hearty dishes such as Irish stew, Ulster fry, and soda bread, made with locally sourced ingredients. Remember to pair your meal with a pint of the famous Irish stout or a glass of fine whiskey from nearby distilleries.

The warm hospitality of the people of County Tyrone is evident in the welcoming atmosphere of its eateries. Whether you’re seeking a cosy pub with live music or a fine dining experience, you’ll find it here.

Conclusion

Sion Mills, Northern Ireland, offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re fascinated by industrial heritage, eager to explore scenic trails, or intrigued by ancient mysteries, Sion Mills has something for every traveller. With its historic mill, picturesque heritage trail, nearby forest park, immersive living history museum, and ancient stone circles, Sion Mills promises an unforgettable journey through time and nature.