Greencastle: A Community of Entrepreneurs

Greencastle, located in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains in County Tyrone, is a place of entrepreneurs. Every year on the 26th December they attract over a thousand runners to their famous 5 Mile Road Run.

Run through Greencastle

The race has been held each year since its inauguration in 1986, over thirty years ago. It is organised by Greencastle Athletic Club and captures the warmth and spirit of the whole community.

The course forms a unique 5-mile loop that starts and finishes on the same spot. The first 2 miles is fast before giving way to a gentle incline and flat section that eases runners to the 3.5 mile mark. From this point to the 4-mile station lies Greencastle’s famous 800-metre long lung bursting hill with its sheer gradient. A final downhill sprint returns runners to where they began some 25 to 45 minutes earlier.

The race caters for all levels of fitness with elite athletes jockeying for position on the starting line with more modest and less fit New Year resolution holders. Runners come from all over the country and from other countries, as the legendary Greencastle Hill is an irresistible draw for those tempted by a taste of hardship during the holidays.

The organisation of the race is a case study in what a community of spirited entrepreneurs can achieve and on a par with the best professionally managed events. Runners and race-technology merge to provide precise times and the logistics of the race materialise as a by-product of a communal effort that appears effortless, albeit a year in planning.

Trail through history

But there is another and equally impressive side to the entrepreneurs of Greencastle, as ambassadors of an ancient and isolated landscape that provides an original and authentic Trail through History via a rich collection of historic locations.

The Trail starts and finishes on the strategically significant Green Road, which dates from the early 1700s as the main link over the Sperrin Mountains in the ancient province of Ulster. It was a coach road carrying horse drawn carriages, wooden cart wheels, riders on horseback and even Hugh O’Neill when he travelled from Tullyhogue to Rathmullen during the Flight of the Earls in 1607.

The Battle of Formaeil, at Rath-beg, was gained by the Cinel-Eoghain over the Cinel-Conaill, where Maelisa Ua Canannain, lord of Cinel-Conaill, and Muircheartach Ua-Taidhg, royal heir to Connaught, were slain with many others during a battle in 965.

Dun Ruadh or the Red Fort is a large circular burial cairn surrounded by a ditch and bank. It is made of a ring of stones with dry walling and contains 13 cists or burials that date from the Bronze Age 4,000 years ago.

Cashel Rock is a rich trove that provides access to high quality outcrops of rhyolite and tonalite, which represent the maturing phase of a volcanic-arc complex.

The Ogham Stone is the only example of such an artefact inscription in the county and believed to have been a burial marker with a commemorative inscription cut into the stone before 500AD.

The Black Bog is surrounded by cut-over bog with poor fen and one of the largest lowland raised bogs in Ireland that displays a full range of vegetation and structural features associated with such a habitat.

The Last Wolves of Ireland are claimed to have roamed freely in the surrounding hills and mountains with stories of cattle, sheep, men and women from the locality being ravaged and savaged on numerous occasions.

So, the entrepreneurs of Greencastle are building on their ancient history and local traditions to create a wild and wonderful experience for visitors from around the world.