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The US president's ancestral home, a world-famous whiskey, and an extinct volcano. What more need we say! Photo by: Getty Images

15 reasons why Offaly is the greatest place in the world (PHOTOS)

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The US president's ancestral home, a world-famous whiskey, and an extinct volcano. What more need we say! Photo by: Getty Images

Alright Cavan, you've had your week in the sun, but that was merely a taster – now it's time for the main event.

Yes, the finest attractions, events, places and people (yours truly included) of the Faithful County are here to show you why Offaly is the greatest place on this planet.

Sure, we may not have the romance or the public toilets of the Breifne County, but when you can claim a President of the United States, a world-famous whiskey, a rock the boat world record and an extinct volcano, it doesn't really matter now, does it?

So if you're planning on visiting Ireland any time soon, here are 15 reasons why you should hop in your car and head inland for a truly unique Irish experience:

1. Rhode, Co Offaly holds the current 'Rock the Boat' world record

While us Offaly men are not generally known for our slick dancefloor moves, we can handle sitting on the ground and rocking from side to side (usually later on in the night). It's just as well really, because the flamenco world record was a tall order to beat.

So on 3 May this year, the people of Rhode and beyond took on their biggest challenge yet: the 'Rock the Boat' world record. They came, all 1,500 of them, in the wind and rain and won the title from Armagh. We haven't stood up since for showing off.

2. We gave birth to US President Barack Obama

Not literally, of course – that would be a medical impossibility but the current US President can trace his ancestry all the way back to the tiny village of Moneygall in the south west of the county. Don't believe us? Here's a sign:

Oh, and he also visited back in 2011. So there.

You wouldn't see him as happy in Cavan, that's for sure.

3. It's home to one of Ireland's only extinct volcanoes...

Standing out like a sore thumb in a county flatter than a steam-rolled pancake, the 234-metre high Croghan Hill commands quite a view over much of the eastern half of the county. But there's a very good reason for its relative isolation. It is the remains of an extinct volcano.

Sadly (thankfully), there's no chance of any Dante's Peak-style shenanigans here since it's been dead for thousands of years, but it does make for a very cool obstacle course.

4. ...and a world-famous whiskey

True story: this writer was in one of those dodgy electronics shops in Times Square, New York back in 2000 when the owner, on hearing we were Irish, asked were we from Tullamore. Not Dublin or Cork, but Tullamore. Now I suspect that the man had never set foot outside Times Square, let alone New York, so we came to the conclusion that he had a fondness for one of Ireland's most popular exports, Tullamore Dew.

The whiskey was first produced in the town in 1829, although sadly that's not the case anymore (it's now made in Middleton, Co Cork). Still, you can visit the excellent visitor's centre in the town centre today, detailing the long and fine tradition of whiskey-making in the Midlands. 

5. We've been around quite a long time

This rather leathery-looking torso belonged to an Iron Age man, who has since become known as the Old Croghan man. The remarkably well-preserved body was found buried in bog near Croghan Hill in 2003 and is estimated to be over 2,000 years old.

According to the National Museum on Dublin's Kildare Street, where he is now on display, the Old Croghan man is believed to have died from a stab wound to the chest. He had been decapitated and his body cut in half. He also has a scar on his arm, possible evidence that he tried to defend himself.

Thankfully, it's much safer nowadays.

6. Offaly's bogs power the island...

While the number of power plants in the county may have dropped significantly in recently years with the decommissioning of Ferbane and Rhode ESB stations, the peat-fired power plants at Edenderry and Shannonbridge (and the hydro-electric station at Belmont) still contribute a significant amount of power to Ireland's national grid (approx one twelfth of all output).

And this looks set to continue in future. Plans to construct thousands of wind-turbines across the county are afoot, meaning we'll be giving the rest of country wind in addition to our hot air for years to come.

7. ...but we respect their beauty

Sure they may sometimes look (and smell) like a recently slurried field, but the bog has an inherent natural beauty – and we're making the most of it.

Thousands of hectares of cutaway bog have been transformed into parkland, like the nature reserve at Boora Bog. It's no Grand Canyon, but we'll take it

8. We were pioneers in the fight against cancer

The man who developed radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer was born in Offaly. Look, I'm just as shocked as you are, but we're going to have to deal with it.

John Joly from Bracknagh was a bit of a whizz-kid when it came to all things science. He's also known for developing techniques to accurately estimate the age of a geological period, based on radioactive something or other.

9. Some of Ireland's finest musicians call Offaly home

We have Mundy…

...Simon Casey...

...and Frantic Jack

Isn't that enough for ya?

10. We're able to laugh at ourselves

We can't do an article about Offaly without acknowledging the big, ignorant elephant in the room.

Yes, I'm talking about BIFFO which, for those of you who are unaware, stands for Big Ignorant Fellow (or another F word) From Offaly. It was also commonly applied to our erstwhile leader Brian Cowen.

But the point is, we can laugh it off – even when it appears in official US diplomatic cables.

11. Birr Castle was home to the world's largest telescope

While the rest of the country was looking into the gutters, Offalians were looking at the stars. The Leviathan of Parsonstown (to give it its official name) was the largest telescope in the world between 1845 and 1917.

12. Clonmacnoise is one of Ireland's most important monastic settlements (and it's in fine nick too)

13. Even ghosts want to live there

Kinnity Castle outside Tullamore and Leap Castle near Birr are often described as two of Ireland's most haunted locations – and both have featured heavily on those ghost-hunting television series too. You know the ones.


14. Offaly is positively balmy at this time of year

If you're looking to catch a few rays, the Faithful County is the place to be. The highest air temperature recorded during the 20th Century was at Boora on 29 June 1976. So how hot are we talking? A scorchio 32.5°C.

15. Edenderry students are the fittest in the country

Students at Oaklands Community College in Edenderry were named the fittest in Ireland earlier this month after a national assessment carried out by DCU and the Wellness Economic Initiative Alliance. The lads and lassies beat out 218 other schools from around the country.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do my crunches.

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