Having a picnic is a great way to spend time with family or friends, while basking in nature.
From taking in soothing river sounds to magnificent mountain views, there are plenty of scenic areas around Offaly to set up an unforgettable picnic.
So pack up the sandwiches, fill the flask, and enjoy dining al fresco at one of our top picks below. (And don’t forget to bin your rubbish or take it home with you, wherever you decide to go!)
Birr Castle Demesne
Birr Castle Demesne, located in the heritage town of Birr, is most famous for its feats in the realm of science. The Third Earl of Rosse built the largest telescope in the world here in 1845 (which you can still view today). But it’s also home to spectacular gardens with an abundance of rare plants, rivers, waterfalls, and walking trails.
After a tranquil stroll around the gardens, set up your picnic by the river, or take the kids to the play area, as you sit back and relax. The play area, which includes Ireland’s tallest treehouse, has a covered picnic section with benches. Birr Castle Demesne also has a café on-site, within the courtyard, with plenty of benches, so you can enjoy a coffee and a treat after wandering the castle grounds. General admission to Birr Castle Demesne is €10 for an adult ticket, €5 for a child and a family admission ticket is €26. Children under four years old are free. Tickets can be booked on birrcastle.com/general-admission-tickets.
Slieve Bloom Mountains
Forming a natural link between counties Offaly and Laois, the Slieve Bloom Mountains are a hiker’s (and mountain biker’s) paradise. You’ll find a wide range of scenic walking trails in the Slieve Bloom for all abilities. The trails range in distance from 4km to 75km, beginning at Kinnitty, Cadamstown, Clonaslee, Glenbarrow and Monicknew. The Slieve Bloom Mountains also provide some incredible tracks for mountain biking, which have grown in great popularity recently.
But all that walking and cycling can be thirsty work! So when visiting the Slieve Bloom Mountains, come prepared with nourishing food to keep yourself fuelled. Dotted around the mountains are plenty of picnic benches, if you want to stop to refuel and take in your surroundings. For example, located on the L1005 Mountrath/Clonaslee road, ‘The Cut’ is a beautiful place to have a picnic, with panoramic views over Offaly and Laois. And in the quaint village of Kinnitty, there’s some picnic benches near Peavoys coffee shop and by the community centre, where free public WiFi is also available.
Head to Banagher for a nautical-inspired picnic. The town’s large marina is a popular hub for cruisers and has plenty of areas to sit back with a picnic and watch the boats set sail up and down the River Shannon. You could even set off from the marina on your own cruise along the Shannon!
Within the harbour, there is a playground and a canoeing centre. And located on the far side of the bridge by the marina, you’ll find a riverside walk and outdoor swimming pool. And for a different view of the water, there’s plenty of outdoor seating beside the swimming pool – you could either place a picnic blanket on the spacious grass area or sit at one of the picnic benches. The area has also long been a haven for fishing. So a visit to the marina makes for a great day out for all the family, with plenty of activities. Plus, Offaly County Council have provided free public WiFi at Banagher Marina, so you can post a few Instagram snaps of the day! Don’t forget to tag @visitoffaly.
Lough Boora Discovery Park
There’s something for everyone at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Leabeg, which is approximately a seven-minute drive from Kilcormac and a 22-minute drive from Tullamore. The park not only offers many walking and cycling trails of various lengths around lakes, wetlands and rich grasslands, but also has a fairy trail, a Mesolithic settlement and a sculpture park. The sculptures were inspired by the rich natural and industrial legacy of the boglands the park is built within.
The park is a haven for flora and wildlife, so soak up the sounds of birdsong on a picnic after exploring all Lough Boora has to offer. Lough Boora Discovery Park has dedicated picnic areas within the park, but there’s also a café at the entrance to the park, with seating that has lakeside views. Visitors should note that the car park is €4. Check out the site, loughboora.com, for more information.
Based on the Offaly-Laois border, Derryounce Lakes in Derryvilla, located off the Edenderry road, is the ideal place for a quiet, gentle stroll and makes for a gorgeous lakeside picnic.
There are three looped trails to explore, which include a yellow loop (3km), blue loop (5.5km) and red loop (14km), so there’s something for all abilities and preferences. The lake itself, which spans approximately 40 acres, was formed artificially through the digging of a hollow down to the sand layer below peat. Some of this sand was deposited at the edge of the lake to form an unofficial inland beach, which many people visit during the summer months.
As well as being a beautiful destination for a picnic, the lake consists of a walkway which provides the perfect Instagram shot – going at sunset is a must! The perfect date night.