You might have noticed how much I bleat about Offaly.
It is my home county. Located in the heart of the Irish midlands, it hasn’t the racy, rugged coastline popularity of Kerry, Cork or Waterford, nor the eclectic draw of Galway. We haven’t the connotations of holding a capital city. We are not on the more commonly discussed lists of ‘Must See Places in Ireland’. I am here to argue against that perception. Offaly needs your attention. We have a tremendous amount to offer! You will not be disappointed. Just watch out for potholes…Ancient, monastic Clonmacnoise, pretty old world Birr, rural, mountainous (haunted) Kinnity, boat and swan-laden picturesque Shannon Harbour, Tullamore with its whiskey distillery: I can go on. Today I am focusing on one feature in particular close to home and my heart. The Lough Boora Parklands. A beautiful place to relax and while away the hours on the old Ferbane bog.
As a child, my peers would grumble and gripe every summer about the task they would be made to endure. Piling turf. Turning turf. Saving the turf. Bringing home the turf. They would appear back to school in September tanned and wholesome looking, aching and complaining about a summer of ‘torture on the bog’. I was not one of these children. We had no bog. We bought briquettes. At the shop. This meant I was called posh. It was just the way it was. I wasn’t posh by the way!
Bord na Mona and the ESB were the primary forms of employment in my hometown. Turf and electricity. The skyline from my window was dominated by two dull grey cooling towers, hardly aesthetic or environmentally friendly, yet very necessary. They were the reason we could buy briquettes. It was where my Dad worked.
The cooling towers are now gone. The bog is still used for personal plots. However Boora, the location of Bord na Mona, now serves a dual purpose. It is a sanctuary for nature, a place of walking, cycling and to picnic within. It boasts many sculptures and artworks within the park itself to be discovered and spotted. Keeping in with trends, it has my little girls’ favourite attraction too- a pretty extensive fairy park. Add a small restaurant with picture postcard views (I believe there was great intention to design it that way) and you cannot go wrong.
What to see and do:
The Sculpture Park can be treated as a treasure hunt for older kids as they must ‘catch them all’. There is a definite opportunity here to help young people appreciate art and culture outdoors. To see a more comprehensive list Click here. An outdoor museum of creativity inspired by the area, local history and nature, these are more than impressive to see.
I know you walk to see the sculptures, but you can walk just to enjoy life too. Nature. Views. This is a place where you can walk at your own pace, trek or exercise. It is full of picturesque scenes and areas to discover. You might even find a pyramid. Offaly never fails to surprise!
The beauty of this place is the variety of groups and people that you see. Whole familes- literally all ages- are here enjoying life. Groups of two, three. Young. Old. Solitary walkers. Perambulating, ambling, dog walking or speed walking; It has a path to suit everyone with glorious scenery to enjoy in the freshest air. A surprise at every corner.
Bicycle hire or BYUB
My husband wanted to do this as soon as our first girl was born. We now can be found quite often in Boora pedalling along on our hired bikes with seats for the girls. Christmas brought a bicycle for Gigi and a new pink bike for myself with a baby seat for Betsy. We haven’t gotten out a lot since January but we will. Hiring bicycles has always been an excellent experience for us at the park too. There is a super range including tandems and attach on carriers if your little ones fancy being carted along Emperor style and you are strong enough to do it! They have a hiring fee but considering the cost into the park is free, this is not a problem. (There is a charge of four euros to park your car in their official car park but no actual entrance cost besides).
There are ample spaces to eat your picnic out and about on the walkways including a covered type of half amphitheatre which is lovely for a break in shade. There are benches quite near the entrance too which suits if you only want a small distance to walk.
Search for Fairies whilst Forest Bathing
Lough Boora has made a pleasant alliance with Fairy Doors Ireland to bring this magical element to the park. Beyond delightful, I have walked the fairy avenue many, many times now with my family and we never tire of it. Forest bathing at its best for adults. Imagination diving for children. It is wonderfully laid out and cared for and a far cry from a few doors pinned to trees as are so often the case. Someone’s passion is visible here at every turn.
An Oasis for History, Geography and Nature Buffs
The park survives- no thrives– on the ethos which is to celebrate the steeped history of the area and glory in the flaura and fauna to be discovered. Keeping the integrity of the boglands alive. Water, wildlife and a wistful aura of the past combine to create a unique atmosphere that is all Lough Boora and only Lough Boora. I may be biased but I am honestly saying that I have never experienced the tranquillity and fresh energy that Boora boasts anywhere else.
Alongside the old bog trains that are beautifully ‘planted’ in the park, there is Thomas the Tank Engine and friends to be found at various locations throughout the lands. You can hop on and have a picture with these childhood legends or study historical artefacts of bog transport.
Coffee and Cake
A little restaurant at the entrance serves lunches and snacks, perfect for a relaxing enjoyment with views. The coffee is excellent. The facilities are spacious and clean. Perfect for everyone. When my babies were newborns, this was a lovely spot to take them as it was easy to change them etc which isn’t always a simple task when you are on the move with mites!
Every building is designed to nestle aesthetically into the landscape out here. It is only an addition with the area itself as the main player.
Take a look for yourself. Visit Boora before the rest of the country discovers it! #LoveOffaly
Written voluntarily, without request and for no fee. Photos are taken by myself unless stated otherwise.