Saturday 4th August 2018
Bright and Beautiful Walk, Killeter – 7 miles
For our August walk we were heading west to the tiny village of Killeter in County Tyrone. Killeter, derived from the Irish Coill lochtair meaning ‘lower wood’, has a population of less than 150 and it sits almost on the border on the ancient pilgrimage trail to Lough Derg in County Donegal. We were walking the newly created ‘Bright and Beautiful Garden Heritage Trail’ which has been designed to mark the 200th anniversary of hymn writer Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).
Mrs Alexander lived in Killeter between 1850 and 1855 when her husband, Rev William Alexander, was the Rector of St Bestius’ Church. She is renowned for writing many hymns and probably the most well known is ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’. To mark the anniversary the local churches have created four amazing gardens. We were in unfamiliar territory and so we knew we would be following our noses as we tried to navigate a 4.5 mile loop around the four churches. On approaching the village from Castlederg we parked up at St Bestius’ Church. This turned out to house the final garden of the four, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’.
“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made them all”
From here we crossed over the River Derg towards Magheranageeragh Presbyterian Church and Garden number 3 – ‘There is a Green Hill Far Away’.
“There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all”
The next garden was at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the townland of Aghyaran – Garden 1, the carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’.
“Once in Royal David’s City,
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby,
in a manger for his crib”
A short distance later we found Aghyaran Methodist Church and our final garden – ‘Jesus calls us! O’er the Tumult’
“Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult,
of our life’s wild, restless sea,
day by day His voice is sounding,
saying, “Christian, follow me”
Despite the day starting off a bit overcast the sun broke through just before lunchtime, and crossing over the bridge we followed the river back to our starting point. Next we drove towards Killeter Forest, about 20 minutes from the village, and even closer to the border!
The forest is said to be one of the largest in Ireland and has 3 walking trails of various lengths – Holywell Trail (2.5 miles), Bannadoo Trail (6.2 miles) and Mullyfa Trail (7.5 miles) – all starting from the Big Bridge car park.
We were running short on time & so opted for the shortest of the three trails before heading back to Castlederg for coffee & cake at Jax’s Coffee Shop.
Despite the lengthy drive to reach Killeter the Derg Valley did not disappoint, & the ‘Bright and Beautiful Walk’ was definitely worth seeing! Another enjoyable day, good weather, good friends & an interesting walk!