See also County Offaly (North)
The 48-mile long Slieve Bloom mountain range runs across the south-eastern part of the county. One third of the county is peatland, often referred to as brown gold. Bog rosemary, the county flower, is found in the raised bogs.
Walkers can enjoy the Offaly Way, a long distance walking route linking the Slieve Bloom Way and the Grand Canal Way, two other county developed trails. The county is bordered by the Shannon River on the west. Other rivers flowing through the county are the Boyne, Silver, Brosna, and Clodiagh.
Birr, at the junction of the Camcor and Little Brosna rivers, is the main town of the county. The 18th and 19th century Georgian town is complete with tree lined malls and squares.
The Birr Castle Demesne offers attractions of a varied nature. A gallery gives the history of the castle. The Historic Science Centre encompasses astronomy, photography, engineering, and horticulture information. In the grounds is a Birds of Prey centre.
The castle has Ireland’s largest gardens: 100 acres with over 1000 species of trees and shrubs, formal gardens, and terraces. Walks take in lilacs, a lagoon, a lake, and the river. The castle building, not open to the public, was the honeymoon spot of Charlotte Bronte as was the village of Banagher, on the south bank of the Shannon river.
Clonmacnoise, beside the river Shannon, is a busy and celebrated ecclesiastical site. An interpretive centre presents an AV program on the site. There are round towers, high crosses—one dating from the 9th century—and the ruins of eight churches and a castle of 1220. There are also 600 early grave slabs, some in the visitor centre. The monastery, founded in 548, and now in ruins was the burial site of the kings of Connaught and Tara. The cathedral dates from the 10th century with later changes.
North of Birr, Clonfert (St Brendan’s) cathedral was built in the 12th century on a former monastery site. Of special importance is the west doorway. In the grounds are the ruins of a bishop’s palace.
Ferbane is the centre of the county’s peat industry. Nearby is Gallen monastic site with graveslabs dating from the 8th to 11th centuries and 13th century church ruins.
Offaly South Attractions
Bellfield House Gardens
1km north of village of Shinrone, near Birr
Tel. 0 505 47766
Birr Castle Demesne and Historic Science Centre
Tel. 0 57 91 20336
Web: Birr Castle
Clonmacnoise Ecclesiastical Site
North of Shannonbridge
Tel. 0 90 967 4195
Gallen Monastic Site
Woodland Cottage Garden
Tel. 0 57 912 1215
Tourist Information Centres
Birr Tourist Information Office
Castle Street, Birr
Tel. 0 509 20110
Open: May to Sep
Clonmacnoise Tourist Office
Tel. 0 905 74134
Open: Easter to Oct
Photos of Birr castle, Birr Castle telescope, Birr Castle hornbeam alley courtesy Shannon Development
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Slieve Bloom Mountains view by Graham Horn; Blackwater Bog wetland habitat by Bob Embleton; Silver River waterfall by Sarah Gallagher; Birr Emmet Square, Birr castle gardens by Dennis Turner; Birr Georgian doorway by Mike Searle; Clonmacnoise, Clonmacnoise south cross by Rosemary Nelson; Clonfert cathedral; Clonfert cathedral west door by Christopher Higgins
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Our Offaly articles
Birr Castle Gardens
Our Shannon Region Articles:
Underworld Wonders of the Shannon
Exploring the Slieve Bloom District
Dolphin Watching off Shannon’s Atlatic Coast
Traditional Irish Music in the Shannon
The Story of the Limerick Verse
Shannon Region Drives
Island Hopping in the Shannon
Flora of the Shannon
Experience 5000 Years of the Shannon
Lough Derg-Ireland’s Pleasure Lake