Offaly Holiday Homes, Attractions & Activities
Churches, Abbeys and Monasteries
Clonmacnoise is an ancient monastic site near Shannonbridge, County Offaly. It was founded by St Ciaran in the mid-6th century and over the years, it was a great centre of learning. Many manuscripts, including the 11th-century Annals of Tighernach and the 12th-century Book of the Dun Cow, were written here.
Today, visitors can see three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches and two round towers. They will also pass through the visitor centre, which displays a number of cross-slabs and the 9th-century Cross of the Scriptures.
Museums and Attractions
Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre
The Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre is located in the original 1897 bonded warehouse, in Tullamore County Offaly.
Start your tour with an audio-visual presentation, which is presented in several different languages. Wander through the recreated working stations of the old distillery, such as the malting, boiling or cooperage areas. Throughout the tour there are opportunities to interact with the artefacts. Indeed not only can you learn about the whiskey making process by experiencing how to shovel or grind the barley the old way but you will also find out why the distilling business was so important in Tullamore.
At the end of the tour enjoy a complimentary tasting of Tullamore Dew Whiskey.
Clara Bog Visitor Centre
Clara Bog in County Offaly is 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.
Clara Bog is a naturally wet environment with many concealed dangers such as deep pools and quaking surfaces. As with any outdoor activity, dress appropriately. Please leave Clara Bog exactly as you would wish to find it. The nature reserve is home to many protected wildlife species. It is an offence to disturb these wild plants and animals.
In the Clara Bog Visitor Centre ‘Daithí’ the Dragonfly shows you his home and all the species that live with him by using interactive touch screens.
The Centre also has audio visual facilities with a short 14 minute film ‘Probing the Past – The Natural History of Clara Bog’. There is also a second short film on the social history of Clara Bog.
Guided tours for individuals and groups of the Bog can also be organised. Just contact the centre and speak with one of the guides.
Historic Houses and Castles
Cloghan Castle is one of the few medieval castles which is both lived in and offers open access to groups ( minimum of 10 people ). Bounded by the rivers Shannon and Little Brosna, it was originally a medieval O’Madden stronghold.
Domestic quarters were added over the following centuries resulting in what is, today, an attractive architectural composition.
Birr Castle Demesne & Historic Science Centre
Ireland’s award winning gardens, set in one of Ireland’s beautiful Georgian heritage towns, Birr Castle Demesne offers a combination of fun, relaxation and discovery to all who visit. Best known for the unparalleled beauty of the gardens, the grounds are home to an impressive plant collection with rare species from around the world, including over forty champion trees of the British Isles. The millennium gardens reflect a French style formal garden and include plants exclusive to the demesne. It also proudly houses the world’s tallest box hedges and beautiful pathways of hornbeam cloister.
Ireland historic science centre and great telescope. Travel back to the time of the earlier Earls and Countesses of Rosse, when Birr Castle was a hub of scientific discovery and innovation. The interactive museum reveals the wonders of early photography, engineering and astronomy, with a special emphasis on the third Earl’s great telescope, a leviathan creation that remained the largest in the world for over seventy years.
West Coast Holidays has holiday homes to rent in Birr for your self catering holiday in Roscommon.
Ballybrittan Castle is an extended tower-house which takes its name from the tower or a castle, built in the late 15th Century as an O’Connor stronghold in the townland of Ballybrittan, near Edenderry, Co Offaly.
Although a major portion of the castle was taken down in the 19th Century, the overall suite of buildings is regarded as one of the best surviving examples of this house type. It still incorporates 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th century features reflecting many extensions, renewals and rebuildings over hundreds of years.
While the O’Connor ownership ceased in the 16th Century, Ballybrittan is a rare Irish example of a house in continuous use for well over five hundred years for its original purpose as a residence.
The Castle and the O’Connor lands in the area were granted to Henry Warren, later Sir. Henry Warren, in the Tudor plantation of Offaly in the late 1550’s. Although twice married, Warren produced no children. One of his wives, Alicia, was the daughter of Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Armagh and first Provost of Dublin University, Trinity College. Lady Alicia Warren’s burial place is at the nearby medieval Churchyard.
Warren was succeeded by his nephew Anthony who by his marriage to Mary Preston, daughter of the fourth Viscount Gormanston brought the property into that family. For their support in the royalist cause, the Prestons lost their lands, including Ballybrittan, to the Parliamentarians but in 1661 they successfully petitioned Charles II, to be restored to their possessions. By the late 17th Century Ballybrittan had passed into the ownership of the Barnewall Family, Barons Trimleston and was sold in 1867 by the 16th Baron Trimleston to Robert Elliot, through the landed Estates Courts.
Today what remains of the tower-house is just three stories compared with the original four or five stories. The ground floor is barrel vaulted with mural staircases to the first and second floors. Both in the barrel vaulted ground floor and in the mural staircases it still retains the wattle and daub centring. It also retains two attractively carved surrounds to Tudor window mouldings probably inserted by Warren after he was granted the tower and lands. The front of the house as it currently stands is at right angles to the first extension from the tower. It now has the appearance of a long five bay gable ended house, probably built in the early 18th Century at right angles to an existing 17th Century house. The interior of the house boasts attractive early 18th Century joinery all of which has been carefully restored over the past five or six years.
Charleville Castle in Tullamore, County Offaly is Ireland’s finest gothic revival castle.
It is considered to be Francis Johnston’s masterpiece, (he also designed the G.P.O in Dublin) and was built between 1798 and 1810. The massive dining room was designed by Sir William Morris.
Ballindoolin House, located five miles (8kms) from Edenderry, was built in 1822 by Dutch descendant, Humphrey Bor. The interior of the house is for the most part in an intact state, with all of its original plasterwork, joinery and fireplaces.
Much of the furniture is of significant historic interest as it was specifically designed and made for the house in 1822 when the Bor family first moved in. The furniture is the work of Mack, Williams and Gibton who were a successful and distinguished firm of Dublin Cabinet-makers in the early nineteenth century.
The walled garden was created with the house in 1822. It was built at the beginning of the modern garden era, as we know it today, before then natural landscapes were popular around large country houses.
Other Ballindoolin facilities include a museum; housed in a former woodwork shop, which displays old estate records and Victorian paraphenelia; nature trail and unusual features such as a lime kiln, dove cote and melon pit.
Ballindoolin gardens are open from May through July, from Wednesday to Sunday, 12 – 6. The house has guided tours of the reception rooms in the afternoon while the gardens are open.
Mossfield Organic Farm
Mossfield Organic Farm is located six miles from Birr in County Offaly at the foot of the Sleive Bloom Mountains. The majority of the farm consists of limestone pasture which produces lush grass interwoven with wild herbs and clover, this provides ideal grazing for the herd of eighty cows. Ralph Haslam has being farming at Mossfield since 1970 and converted to organic farming in 1999. In 2005 Ralph began producing an organic gouda type cheese which has since gone on to win many awards. Now he is looking to expand into other dairy products such as yogurt and ice-cream.
Nature and Wildlife
The Shannon Callows
North of Lough Derg the River Shannon has a very shallow gradient and in parts regularly floods its banks. The resulting wet grassland area, known as the Shannon Callows, is renowned for its wild birds and wildlife generally. It has one of the largest concentrations of breeding waders in these islands with Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew, Sandpiper and Godwit living there. Many species of migrant wildbirds are also frequent visitors while otters, fox and ferret mink are common residents.
Croghan Hill is the remains of an extinct volcano and rises from the Bog of Allen in County Offaly. Though only 232 m high it commands extensive views of the surrounding midland counties, across the flat, low-lying expanse of the Bog of Allen.