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Enjoy Ireland’s Outdoors at Lough Boora Discovery Park

Peat bogs have long provided the Irish with the sweet smelling fuel visitors look forward to seeing stacked on hearths across the country.   But when the peat has all been cutaway and the land is out of production, what is to be done with it?  Ireland's Lough Boora Discovery Park were once one of the oldest areas of peat production and once “cutaway”, the land was unsuitable for either forestry or farming.  Once a lowland bog, the parklands now welcome visitors to its natural & manmade lakes, wetlands, woodland areas, walkways, and pastureland.  

Burrow Sculpture at Lough Boora parklands, County Offaly, Ireland
Tipplers were once used to empty peat from the wagons as they came in from the bogs. This tippler has found a new use as a covered shelter and sculpture in the Lough Boora parklands.

Visiting the Lough Boora Parklands

Chris, our wonderful hostess at Ardmore Country House B&B had told us of the Lough Boora Parklands the day before we visited.  Our initial plans were to rent bikes that afternoon, but the rain dampened any idea of outdoor pursuits.  As we were preparing to leave the next morning, Chris suggested a quick visit as we made our way west, and pressed a small bag of day-old bread in the girls' hands for the ducks.

With only one wrong turn in the village of Cloghan, we made it to the parklands easily, parking near to the ducks and the sculpture walk.

The Sculpture Walk at Lough Boora Parklands

Snail at Lough Boora, Ireland
My daughters were fascinated by the incredible number of snails we saw. This little guy wasn't as shy as others- he stretched waaayyyy out to get his photo taken.

As we fed the greedy ducks, the cool, overcast morning gave way to a warm, sunny day, encouraging us to enjoy the Sculpture Walk.

Walking along the path, my girls discovered something intriguing: snails.  Loads of them.  And their less attractive cousin, the grub.  Long minutes were spent watching snails stretch their “necks” forward and slowly move their bodies along behind.  It was fascinating!

Promising the girls there would be plenty of snails to see, we set off again.  Not knowing what the sculpture walk entailed, I was incredibly impressed to see the first sculpture, Sky Train.

Sky Train Sculpture at Lough Boora Parklands, County Offaly, Ireland
The sculptures at the Lough Boora Parklands are meant to remind you that this are was once a peat bog and much harvesting was done here. The Sky Train sculpture uses one of the very trains that transported the peat.

As we learned during our walk, the sculptors were inspired by both the natural beauty and industrial history of the land.  While some sculptures left me scratching my head, others touched me deeply.  

The girls loved climbing through the trio of triangles that create 60 Degrees (where we found more snails!) and running through the swirling chambers of Ruaille Bauille.  I could have spent hours just watching the play of the sun and clouds move over Cycles while Bog Track, a collection of standing black oak bog wood, was incredibly emotional, seeming to draw me back into the bog's- and Ireland's- past.

Ruaille Buaille sculpture at Lough Boora, County Offlay, Ireland
This willow tree walk way of hallways and swirling chambers was a favorite during our visit to Lough Boora. My girls said it felt like being a rabbit.
60 Degrees Sculpture at Lough Boora Parklands, County Offaly, Ireland
I'm not really a fan of modern art; I really prefer art that I can understand. I like this sculpture at Lough Boora. Not only is it created from disussed railway tracks, sleepers and steel, but it is interactive; both with visitors (my girls loved climbing on it) and with itself- the triangles interact with each other by using the movements of the sun throughout the day.
Bog Track Sculpture at Lough Boora Parklands, County Offaly
The sculptures at Lough Boora Parklands draw from the history of the land. Once heavily forested, these old black bog oak stand as a reminder.

Other Activities at Lough Boor Parklands

The Lough Boora Parklands offer an outdoors escape for families.  Walk or bike the pathways.  Bike rental is available by full or half day; you can even rent trailers if the kids aren't able to ride on their own.  A Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) site has been discovered in the parklands and can be visited along the Mesolithic Walk.  Or bring a picnic and just enjoy natural Ireland's abundant plant and animal life; the Lough Boora Parklands are a terrific place for bird watching.

Our time at the Lough Boora Parklands was too short.  We didn't see all the sculptures, nor did we make it to the Mesolithic site.  Both terrific reasons to return to this inviting area in the heart of Ireland.

Visit Lough Boora parklands, County Offaly, Ireland

Jody Halsted
Follow Along

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  1. Pingback: Art, History and Room to Roam at Lough Boora Parklands | Ireland Travel Kit