County Offaly is dead centre between Dublin and Galway. Known for its raised bogs, its often overlooked as a staycation destination but there’s loads to do and see in the county.
The Slieve Bloom Mountains are located in the south of the county and lie half way between Belfast and Cork and half way between Donegal and Rosslare so they really are in the heart of Ireland and just a few hours away from all major urban centres.
We were heading to Kinnitty Castle Hotel and looking forward to enjoying some of the many local walks and sights.
Kinnitty Castle Hotel
The present castle dates back to 1630 but there was a settlement here long before that – there was a castle and abbey on the site from about 350AD. Throughout its history it has been destroyed, confiscated and rebuilt several times. Since 1994, it has served as a 37 bedroom hotel.
The Dungeon Bar has live music sessions on Fridays and Saturdays.
The castle grounds…
Druids once inhabited the area and there is a stone circle close to the castle.
The 3 course dinner costs €45 or €40 for half board residents.
Lamb 3 ways..
Breakfast is served in the same room and there’s an opportunity to enjoy the views.
There are a number of trails leading directly from the hotel. You can wander along by the river bank if you don’t have much time or head off on one of the forest walks – there are 2 marked loop trails – 5km and 8km. We opted for the 8km walk – the going is moderate and at an easy pace it took about 2 hours to complete.
The routes are well marked.
After a gradual and easy ascent, the woodland changes to conifer plantation.
The forest floor looks almost eerie in places…
Plant species vary along the walk
We met a few cyclists and spotted a deer in the distance… otherwise, we had the place to ourselves.
The path opens out to reveal the Slieve Bloom foothills.
This ancient monastic site lies 40km from Kinnitty. Open all the year round, you will see 3 high crosses, 7 churches, a cathedral and 2 round towers. There are exhibitions and audiovisual presentations in the visitors’ centre. The entrance fee is €8 and there are guided tours available.
Just 14km from Kinnitty, Birr Castle has been owned by the Parsons family since 1620. A €9 entrance fee gives you access to the gardens, great telescope and science centre. The castle itself is still occupied by the family so only limited access is granted ( some reception rooms can be visited on mornings during the summer months).
The grounds are lovely for a walk and the gardens include many rare trees and flowers collected by the family from around the world.
The great telescope was built in the 1840’s by the then earl and remained the biggest in the world for 70 years. At the science centre, you can learn how the telescope was built. The earl’s wife was a keen photographer so there is a visual record from that era.
We didn’t get to Birr this time but we were there in February on a lovely bright but cold day…..
Also in County Offaly
Tullamore Dew Distillery
Lough Boora Discovery Park
Clara Bog Boardwalk
Hotel breaks in the likes of Kinnitty Castle might be reserved for special occasions but you can visit Offaly any time – in February we stayed in Birr in The County Arms on a Groupon deal.
If staying in Birr or just visiting, the Woodfield Cafe and Garden Centre is lovely for lunch.