Culture, Heritage and History Tour
10am – Clara Bog National Park and Visitor Centre
We begin with a step back in time at Clara Bog, one of the best remaining examples of a relatively intact raised bog in Western Europe. It has been said that you can experience ten thousand years of history in the ten square kilometres that accommodate Clara Bog and its surroundings. The visitor center is a good place to start before heading out to experience what a raised bog should really look like. The Boardwalk is open all year round. The visitor center is open seasonally so please check in advance. 2019 season was open from March -Dec 20, Mon - Fri, 10am - 5pm.
12am – Saint Manchan Shrine, Boher
Just a short drive from Clara, Boher’s Roman Catholic Church has a most extraordinary shrine associated with Lemanaghan on permanent public display. The shine is a 12th century gabled box of yew wood and bronze, which contains the relics of Saint Manchan. It is a very fine example of Irish Christian art rarely seen outside of the National Museum – but the shrine has always been kept in this community and the tradition continues. This shrine has close parallels with another Irish Christian cross - Cross of Cong. Other features of Boher Church are the Harry Clarke studio stained glass windows. Their use of deep rich colours, elongated figures and wide deep expressive eyes leave a lasting memory of beauty. The detail is remarkable and eminently photogenic for those holiday snap shots.
1.30pm Hennessys, Ferbane
You are in the real heart of Ireland now, as you make your way through the faithful county. A pit stop at Hennessys Gastro Pub, a beautiful thatched postcard pub of Ireland, is a must and will allow you to fill your belly with some good food.
2.30PM Clonony Castle
Clonony Castle, built in the 1490’s by the Coghlan Clan, was seized by Henry VIII during the war of dominion by England. He ceded it to Thomas Boleyn, making him the Earl of Ormond, his daughter, the ill-fated Ann, a countess and marriageable by a king. When Henry tired of Ann and the Boleyns fell from grace, two ladies, Mary and Elizabeth, were sent back to Clonony and remained for the rest of their lives. Their tombstone lays beneath a tree in the castle bawn. The castle is open to the public casually from 12 to 5 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through summer and anytime by appointment on 0877614034.
5.00PM- Explore the Heritage town of Birr
The picturesque heritage town of Birr, developed around the Birr Castle estate of the Parsons family, the Earls of Rosse. With its handsome ensemble of Georgian architecture, there’s a lot to like about Birr. The tree-lined malls and avenues of elegant houses dating from the 1800s tell a fascinating story. Heaving with history, Birr is one of Ireland’s premier heritage towns and proud of its unique character spanning many centuries.Its most famous landmark, Birr Castle Demesne, has been the seat of the Parsons family - the Earls of Rosse - for fourteen generations. Today the Castle Gardens & Science Centre attracts tourists throughout the year, captivated by the stunning formal gardens, the Great Telescope and the grandeur of the castle itself. The town is also home to the renowned Birr Theatre – an essential regional stop-off for all major drama, dance, opera and comedy performances doing the national circuit. A great way to explore the town is to take either the Birr Town Trail or Riverbank Walk, with both routes starting from Emmet Square and covering a distance of just over 1km each. Birr also has a rich monastic heritage and was home in the 6th century to St.Brendan, one of the "twelve apostles of Ireland". The original monastic site is probably close to the castle in William Street, behind wrought-iron gates of the old church and graveyard of St.Brendan
7.30pm - Eat in a Thatch House
Journey a short distance outside of Birr town and you’ll find this gem in Crinkle. From the outside, this 200 year old thatch cottage looks like it came from the set of The Quiet Man! But there’s nothing old-fashioned about the cuisine on offer in this award-winning Heritage Pub. Choose from a selection of traditional Irish favourites with a contemporary twist, or go for one of the daily-prepared Chef Specials. There’s an ample wine list on offer too, though you might decide to stay old-style and opt for a glass of Guinness with your meal instead!
Later – The Chestnut, Birr
Those who visit this Victorian-style bar with its cosy turf fires and dark polished wood for “just the one”, tend to stay a while longer! And in warmer weather, the pub’s walled Rose Garden becomes the focal point for open-air movies and BBQs. Whatever the season, and whether it’s a strong coffee, a refreshing peppermint tea or a pint you’re after, The Chestnut won’t disappoint!
Overnight Stay – County Arms Hotel, Birr
Proudly billed as celebrating “over 50 years of Loughnane Family Hospitality” the County Arms Hotel in the heart of the heritage town of Birr, is a four-star hotel that offers guests elegant accommodation with warm and friendly service. You can rest assured, you will get a goods night sleep that will relax and rejuvenate you for the following day.
9am – Leap Castle, Coolderry
Stray close to the Slieve Bloom Mountains from Birr and you may stumble on this castle, with its turbulent and bloody history, that was used as a fortress, a home and a tomb. Leap Castle is home to many fascinating and sometimes horrific spirits. Sean Ryan of Leap Castle, insisted that he doesn't fabricate when telling the story of what he and his wife see and hear at their home. Where most would refer to these apparitions as ghosts, Sean prefers to call them spirits. He describes the regular visions as people with a haze around them. The remarkable thing Sean told us was that this experience never seems to alarm his guests, rather they always remain very calm, something that surprises them! Sean doesn't regard his home as haunted and, as far as he is concerned, the spirits he sees and hears have as much right to live there as he does. Sean is happy to continue to live alongside them as he has done since 1994, when restoration on the castle began. You won’t regret visiting and hearing his story so make sure to call ahead to arrange a visit.
11.30am – Lough Boora Discovery Park
You are now going to take a trip, to one of the oldest human settlement sites in Ireland. You really can get away from it all by exploring the unique beauty of Lough Boora Discovery Park. Transformed from its previous incarnation as a commercial bog where peat was harvested to heat homes around the country, today Lough Boora Discovery Park is home to countless species of birds and wildlife, fish-filled lakes and a permanent exhibition of huge outdoor sculptures. The Park is also home one of the most important archaeological finds in Ireland. Prior to its discovery it was thought that the first human settlements were near to the coast and that the midlands remained uncolonised. The discovery of the Lough Boora Mesolithic site has proven this to be inaccurate and pushed the accepted date for the colonisation of the midlands back by over 3,000 years! Explore this unique landscape by foot or by bike and at your own pace.
3.00PM - Lunch and tour of the Old Bonded Warehouse of Tullamore Dew
Travel the short distance to Tullamore town and enjoy one of County Offaly’s most famous exports is Tullamore D.E.W., a blended Irish whiskey originally produced by William Grant & Sons in Tullamore. A tour of Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre takes in every step of the artisan craft of whiskey making. Meet the Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery Ambassador, explore the production process from still house to warehouse and even create your own unique blend of whiskey in the blending room. The old warehouse setting is also a really cool location to sit and eat, with a brilliant menu available from Mon - Sat: 9.30 - 18.00
Sun/Bank Holidays: 11.30 - 17.00
For more details or ideas on your visit to Offaly, please make sure to check out our website visitoffaly.ie
The Visit Offaly tourist information center is located at O' Connor Square, Tullamore.
Or contact the Visit Offaly team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to welcoming you to Offaly, Irelands hidden gem.