From ancient sites and magnificent rivers to lush meadows and mountains, Offaly is filled with impressive landscapes and incredible views. Here, travel writer Clodagh Dooley recommends just some of the top views to check out – don’t forget to capture them for Instagram and tag the Visit Offaly Instagram page! (@visitoffaly, #visitoffaly)
Slieve Bloom Mountains
You won’t be stuck for scenic views in the Slieve Bloom Mountains – they’re everywhere you turn. But perhaps my favourite part of the mountains is the area where one of the red mountain bike trails, referred to as ‘ASAP’, is accessed. There are outstanding panoramic views across the countryside from here. To get to this point, park at Kinnitty Forest Trailhead carpark on the Mountrath road. At this entrance, follow the ascending hiking trail to the right.
Also worth stopping by is Arderin, the highest point in the Slieve Blooms, which provide extensive 360-degree views across the surrounding countryside. The hill can be accessed by the scenic Glendine Gap road.
Clonmacnoise near Shannonbridge is home to one of Ireland’s most famous and ancient monastic settlements, and it’s a sight to behold. Its location on the River Shannon means visitors can enjoy beautiful riverside views, while learning all about this amazing 6th century, preserved ruin. The site includes one cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, and three high crosses. The beautiful Cross of the Scriptures stands at 4m in height. However, the one outside is actually a replica and the real one can be found inside at the Visitor's Centre.
Running through Birr town, the Camcor River provides a peaceful walkway, where you’ll often see locals take their dogs for a stroll. But what perhaps is most striking, is the river’s weir, as it is set against the backdrop of the impressive St Brendan’s Catholic Church. It’s definitely an Instagram-worthy snap! Near the river is also the local library, which was once a convent. The library, which is situated in the old chapel, has beautiful stained glass windows and hand-painted murals.
I spent many days during the summer relaxing at Banagher Marina, which offers the best views of the lower Shannon. A lovely way to spend a Sunday is to grab a coffee and walk along the marina, watching the boats arrive and depart. Next on my to-do list is to actually go on a cruise along the river, to see the River Shannon from a different point of view. There’s also plenty of water sports to get involved in, including swimming, stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking. Even if you don’t partake, it’s fun to watch!
Clara Bog Nature Reserve and Boardwalk is not just appreciated for the fact it is one of the largest relatively intact raised bogs remaining in Ireland, but also for its unspoilt landscape views. Clara Bog is a beautiful place to take the family, as it includes a short 1km loop walk along a boardwalk suspended over the bog. I would recommend trying to visit just as the sun is about to set, as magical views are guaranteed!
The Grand Canal connects Dublin with the River Shannon, at Shannon Harbour passing fertile farmlands and charming villages. It was used in the 19th century as a means of transportation but today, there are a variety of walks to explore. For a mixture of scenery and history, check out the beautiful Downshire Bridge in Edenderry. This single-arch masonry bridge, which was funded by Lord Downshire of Edenderry, was built circa 1805 and designed to carry only pedestrians and horses over the canal.
Although only 232m high, Croghan Hill, near the village of Croghan, provides extensive views of the surrounding countryside and across the expanse of the Bog of Allen. It is said that you can see at least nine counties from the summit. Croghan Hill even has a fascinating historic background – it is, in fact, the remains of an extinct volcano and is thought to be a Bronze Age burial place.
It takes only about 20 minutes to climb to the top of Croghan Hill and it’s not a strenuous climb, so will appeal to those of all ages and fitness abilities. The main access point to Croghan Hill is opposite the school in the village and parking is available by the school.