The Linen Tour with Glenara Elite Travel

By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 23 August, 2018

Back in the day everything in Northern Ireland centred around linen but it’s sad the majority of our mills have since closed down. However, all is not lost and there seems to be somewhat of a linen revival happening right now. Right here in Mid-Ulster you can now enjoy a bespoke linen tour with Glenara Elite Travel

Traces of our linen industry in Northern Ireland are still clear to be seen but unfortunately it’s not because of thriving mills  – instead it’s big old abandoned mills dotted on the outskirts of towns and villages where, for years, many were employed.

Back in the day, the textile industry here  could have boasted almost 40,000 looms and employed over 70,000 people. It’s said that the Irish linen industry once employed over 40 per cent of our working population here.

We have some world class linen makers today, such as the well known Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, and nothing can take away from the beauty and lustre of Irish linen.

There’s no doubt that linen is the aristocrat of textiles and it continues to have a special place in the history of Ireland.

Part of that story unfolded in the giant factories of Victorian Belfast but there is another linen saga which continues to this day in the gentler landscape of mid-Ulster. Thanks to a new bespoke linen tour, for carefully chosen groups, visitors will have a chance to experience that story.

The linen industry in Northern Ireland

In this part of the world, flax-growing and linen-making have left a deep mark on landscapes, buildings and memory. Flax dams and bleach greens dot the countryside, and they feature in the poetry of the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. Visitors are invited to trace that heritage through atmospheric weaving studios, handsome stone workshops and imposing country houses.  All these places are linked in different ways with the laborious business of making fine linen.

In the village of Upperlands visitors can learn how water-driven machinery invented 300 years ago is still used to finish fabric for top tailors and decorators. A freshly opened Flax Visitor Centre shows how a small community became a hub of global commerce in textiles. At the Flax Mill near Dungiven, visitors can meet Marion Baur, a skilled and devoted weaver who has kept linen-making and other local crafts alive.

Travel with Glenara Elite Travel

At Ballyscullion Park, a beautiful lake-side mansion, visitors can hear from Richard Mulholland how his forebears pioneered the industrial spinning of flax.

Lunch is offered at Ardtara Country House Hotel – a hotel built by the passionate linen merchant Harry Jackson Clark who made a brilliant American sales trip at the age of 19. Nearby Gorteade Cottage is the childhood home of American founder Charles Thomson, who came from a family of linen bleachers.

The Schedule:

09.45am – Ballyscullion House Tour with Tea/Scones

11.30am – Dungiven Flax Mill

1:15pm – 2 Course Lunch at Ardtara House

2:30pm – Tour of Gortede Cottage

3:30pm – Tour of Upperlands Flax Mill with Tea/coffee

Introductory offer £75.00, includes a free copy of The Linen on the Green book. To book Contact Frances on 07718805633 or email

Glenara Elite Travel is a Live It Experience It Member

Live It Experience It’ is a group of tourism businesses working together to promote our region through water, air and land based activities, food and drink and great places to stay. If you would like to become a member business in our ‘Live It Experience It’ cluster please submit your information through our online form –  Sign Up Here. Pitch your business and meet like minded tourism businesses who you could cluster with. #liveitexperienceit

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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