Minister for Communities Paul Givan MLA today re-opened Tullaghoge Fort, Cookstown, following the completion of a £500k investment.
The site was closed for almost a year while development works were carried out to deliver a new car parking area, interpretation and a new path to the monument. In the course of development works, new and exciting archaeological discoveries were made including the foundations of a medieval settlement at the bottom of the hill on which Tullaghoge Fort stands.
The re-opening of this historic monument will deliver enhanced visitor access to this internationally-important archaeological site.
Minister Givan said: “By investing in our infrastructure, my department is already demonstrating the value of the historic environment for local communities and for wider society. This internationally-important monument is a key asset to the tourism economy of Mid Ulster; the enhanced access and resources at the site will enable greater footfall at the monument which, in turn, will result in an economic boost for tourism and local business.
“In this year of anniversaries we also remember the death 400 years ago of Hugh O’Neill, the last Great O’Neill to be inaugurated at Tullaghoge. I am pleased to be re-opening this site with its improved access and interpretation in time for the summer season of visitors, who I hope will continue to explore Mid Ulster, and indeed all of Northern Ireland, for years to come.”
Speaking at the official opening, Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Sharon McAleer, said: “With the official opening of these new facilities, we mark another milestone in the history of this ancient site, with enhanced facilities and the kind of accessible and impressive interpretation which breathes life into the history of the fort and the people who lived here. This investment at Tullaghoge preserves and protects a valuable heritage asset for future generations and also complements its sister site in Dunngannon, the Hill of the O’Neill, which has also benefited in the last year from substantial funding.
“Together they showcase the history of this region and show very clearly why Mid Ulster is developing a reputation as an area of outstanding archaeological and historical significance which will attract visitors, encourage them to stay longer in the area and ensure that tourism continues to contribute to the local economy.
“I look forward to continuing the celebrations with the ‘Gathering of the Clans’ which brings a week of talks, walks, tours, drama and music to celebrate the two ancient sites at Dungannon and Tullaghoge, from 18 to 26 June.”
Notes to editors:
- Tullaghoge Fort is a magnificent state care hilltop enclosure which came into written historical prominence in the 10th century AD when it was a dynastic centre and inauguration place of the Cenél nEógain (a group of dynastic families originally from Co Donegal which later came to be dominated by the O'Neills)
- Following the discovery of internationally-important buried remains in the fields near the Fort, a revised planning application was made that would preserve the archaeology and still provide for the enhanced public access. planning permission for the revised project was granted by Mid Ulster District Council on 16 November 2015
- The main contractor appointed to conduct the construction work was Whitemountain Quarries Ltd. The new interpretation was provided by Tandem Ltd, and the new lecterns for the display of that interpretation was provided by LE Haslett Ltd
- The Department conducted extensive archaeological landscape assessment of this site and its environs and has completed phases of excavations in 2014 and 2015, which uncovered important evidence of prehistoric and medieval settlement at Tullaghoge. The excavations also revealed part of late medieval buildings, outside the fort, which archaeologists believe could be the remains of an O’Hagan farming settlement. The archaeological excavations were conducted by the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, Queen’s University Belfast, under contract and supervision from the Department
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