Be Our Guest 2018

94 Be Our Guest Ireland’sMidland is waiting to be discovered.The heart of the country is rich in natural beauty, historical landmarks and activities to keep young travellers occupied. Slieve Bloom Mountains – Laois/Offaly The Slieve Bloom mountain range will satisfy any nature lover, walking/hiking enthusiast, budding photographer or wannabe explorer. Only an hour’s drive from Dublin, Slieve Bloom provides 16 walking trails from 6 different trail heads, and if that’s not enough there are two walking festivals in May & July. The mountain range also caters for horse-riding and biking for those looking for something a little different. There are also a number of key heritage sites around the Slieve Bloom range including Monaincha Abbey, Heywood Gardens, Roscrea Heritage, Lough Boora and the Rock of Dunamase. Rock of Dunamase – Laois A visit to the Rock of Dunamase will provide you with two key features. The first is the settlement itself which was raided by Vikings in 842 but later became an Anglo-Norman fortress until being destroyed in 1650. The second highlight of this visit will be the spectacular views of the countryside; including that of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. Leap Castle – Offaly Offaly is home to a selection of pristine castles, Kinnity Castle, Birr Castle and Charleville Castle all worth a visit for their surrounding parkland alone. But Leap Castle offers something different, along with its bloody history it brings with it the title of Ireland’s Most Haunted Castle. The exterior is both spectacular and eerie, and tours by Castle resident Sean Ryan will include his experiences of the sounds of footsteps, doors opening and closing and voices talking from the spirits of the castle. Killua Castle – Westmeath What connects a former King of Spain, Lawrence of Arabia and the Westmeath village of Clonmellon? Killua Castle. The existing structure was built in the 1780’s by the Chapman family where the family would remain until the early 1900’s when Robert Tighe Chapman would move to Britain and father several children including T.E Lawrence who would later become better known as Lawrence of Arabia. After the castle fell into ruin, former King of Spain Juan Carlos stepped in, in 1999, and began to restore the fine structure that is seen today. The castle is open to the public on Saturdays and available for visits by appointment on other days. Bike Park Ireland – Roscrea, Tipperary This is certainly an attraction brimming with excitement and perfect for adrenaline junkies. Roscrea is home to Ireland’s largest bike park where you and your bike will be transported to the top of each of the parks trails where you can then test your skills on a trail of your choice. When you reach the bottom, you will be met by the Bike Park Ireland team who will bring you back up again to test another trail.