Offaly is literally a hidden gem, with its wide-open spaces and stunning nature. Now part of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, it is a great spot to switch gears and really relax and enjoy yourself.
Lough Boora Discovery Park
Lough Boora Discovery Park is ideal for families – and children love the Fairy Trail. Home to 14 fairies, it’s a 1.5km trail suitable for small children. There are also picnic and play areas, all accessible for buggies and wheelchair users.
Walkers will love the off-road trails, with unique flora and wildlife. Keep an eye out for the Sculpture Park’s route, with 24 innovative works of art. These have been located to dramatically change the landscape with varying contrast depending on the weather and seasons.
Industrial bog materials – locomotives, rail line, timber, and stone – have been developed into magnificent sculptures.
Facilities: Access visitor information, public toilets, a cafe, picnic area and free car park – all walking and cycling routes start from the Visitor Centre. Bike Hire currently unavailable. School and group tours can be customised for all ages and abilities.
Slieve Bloom Mountains
Indeed, another huge reason to visit Offaly is the wonderful expanse of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. There are trails to suit every ability, from the experienced hiker to the casual stroller. Whether you take on the long-distance Slieve Bloom Way or a shorter looped trail, spectacular views stretch across the Midlands. On a clear cloud-free day particularly, you can see the four highest points of each of the four provinces.
Visit the Slieve Blooms website for full list of trails and hikes, some suitable for biking.
Birr Castle Demesne
Birr Castle Demesne has a world-famous collection of flowers, plants and trees – making any walk there a joy. The Demesne is well worth a visit any time of year, but Spring and early Summer is ideal in terms of colourful blossoms. The stunning magnolias are in bloom and – my favourite – the cherry blossoms appear in a riot of pastel colour.
In fact, Birr Castle Demesne plans to plant 100 cherry blossom trees over the next three years. In Japan, cherry blossom season is a full festival with daily media announcements and trips to view the blossoms. And on Instagram, the hashtag #cherryblossom has garnered 9.4 million posts. Not surprisingly, that will make an extra 100 cherry blossom trees very popular!
Walk through to the formal gardens, where the lilac in May will be stunning. You can’t miss the wonderous wisteria tucked away in an intimate pergola there. Meander through the romantic hornbeam cloister walk. This was planted by Anne, Countess of Rosse, in 1936 to celebrate her marriage to Michael, 6th Earl of Rosse. It boasts the world’s tallest box hedges. A collection of old roses complements the delphinium border in summer. And, if you love water, the Victorian fernery is a wonderful spot for forest bathing.
Birr Castle details
Open daily from 9am to 6pm, a visit to Birr Castle Demesne includes garden walks and seven science galleries. In addition, there’s the treehouse playground, the Great telescope, forest bathing, and 120 acres of parklands and gardens for you to explore. And for treats, there’s a gift shop and the Courtyard Café, open daily offering seasonal sweet and savoury treats.
So, book online at www.birrcastle.com
And explore more of Offaly in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands courtesy of Visit Offaly! You’ll find info on places to go, things to do, places to eat and have a tipple!
You might also like:
Explore Offaly, stay in Kinnitty at the Ardmore Country House B&B