6. Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre (www.tullamoredew.com/heritage-centre), Tullamore – To learn more about Irish whiskey, take a 45-minute guided tour of this visitor centre, housed in the original Tullamore Dew Distillery on the Grand Canal. You’ll also learn how Tullamore Dew got its name, using the initials of one of the 19th century whiskey-makers (Daniel E. Williams). At the end of the tour, a sample of Tullamore Dew awaits all adult visitors.
7. Lough Boora Parklands (www.loughbooraparklands.com) – This is a vast open bog parkland between Birr and Tullamore, with looped walks, fishing lakes, wildlife sanctuaries, and a 50-acre outdoor sculpture trail.
8. Leap Castle, Clareen – situated south of Birr, this old fortress, once the home of the O’Carroll clan, is considered as “the most haunted castle in Ireland.” It is open to visitors by request (tel. 057-913-1115)
9. Charleville Castle – located about one mile south of Tullamore, this castle is a fine 19th century gothic-revival building set in Charleville Forest. A majestic oak tree on the grounds is the oldest in Ireland. It is the setting each year for the Castle Palooza Music Festival (www.castlepalooza.com). This year’s dates are July 31 & August 1.
10. Ballinahown Irish Designer Craft Village (www.irishdesignercraftvillage.com), Ballinahown – Straddling the border of Counties Offaly and Westmeath, this local craft enterprise makes the most of being located in the middle of the boglands. It is home to several artisans including the Celtic Roots Studio, producer of sculptured bog oak statues and jewelry. The products are made from thousands-of-years-old oak and yew trees naturally preserved in the bog, and then retrieved and fashioned into unique sculpted carvings. Take home a piece of the bog!
Patricia (Pat) Preston has written 23 travel books (15 about Ireland). Her latest book, Ireland Travel 101 (http://www.IrelandTravel101.com) has just won 1st Place in the Travel Guide category of the North American Travel Journalists Association annual competition. Visit Pat’s web site (http://www.IrelandExpert.com).