For presenter Joe Mahon, it is meeting the people that really make the programme so entertaining and insightful. Joe said: “As everyone who watches this series will know it’s the people, the ‘ordinary’ people, who are the real stars of Lesser Spotted Ulster. The great advantage of the longer run this year is that we’re able to get around to more places and, believe it or not, I’ve been to a number of locations in the province of Ulster that I’ve never set foot in before this year. I’m thinking of Hilltown and Annaclone in Co. Down, Kingscourt and Belturbet in Co. Cavan, Dromintee in Co. Armagh and Donaghmore in Co. Tyrone to name just a few.”
The new series kicks off with Joe in Rostrevor, County Down, an exceedingly picturesque village nestled at the foot of Slieve Martin, overlooking the Cooley Peninsula across Carlingford Lough. Rostrevor was a favourite haunt of C.S Lewis and it is easy to imagine that this magical place could have been the inspiration for Narnia – with its giant stones, like the Cloughmore Stone and the Ross Monument, its giant men like Patrick Murphy and Finn MacCool, its heroes like General Robert Ross and Tom Dunn and of course, not forgetting its fairies – the Brooneys of the Fairy Glen.
Mark Parker of the Forest Service takes Joe on a wander through the ancient woodland of Rostrevor Forest which he’s trying to defend from sycamore invasion, while Dr John McCavitt takes him on a journey through time as he relates the story of local boy, General Ross, the man who captured Washington and burned the White House in 1812. Joe tarries for a while in the past as local musician, composer, author and all-round creative genius Siubhán O’Dubháin decks him out in one of the 18th century costumes she keeps for the annual dinner of the Tom Dunn Society – a celebration of a local United Irishman who died protecting his neighbours.
Among the places Joe visits in this new series is the seaside village of Rathmullan on the shore of Lough Swilly. Here Joe tries his hand at gig-racing on the beach, gets the lowdown on deep-sea diving in the Swilly and visits the most cluttered shop in the Fanad peninsula. Later in the series, he gets another taste of life on the border on the shores of Lough Macnean in Belcoo in County Fermanagh where he finally gets to meet a woman who’s long been one of his heroes.
He also takes a trip to the foothills of the Sperrins. Here he learns the history of Quigley’s Mill which brought the village of Park into the 20th century and discovers a golf course built around a Bronze Age wedge tomb and takes to the saddle-western style-at Gilkey Ranch.
Other programmes in the series also feature Blacklion, Belturbet and the village of Kingscourt in Co. Cavan; Hilltown and Annaclone in Co. Down; the waters of Lough Neagh in Co. Antrim; Urney, Castlecaulfield and Donaghmore in Co. Tyrone; Ballykelly in Co. Londonderry; Ramelton in Co Donegal; Monea in Co. Fermanagh and Dromintee in Co. Armagh. Joe finishes with a trip to Cushendun in the beautiful Glens of Antrim.
During his trip to the Glens, Joe has an in-depth look around a very old hotel. He is regaled with stories of landslides and romantic elopements, and discusses the great tradition of landscape artists in the area.