Omagh, the county town of Tyrone, lies close to the Sperrin Mountains, with the River Strule to the north. Aside from Omagh, County Tyrone, which is the biggest in Northern Ireland, takes in the towns of Strabane, Dungannon, and Cookstown, and pretty Clogher Valley towns in the south of the county. The playwright Brian Friel was born in Omagh and the novelist and short story writer Ben Kiely was brought up in the town. Sadly, it's better known as the scene of the worst atrocity of the Troubles, when an IRA bomb killed 31 people in 1998. On the 10th anniversary of the bombing, the Garden of Light, a touching memorial by artist Sean Hillen and landscape architect Desmond Fitzgerald, was opened. A heliostatic mirror in the memorial park tracks the sun and directs a beam of light onto 31 small mirrors, each etched with the name of a victim. They in turn bounce the light via another hidden mirror onto a heart-shape crystal in an obelisk at the bomb site in Market Street. An entire room in Omagh Library, housing more than 800 books of condolence and reflecting worldwide media coverage, is dedicated to the memory of the attack. Ask about access to this archive at the tourist office, which is in the Strule Arts Centre, a good place for a relaxing snack or meal, and where you may also find out about any events or shows being held. Pick up a voucher booklet, Explore Omagh, which offers discounts in many shops and restaurants, as well as two-for-one entrance deals to the Ulster American Folk Park (www.exploreomaghsperrins.com). Midway between Omagh and Cookstown, at the other end of the Sperrins, a Dark Sky Observatory has been opened. The new center, in Davagh Forest, is also linked to an ancient stone circle in the mountainy bog northwest of Cookstown.
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