When people think about vacations in Ireland they inevitably think about
the coastal counties of Kerry, Cork & Galway and of course the big smoke
Dublin. The ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher and Connemara are always
amongst the first attractions to spring to mind for first time visitors
to the Emerald Isle. The midlands region of Offaly, Roscommon and east
Galway where I am from is an often forgotten region – that has so much
to offer to travelers whether they be young backpackers or families with
children or other visitors.
Since I moved to Boston from my home in Moore, Roscommon 15 years ago I
have returned each year at least once and I have seen how it has evolved
and changed and developed over those years. During those years I have
grown and my perspective has changed also. A 2 week trip is no longer a
chance to hang with family and friends now that I have an entourage of
husband and 2 young daughters.
Now instead of shopping with my sisters in Galway city and Athlone town
Center (which I still enjoy) I am always on the look out for interesting
places to bring the kids. In 2007 they really enjoyed the interactive
experience at Athlone Castle. The interactive historical exhibition was very interesting and kids loved being in a “castle” and playing on the canons. And what a view of the Shannon from the castle ramparts.
Birr Castle, is today the oldest inhabited dwelling in County Offaly and home of world famous telescope. The big attraction is also their beautiful Gardens (my sister had her wedding photographs done here), contain over 1000 species of different shrubs from all over the world.
During the summer of 2006 we visited the Bog Train in Offaly. What kid doesn’t love a ride on a train? And this one is special – the train which is a bit of a boneshaker will bring you out on a working bog and at the same time you’ll get a running history from a guide.
You’ll get a chance to get out and walk the bog also. The kids will love it.
Nearby the Bog Train is the historically important monastic site of
Clonmacnoise. This one should not be missed. It consists of a Round
Tower and ruins of seven churches numerous high crosses and a wonderful
interpretive center. This was the site of the mass celebrated in Ireland by Pope John Paul II during his 1979 trip to Ireland. The view of the River Shannon which dominates the midlands region is spectacular.
For anyone looking for a water based vacation you could rent a cruiser on the River Shannon for 3 – 7 days. This is unique way to spend a holiday.
For history buffs there is the Battle of Aughrim Interpretive Center.
Aughrim was the site of the bloodiest battle ever fought on Irish soil
with Irish and French troops being defeated by a combination British,
Dutch, Danish and French Huguenot troops. Anyone interested in Irish
history should put this one on their itinerary.
Other places of interest are Glendeer Petting Farm just west of Athone off the N6.of . Your admission includes you two brown bags of animal feed to feed the wide variety of animals. Shopping for every taste at the new Athlone Town Center. For the golfer there a fantastic golf course over looking the water at the Hodson Bay Hotel
I hope you’ll enjoy the midlands as much as I do during your trip to