Lough Boora Parklands - Offaly
You cannot get more off the beaten track than at Lough Boora Sculpture Parklands in County Offaly. It is a peat bog (so expect flies) and a special area of conservation which apart from the designated walk/cycle ways is about as wild, natural and peaceful as you are likely to get anywhere in Ireland. Boglands were never particularly attractive before, smacking of hard, hot, sticky work, cutting, stacking and gathering of turf during the summer for winter fuel and largely neglected during the winter, apart from duck shooting on the many lakes and streams that characterize the Midlands. And yet evidence of human habitation has been found here in artifacts dating back to 6000 bc (the oldest in Ireland) And the bogs continue to give up their secrets with the discovery of the perfectly preserved human remains of Croghan Man, which you can see in the National Museum in Dublin as well as evidence of an ancient bog road at Corlea Trackway in Longford, which suggests nearby Clonmacnoise was the social hub of Mesolithic Ireland long before Christianity.
Here at Lough Boora it is easy to imagine what it must have been like back then out in the quiet of this relatively undisturbed, dead flat, bog land with the Slieve Bloom Mountains away off in the distance and only the birds, bees and the butterflies for company. And it is a bird watchers paradise with the last remaining flock of wild grey partridge successfully breeding here again. The whole park is free to walk around but the best way is to explore the parklands is on bikes which are available for hire at the parking lot for just €3 an hour including helmets etc. Not only is it the quickest and easiest but it means those darn flies cannot keep up with you and you get a nice rush of air which can otherwise be very hot, sticky and humid as anyone who has ever spent a day on the bog will tell you. Cleverly too and the main attraction, is its use as a gigantic outdoor sculpture gallery, albeit without the need for lighting, security, maintainance etc. All of the pieces including the Sky Train are permanent fixtures or installation, that stand out and blend in all at once, the artists hand and God's hand. Rusty metal getting rustier and the bog oak more gnarled and silvered as it continues to weather and age. My favourite is a wigwam style structure bog oak with a disappearing stream running through its centre, I hope you get to discover yours....
For more information about bike hire call Pat 00353 86 8895194 although he is on site daily through the summer, he also sells cool drinks & snacks !