Whether you’re visiting Tullamore and the Grand Canal for one, two or three days, we’ve got some great ideas for what to do, see and enjoy!
In Tullamore, keep your eyes peeled for The Foxy Bean on Bridge Street. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of spot but the small cosy interior with soothing views of the river are worth seeking out. You’ll find a great selection of sweet and savoury breakfasts plus excellent coffee. Tuck in to eggs Benedict, indulgent waffles or a stack of pancakes to fuel you for the day ahead. From here it’s a five-minute walk to Tullamore D.E.W. Heritage Centre, set on the banks of the Grand Canal. Embark on the fascinating tour, where your guide will tell you the inspiring story of Daniel E Williams – stable boy-turned distillery manager – who blended this world-famous whiskey almost two centuries ago. Discover the secrets behind the art of whiskey making, explore exhibitions and artefacts, and round off your journey with a tasting experience.
Right next door you’ll find Buckley’s Cycles. Hire a bike for the afternoon and set off along the marshy banks of the canal, heading west following the flat, gentle trail of the Grand Canal Way. Whirling by the crumbling ruins of Srah Castle and Ballycowan Castle, it’s hard to believe that powerful draft horses once used this towpath to pull barges laden with goods and passengers to the River Shannon further ahead.
Past the quaint villages of Rahan and Pollagh lies the art-laden landscape of Lough Boora Discovery Park. If you’re feeling peckish, drop in to the on-site coffee shop where tasty cakes, pastries and sandwiches with sate your appetite. Afterwards, explore by bike or set off on foot to discover the park’s glassy lakes, heather-flecked boglands and wildlife. Each trail offers something different and traces of the region’s Mesolithic past can be found along the routes, amid sculptures forged from locomotives, rail-line and timber – a tribute to the relationship between man and marshland.
Put the peddle to the metal again as you follow the towpath back to Tullamore. Park up the bike and grab a stool at The Brewery Tap on High Street to enjoy a well-deserved pint. It’s easy to see why this pub is a favourite with locals: cosy snugs, open fires and walls decked with pictures and knick-knacks all add to the charm. If you’re lucky, there may be a live traditional music session in full swing.
Dinner awaits just a short walk away on Harbour Street at the award-winning Blue Apron Restaurant. Lush, warm décor is paired with beautifully presented European-inspired dishes and the wine list is just as impressive.
For a magical insight into Tullamore’s past, book a guided tour of Charleville Castle, which lies deep within ancient oak woodlands on the edge of town. Saved from ruin by current owners the Vance family and many passionate volunteers, this fairytale fortress amazes visitors with its grand oak staircase, intricate architectural design and colourful history. Standing tall for over 200 years, it was once home to the Earl of Charleville. From devastating fires to ghostly spirits, and glittering balls to visits from Lord Byron himself, it’s a real gem in County Offaly’s crown.
Just an hour’s drive away in County Kildare lies Castletown House – Ireland’s first and largest Palladian-style mansion. Before exploring, stop at the Courtyard Café, where chequered floors and a rustic style set the tone. Tempting treats include creamy seafood chowder, chargrilled halloumi salad and a mouth-watering display of cakes and pastries. Take a guided tour of this sumptuous 18th century manor, built by William Connoly, speaker of the Irish House of Commons, taking in the beauty of the curious Print Room and opulent Long Room. Fascinating exhibitions display original furniture, dreamy paintings and a collection of period costumes and toys. Afterwards, take a leisurely stroll across the estate’s vast parklands, where forest trails and lakeside strolls span some 540 acres.
Onwards from Celbridge, drive half an hour south to the town of Sallins where the leafy banks of the Grand Canal come into view. Hop on board a lovingly restored traditional barge on a tour with Bargetrip.ie. Cruising east from Sallins along the canal’s serene waters, your knowledgeable guide will fill you in on the history of this stretch of the waterway, as you float past quiet countryside under humpback bridges. Wildlife flourishes here with herons, moorhen and mallards a common sight along the banks. The final destination before your return to Sallins is McCreevy’s Lock, forged by sheer manpower all those years ago.
Back in Tullamore, local favourite Captain House Restaurant continues your water-based theme for the evening, with maritime touches adorning the dining area along with a large aquarium. Choose from an impressive array of seafood dishes as well as classics such as rack of lamb, fillet steak and pasta carbonara.
The beauty of a stay in Tullamore means that you’re quiet literally at the heart of it all in this part of the island, so it’ll come as no surprise that a change of scenery, from waterways to mountain peaks, is just a short drive away. The patchwork slopes of the Slieve Blooms may not be your typical towering crests but what they lack in height they more than make up for in sheer beauty. As one of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe, this ancient blanket bog landscape is perfect terrain for cyclists and walkers alike. Set off on the Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop for an enchanting mix of lush forest trails, boardwalks through soaring trees and a spectacular viewpoint gazing down into the verdant valley where the river flows below. The three-tiered beauty of Glenbarrow Waterfall is seen before its heard, as the cascading water falls in veils over red sandstone slabs and downstream. On a sunny day, the peat-tinted waters shimmer in the light and the birdsong of snipes and curlews fill the air.
Drive east for 20 minutes and the mesmerising sight of Kinnitty Castle Hotel comes into view. This 19th-century gothic revival beauty reveals opulent interiors complete with suits of armour and twinkling chandeliers. Journey underground to the Dungeon Bar, where delicious food and live music are the order of the day in a traditional pub setting.
Half an hour away in the town of Daingean, Grand Canal Adventures allows visitors to have some fun on the water. For a good laugh, be sure to try zorbing, and (almost) walk on water as you roll over the surface. Kayak down the canal, test your endurance in a row boat and find your balance with stand-up paddle boarding as the waterway’s wonderful wildlife unfolds around you. Swans glide gracefully by as moorhens and blue tits chatter on the banks and the rest of the world seems to fade away.
Wrap up an action-packed day with a delicious meal at Browne’s On the Green in the cute little village of Tyrellspass just ten minutes north of Daingean. Situated in a 19th century house, this characterful family-run restaurant is well-known for its flavoursome fare, live music and welcoming atmosphere. There’s no better place to toast to the end of your trip