County Offaly (from the Irish, Contae Uíbh Fhailí), bordering seven other counties, is well-connected. The Slieve Bloom Mountains to the south connect Offaly to County Laois, while the waters of the River of Brosna run all the way from County Westmeath into Shannon Harbour.
The county is, furthermore, well-connected to history and the monastery at Clonmacnoise was once the most renowned and spirited in all of Ireland for its intimate fellowship with the kings of Connacht, Meath andTara. High crosses and towers, spanning a millennium of time, litter the courtyards of the site’s many temples. The finest of which, the Cross of the Scriptures built during the early 10th century, is engraved with biblical displays of the Crucifixion, the Last Judgement and the tomb of Christ.
The ancient Seffin Stone in the town of Birr, also known as “the navel of Ireland,” is said to have once placed the centre of the entire country. Birr Castle, a twenty minute walk from the stone, has been occupied by theParsons family since 1620 and is rich with personality. Richard Parsons(1st Earl of Rosse) was the first recorded Grand Master of the Freemasons and was one of the founders of the unsaintly Hell- Fire Club. William Parsons (3rd Earl of Rosse) was an obsessive astronomer who in 1845 built the Leviathan, which was in its time the world’s largest telescope. The Historic Science Centre, housed within the castle workshops, offers tours around the wondrous telescope, which is centred in the Demesne. Although the castle is closed to the public, its award-winning grounds and gardens of magnolia are open for perusal.
Unmissable Attractions County Offaly
1. Birr Castle Demesne (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. in summer / Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. in winter)
2. The Historic Science Centre, housed within the castle workshops, offers tours around the wondrous telescope, which is centred in the Demesne.
3. Birr Theatre and Arts Centre (The box office at the Birr Theatre is open Monday to Friday from 1.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.)
4. Leap Castle, Ireland’s most haunted, is open to visitors on request
8. The Lough Boora Parklands are open to the general public all year round.