Sixty minutes from Dublin in the pretty Georgian heritage town of Birr, Birr Castle Demesne is a 16th Century medieval fortress in an impressive, sprawling estate. Take a stroll past the lakes and waterfall in the award-winning Birr Castle Gardens, which really come to life in spring. Kids will adore the Treehouse Adventure Area, featuring the country’s largest treehouse. Afterwards, enjoy a bite to eat at the cute Courtyard Cafe.
Birr Castle Demesne is also home to The Historic Science Centre where you can discover more about the wonders of early photography, engineering and astronomy, and see The Leviathan of Parsonstown also known as The Great Telescope - once the largest telescope in the world when it was completed in 1845.
Setting off from the town of Banagher, voyage through the serene waterways of the River Shannon and Lough Derg with Waveline Cruisers. From angling and water-skiing to horse riding and golf, there are plenty of activities to try and restaurants to stop off at along the shore, as you travel through places like Killaloe, Carrick-on-Shannon and Athlone and the legendary Clonmacnoise.
Just half an hour away, visit one of Ireland’s most famous and ancient monastic settlements at Clonmacnoise. Nestled on the banks of the River Shannon the site was founded in the 544 and is rich with ruins of round towers, a cathedral, churches and high crosses. Seek out the Whispering Door of the ruined cathedral which, according to legend, is the place where lovers came to whisper their true feelings to one another.
On your way to Tullamore, it’s well worth a stop at Lough Boora Discovery Park; home to a huge exhibition of outdoor sculptures created by Irish artists set out along the 3km Lough Boora Sculpture Loop Walk.
Guided tours are available as well as bikes for hire, while the little ones will love the 1.5km Fairy Trail Loop where they look for resident fairies, fairy circles and toadstools along the way.
Another 20 minutes down the road is the famous Tullamore D.E.W Distillery. Although the name conjures up visions of misty Irish mornings, it’s called after its creator Daniel E. Williams. The visitor centre overlooks the serene banks of the Tullamore Grand Canal and although it's currently closed for refurbishments, expect a grand reopening in winter 2021.
There are endless walking routes to discover in the lush green valleys of the Slieve Bloom Mountains — one of the oldest peaks in Europe. Perfect for ramblers looking for gentle terrain, The Slieve Bloom Way has 17 looped walks, from one to four hours long through forest trails, heathery ridges, beautiful glens and hidden landscapes.
If you’re after a more challenging walk, set off from the charming village of Cadamstown on The Offaly Way, taking in the rich scenery along the 29km trek. The route links the Slieve Bloom Way to the Grand Canal Way, so walkers have to option to trail off and discover other loops. The extraordinary views of the Silver River are, quite literally, worth the trek.
Our peatlands are such an important part of our Irish landscape and culture and Offaly plays an important part in the story. Immerse yourself in the history of your homeland by visiting the Clara Bog, just 15-minutes from Tullamore. Follow the timber boardwalk through the nature reserve, home to many protected wildlife species and stop by the Clara Bog Visitor Centre to find out more about this impressive place.
Voyage through ancient waters or get on your bike and explore monastic sites with Mid Ireland Adventure & Slieve Bloom Mountain Bike Centre. With two bases in County Offaly, one located along the River Shannon in the peaceful town of Banagher and the other nestled at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Kinnitty, you won't be short of a great day out with the Mid Ireland Adventure team.
Venture across Offaly's epic landscape through a wide range of unforgettable land and water activities including guided mountain bike tours, hiking tours, archery workshops, stand-up paddleboarding and kayak safaris.
11 | Leap Castle
Pay a visit to Leap Castle for a haunting experience you’ll never forget. Believed to be Ireland’s most haunted castle, the former fortress in Coolderry is home to many fascinating and sometimes hair-raising spirits.
With a turbulent history that dates all the way back to the 16th century, this spooky manor has been visited by paranormal investigators keen to communicate with the ghosts that wander the grounds. Get in touch with Sean Ryan, the owner of Leap Castle, if you dare and walk the haunted halls for yourself on a private tour.