Derek Fanning reveals some of the magical and hidden gems of Laois and Offaly, a region that’s often by-passed by people on their way to more famous tourist spots but which nonetheless has as much and more to offer

I have lived all my life in the Georgian town of Birr in South Offaly and have explored much of the surrounding counties. The Midlands is a special region which I have a deep affection and enthusiasm for, and I want to extend that enthusiasm to others.

MIDLANDSCOVER Traditionally many drive straight through the midland counties, on their way to the western seaboard. Some of these travellers dismiss this central region as being dull. How wrong they are! This is a intriguing part of the world with a surprising number of hidden gems.

This is a place which can provide many moments of magic for the visitor, whether it’s walking in wild places, cruising on the waterways, or visiting crumbling, historic ruins.
 Some of the places worth visiting have been extensively documented, so I am not going to talk about them in this article. Instead, I am going to focus a fair bit on a number of less well-known attractions, which are very rewarding places to visit – places such as Mountmellick Museum and Heywood Gardens.

However, not all of the visitor attractions in this article could be called ‘hidden’, because they are successful and well known. These well-documented places include Lough Boora, Clara Bog and the Slieve Blooms, all of which are very beautiful and special attractions.

 If you are visiting Offaly and Laois then have a look at – a site which is full of information about food, entertainment and accommodation.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own