It’s not all about bog snorkelling at Peatlands Bog!

By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 1 August, 2015

People say the best things in life are free. Well, this is certainly the case in Northern Ireland when it’s hammering it down with rain. Eleanor McGillie throws on the wellies and heads round Peatlands Bog in County Tyrone for a good long walk.

This weekend, in spite of torrential August 1 downpours, we packed up the car and took ourselves and the dog to the heart of the province to visit Peatlands Park, near Dungannon.

It had been years since we had paid a visit to Peatlands Park. I remember, as a child, going there for a huge family picnic, jumping on little train and going on a tour of the bogs.

Why I haven’t been there since – I have no idea but it has changed dramatically in all of those years with signage improved, the greenery has matured and the visitor experience has been enhanced.

Peatlands Park is a country park which is designed to promote access to the countryside and encourages a better understanding and knowledge of the environment which surrounds us.

The network of marked paths brings you from woodland, to open bogs, round lakes, to picnic areas, a visitor’s centre and an organic vegetable garden.

It’s clear to be seen that much of the country park is protected as a National Nature Reserve, an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. As you follow the marked paths there are signs along the routes highlighting to the visitor the different rare habitats and species which can be found there.

The history of the park is fascinating too. Peat bogs have been forming here for over 10,000 years and are home to a variety of interesting insect and plant species. As we walked round we could see the beautifully coloured dragonflies, a big grey heron crane sitting by the lake, lots of ducks, fish in the lakes and an enormous amount of plant species which I am ashamed not to be able to tell you what they were.

The park, based at Junction 13 off the M1, boasts Mullenakill National Nature Reserve, Derryhubbert Bog, Annagarriff National Nature Reserve, Derryane Bog and Derryadd Lake. There is a railway which children and adults love, woodlands, orchards, turf cutting displays, a woodland school, a bog garden and an education and visitor’s centre. All walks are colour coded so before you set off you know where the routes will take you and how long it will take approximately.

Bog Snorkelling in Peatlands Bog

The park has hit national headlines many times because it has hosted the famous Bog Snorkelling Competition. Although the competition didn’t run this year due to funding cuts it’s fair to say that when it comes back on again, we will definitely be giving it a go. How hard can it be? All you have to do is swim two lengths of a 60-yard bog drain using a snorkel, mask and flippers but participants aren’t allowed to use conventional swimming strokes. Talk about craic – and it’s free!

Although the event is fun, and captures the imagination of people around the world, there is a point to it and that is to highlight the beauty of our bogs and to raise awareness of our peatlands and the threats they face. When you walk around these bogs the beauty of them will never be 100 per cent obvious. We can only see what we can see but as visitors we will probably never gauge just how much of a home our lowland bogs are to important bird species, insects and unusual plants.

But you don’t have to wait to go bog snorkelling to appreciate the beauty of our bogs. Peatlands Park is stunning. Walking there in the rain made it an even more beautiful experience.

Whatever you do, dress appropriately. Bring your waterproofs, wear your wellies or walking shoes and although many of the walkways are suitable for prams and wheelchairs and bicycles, there are a lot of paths through the bogs which aren’t so wheel friendly. There is a park code so visitors take note.

All in all – Peatlands Park is a true gem. We love so we hope you do too. #liveitexperienceit

Live It Experience It’ is a group of journalists and travel writers who tell the story of our members. We work  collaboratively with our members, which are tourism businesses, to promote Northern Ireland through water, air and land based activities, food and drink and great places to stay. Together we let our visitors know of all of the amazing things Northern Ireland has to offer.  To become a member business in of ‘Live It Experience It’ call our office on 028 3756 8436 or please submit your information through our online form. T&Cs apply –  Sign Up Here Let us tell your story! Live It Experience It is the NW200 tourism partner for 2018. 

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Eleanor McGillie

About Eleanor McGillie

Eleanor spent eight years working in the south west of England - one of the UK's most popular tourism hotspots. During her stint working with key players in the tourism sector she developed a love for all things outdoor adventure. As a journalist she got to travel to remote corners of the world to write travel features about the experiences of a particular place. Northern Ireland's story needs to be told and needs to reach new audiences. Live It Experience It aims to attract tourists from outside Ireland, people from Ireland and people who live in Northern Ireland but aren't aware of the extent of the adventures on our own doorsteps. Eleanor is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) at Associate Level