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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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