Romantic waterfalls, heather-flecked boglands and canal bank walks – these trails around Tullamore and along the Grand Canal are some of the island’s best kept secrets.
Beginning in Dublin and spanning counties Offaly, Laois and Kildare, the Grand Canal weave its way along rich forests, snaking through idyllic towns and criss-crossing sister waterways. Around its banks lie rare regions of blanket bog, the gentle slopes of the Slieve Bloom mountains, and the peaty terrain of Lough Boora Parklands decked in works of art. Flora and fauna flourish here, and nature lovers will relish the sights and sounds of wildlife on branches, brambles and bogland. Stroll along the canal, hike the rolling peaks of one of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe and enjoy laid-back ambles surrounded by nature. No matter where you go, you're sure to fall in love with the ever-changing landscape.
Slieve Bloom Mountains
Welcome to one of County Offaly's most tranquil spots. The Slieve Bloom Mountains are a staggering 400 million years old – making them one of Europe's oldest mountain ranges. In place of craggy summits, you'll find rounded peaks of blanket bog. And it's easy to see why legends of boy warriors, hidden heroes and buried treasure are part of its heritage. Take on the long-distance walk of the Slieve Bloom Way from Kinnitty, Cadamstown or Clonaslee; explore the National Nature Reserve where Sika deer, wild goats, foxes and badgers roam; and discover hidden streams, moss-covered ruins and stunning views.
Lough Boora Parklands
Art imitates life in the ancient boglands of Offaly's Lough Boora Parklands. This conserved region dates back 10,000 years, and traces of its Mesolithic past can be seen to this day. All abilities are catered for, with cycle trails ranging from 6km to 15.8km and walks spanning 3.3km to 15.8km in length. No matter the path you take, the dramatic artwork placed around the park and its lakes is sure to catch your eye. Paying homage to man's relationship with the bog, artists carved sculptures with locomotives, rail-line and timber allowing nature to claim and tarnish the pieces in vivid rusty shades. And if you're lucky, you might even spot a pixie or two in Fairy Avenue.
Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop
Nestled within the verdant Slieve Bloom Mountains between counties Offaly and Laois lies beautiful Glenbarrow. As the source of the River Barrow – Ireland's second longest river – it's only fitting that its location is so enchanting. The Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop is a 4km-long walk leading you through forest trails and timber walkways along to the cascading beauty of Glenbarrow Waterfall. This three-tiered beauty falls in waves over red sandstone slabs, adding to the water's peat-tinted tone. Standing here, you'll feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of life, as the sound of the flowing waters fill the air and birds call across the tall tree boughs. Further along, there's a showstopping viewpoint which looks down at the idyllic green valley.
Clara Bog Nature Reserve
Clara Bog Nature Reserve dates back thousands of years and was created by glaciers during the Ice Age. Today, it's hard to imagine those ancient hulks of ice when faced with waves of vivid heather scattered amongst this rare raised bogland. Situated just outside the town of Clara in County Offaly, the 1km-long boardwalk meanders through this gorgeous terrain, where you might spot Ireland's only native land reptile – the viviparous lizard – sunning itself on the pathway. Dragonflies buzz past and the bird calls of curlew, snipe and skylarks hang in the air as the bogland stretches out as far as the eye can see.
Charleville Forest Walk
There's something really special about Charleville Forest – and it's not just the fact that it leads to a castle. Roots (literally) run deep in this woodland, which is populated by ancient oak trees. The most impressive tree of them all lies right inside the entrance gateway and is said to be over 400 years old; known as the King Oak, it's sprawling boughs stretch across the forest floor in all directions. Legend has it that once a branch fell from the tree, a member of the Bury family – the original owners of Charleville Castle – happened to die under mysterious circumstances. And it's a superstition that held true for several generations…
The Offaly Way
The Offaly Way is a mix of wilderness and quaint townlands where time moves at a slower pace. This 38km route is accessible via five key trailheads, allowing you to dip into this leafy escape at your own convenience. Visitors can walk or bike along the route, taking in highlights like Boora Bog, the glorious viewpoint atop Knock Hill, and the bird watchers' paradise known as Turraun Nature Reserve – home to a flock of some 200 Whooper swans.