In Jamese McCloy’s barn in the rolling Sperrin Hills, the only sound you’ll hear at sheep shearing time - aside from gentle birdsong - is the snip-snip of his blades as they work their way through the fluffiest fleece imaginable.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Jamese has been tending to sheep for decades, with the help of highly trained border collies, Moss, Jess & Tess (themselves from a long line of sheepdogs).
Visit the Glenshane Country Farm and discover how, with a whistle, a whisper, or a gesture, Jamese can direct the dogs to herd hundreds of remarkably well-behaved sheep.
Come rain, hail or shine - or even a blanket of snow - this shepherd is out with his flock. It’s not the easiest career, but for Jamese, “it’s a way of life. There’s just something about getting out into the fresh air and nature.”
Join Jamese as he shares his tales of farming life, and points out Slemish Mountain, where Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, worked as a shepherd 1,500 years ago.
Help him open gates to lead the flock into traditional wooden pens, make friends with Moss, Jess and Tess, breathe in the scent of fresh hay, and reach over to touch the sheep, their springy wool like candy floss.
Take shelter in the viewing gallery, built with Donegal quartz stone and timber, and marvel at the panoramic views of Slieve Gallion mountain, Lough Neagh and the Mourne mountain range.
And, of course, no shepherd is complete without his crook; what Jamese describes as “an extension of me”. It’s handmade, from buffalo horn and hazel wood (the tree of wisdom), and inscribed with his initials - and it might just be passed down to one of his four children, the youngest of whom is a five-year-old budding shepherdess.
“When visitors leave here, they feel like they were part of something,” says Jamese during a well-earned tea break in his farmhouse kitchen. “They have a story they want to tell, and retell, to their friends and family back home.”
Available upon request.
Advance booking required.
Sheepdogs at Work, Glenshane Country Farm, Derry~Londonderry.
55 minutes from Belfast by road.
Operates 7 days per week January to December.
On average a 1.5 hour experience.
Can cater for guests with restricted mobility.
Coach, minibus and car parking available.
Tea & coffee available on-site. Nearest restaurant 1-mile away.
For a comprehensive list of accommodation available across Northern Ireland visit discovernorthernireland.com
Fully guided experience.
Outdoor jacket and boots/wellies recommended.
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