Hidden gems of Offaly
Think you have seen everything there is to see in Offaly? Bet you haven’t visited at least one or two of these treasures!
Offaly is filled with undiscovered stories and here are five gems worth visiting…
In St. Manchan’s Church at Boher, Ballycumber, you’ll find St. Manchan’s Shrine, a 12th-century reliquary (container used to store relics) and an outstanding example of early Irish Christian metalwork. The extraordinary shrine is thought to have once contained the bones of St. Manchán mac Silláin, an early Irish saint credited with founding many early Christian churches in Ireland.
The saint was said to have originally served at the nearby famous monastery of Clonmacnoise, before founding the monastery at Lemanaghan, located near Boher. The front and back of the shrine feature a large and ornate cross, and there are intricately crafted figures, in what looks like kilts, with one holding a small axe. It’s not certain who these figures represent, but let your imagination run free!
Did you know that there is a replica of an Egyptian pyramid in the small village of Kinnitty? Now you do! And there’s even a connection to Egypt! Back in 1830, the Bernard family in Kinnitty decided to build a pyramid as a mausoleum for their family. The Bernard family were once the wealthy landowners of nearby Kinnitty Castle, and six family members were buried at the pyramid, the last in 1905. It’s thought that the master of the Castle, Richard Wellesley-Bernard, toured Egypt in the early 19th century, where he may have been inspired by the ancient architecture. Kinnitty Pyramid stands on the top of a hill and is visible from the village, but you can also walk up the steps to see the pyramid up-close.
Located on the River Shannon, Meelick Weir officially opened this September. The walkway is a link across the Shannon between Lusmagh in Offaly and Meelick in Galway. Meelick Weir was originally built in the 1800s as part of the Shannon navigation system, which was once bustling with colour and trade. Work on the €3.2m project began in 2017 and included the restoration of the weir, its 300m walkway, and tilting weir gates. It is over 300m in length and there are stunning views of the River Shannon and surrounding natural countryside on a walk along Meelick Weir.
Many people may have heard of the Leap Castle, one of the most-haunted castles in the world. But have you actually seen it in the flesh? And do you know the stories behind the castle? Located just 6km outside Coolderry village, Leap Castle dates back to the early 1500s, when it was under rule by the dangerous O’Carroll clan. The castle has a brutal history of murders, and many ghosts are said to wander its eerie corridors.
The Bloody Chapel is said to be the most-haunted area of the castle, with one of the O’Carroll sons having killed his brother, a priest who was at the time performing mass in the chapel, in order to gain power. The castle is a private residence today (yes, someone resides there!), but owner Sean Ryan is happy to live among the spirits. Private visits may be organised through Sean, or, if that’s too daring for you, just have a look at the magnificent castle from the outside!
Tullamore’s town park is well-loved by locals, but undiscovered by visitors – it’s an oasis within the bustling town that is definitely worth visiting. Grab a coffee from one of the many cafés in Tullamore, then go for a quiet stroll around the park, which spans more than 20 acres.
There’s a spectacular water feature, grass terraces and pathways, as well as a picnic area. It’s the perfect place to meet a friend for a catch-up, or to take some time out for yourself. You could even bring the kids, as there is a lovely playground, a bowling green and skate park and outdoor gym. Lloyd Town Park has also been awarded the Green Flag for a number of years, in recognition of the high standard in which it is maintained.