Strabane is one of the larger towns in County Tyrone, rich in history and natural beauty. Its Irish name is an Straith Bhan, which translates into Fair River Valley, or White Strand.
The town includes two castles that were built and occupied around strange circumstances. Ogilby’s Castle was intended as the home of James Ogilby, but he decided to forego the family fortune for love of a girl who worked at a local factory. The regal home, built in 1860, was never occupied by the couple, which eloped and moved away to Derry.
Earl’s Gift Castle was begun in 1629 by Sir John Drummond in anticipation of his wedding to a French lady, but he died in a mishap at sea, and his wedding gift castle was never completed. It remains in its unfinished state to this day.
Also found in the Strabane area are the 14th century O’Neill castle known as Harry Avery’s Castle, and a ruin at Newtonstewart called Turlough’s Castle.
Strabane offers various cultural events throughout the year. The educational American Trail Tour traces the regional origins of prominent Irish-Americans, including James Knox Polk, who became the eleventh president of the United States. The tour passes through Polk’s ancestral home, which features a walled garden created in the 1700’s, a tearoom and a craft shop that displays the works of local artisans.
The American Trail Tour also includes the abode of Woodrow Wilson’s grandfather James. The president’s grandfather lived in this traditional thatched cottage, now open for public viewing.
An unforgettable feature in the town is the collection of five steel figures known by locals as the Tinneys. They stand 20 feet tall and were designed by Maurice Harron and erected at the border with Donegal on the site of what was once a British army base. There are two dancers, a flute player, a drummer and a fiddler.
During the period from the 1970s into the 1990s, Strabane was the location of many bombings, riots and attacks related to the Troubles. The permanent military presence of past decades is no longer necessary.