Offaly, part of the Irish Heartlands, is accessible from almost anywhere in Ireland and offers superb top-notch outdoor activities. Take to the skies, water, mountains and trails – if you’re looking for a thrilling adventure, you’ve come to the right place. In search of thrills in the heart of Ireland, here are our top 3 thrill activities.
The majestic Slieve Bloom Mountains, which stretch between Offaly and Laois, are home to 80km of new mountain bike trails, with more in development. Trailheads are at Kinnitty and Baunreagh and the marked trails, which cross the mountains and through the forest, have a choice of two levels.
There is the blue ‘Mountain Top’ trail, which is difficult, with many challenging sections across the road. The total distance of this route is 10 km, with 220 meters of elevation gain, but cyclists have the option of taking a shorter blue loop which reduces the distance to 6 km, with 150 m of elevation gain.
The red trail, also known as the “River Run”, is 30 km in total and is more difficult, with 220 meters of climbing and tricky descents. The red route reconnects to the blue route and you can tackle both if you’re really looking for a challenge! Bikes available to hire from Slieve Bloom Mountain Bike Center and Bloom ERiders based in the heart of Kinnitty. Guided mountain bike tours are available, if you really want to get to know the mountain.
Offaly Horse Riding
Another way to absorb the beauty of the Slieve Bloom mountains is on horseback. Birr Equestrian Centre, which has been welcoming riders and horse enthusiasts for over 35 years, operates a riding center on the grounds of Kinnitty Castle. Rides can be tailored to the needs of beginners or advanced riders, and you’ll have panoramic views of rivers, waterfalls, valleys, woods, and mountains.
Another equestrian adventure worth checking out is Annaharvey Farm in Tullamore, with its expansive cross-country course on the 380-acre farm and woods. There are a variety of horse riding options to choose from including pony camps, adult camps, group riding and bespoke riding holidays.
Offaly Water Sports and Cruising
There are a range of exhilarating water sports you can enjoy on the River Shannon. For example, try a two-hour guided stand-up paddle safari with Mid Ireland Adventure Tours (with a 4.9-star rating on Trip Advisor), from their base in Banagher on the Shannon. It’s a unique way to explore Ireland’s inland waterways, while spending the day doing something different. A two-hour kayak safari is another great way to experience the Shannon and you can choose between a single or double kayak. As well as taking in the river views, you’ll see Cromwell’s Castle, Martello Tower, Banagher Bridge, and Bullock Island.
Speaking of water activities, why not enjoy the tranquil waters of the River Shannon, Ireland’s longest river, aboard a cruise ship? Based in Banagher on the Shannon, Silverline Cruisers and Carrickcraft offer cruisers for hire and you can go your own way, discovering the many towns and historic sites along the Shannon. If you head north you can visit Shannonbridge, a popular angling destination, and the famous monastic site of Clonmacnoise and Athlone. Head south and you can stop at Portumna, home to Portumna Castle and Gardens, and Killaloe, where you’ll be treated to magnificent views of Lough Derg, the Shannon’s freshwater lake.
Do you have what it takes to jump from an airplane, 10,000 feet above the ground at a speed of 200 km/h, before descending by parachute, over the green fields and hills of the Midlands ? If you do, keep reading! Skydiving is not for the faint-hearted, but Edenderry-based company Irish Parachute Club have 56 years experience in sport parachuting and all abilities are catered for, from beginner jumpers to seasoned skydivers.
The price depends on the type of skydive you choose, but your tandem master will brief you on all phases of your jump and ensure that you get the most out of the experience, while taking every precaution to ensure safety .
Finally, hiking is very popular in Offaly, especially in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, which have been mentioned in Lonely Planet’s top 12 trails in Ireland.
There are a variety of loop trails that will take you through forest trails, wooded valleys and around mountains, and there is something for all levels of fitness and ability.
If you want a challenge, try the 11km Giant’s Tomb Loop, which is rated “strenuous” and takes about two hours and 30 minutes. This trail starts in Cadamstown and takes you to Giant’s Grave, the remains of a megalithic tomb believed to be the resting place of the ancient warrior Bladhma, after whom the Slieve Bloom Mountains are named.
Croghan Hill, which is the remnant of an extinct volcano located just outside the village of Croghan, is another popular hiking spot. While Croghan Hill is only 232m high, there are stunning views of the countryside when you reach the top and it’s not too strenuous a climb. It only takes about 20 minutes to reach the top.