County Offaly is one of the many counties located in Ireland – (pronounced as Contae Uibh Fhailí in Irish). It is located in the Leinster province, which is a part of the Midlands Region. The Irish name of this country stems from the ancient kingdom of Uí Failghe, though, before becoming County Offaly, the land was known officially known as King’s County. In the 2016 census, it was recorded that the total population of Country Offaly was 78,003, and the people are ruled under the local authority – which is known as Offaly County Council.
County Offaly is filled with a rich history, one of the oldest recorded settlements that were known in the county goes by the name of Boora Bog – which dates all the way back to the Mesolithic era. Although, through careful examination of the excavations that took place on the land shows that the settlement was more than likely temporary in nature. The conclusion came from the fact that no set structures were set and by the array of scattered arrowheads, stone axes, and broken blades. These items are assumed to date anywhere from 6,800-6,000 BCE.
Additionally, other items, such as the Dowris Hoard was found in the midst of a bog, which was located in Dowris, Whigsborough, an area located nearby Birr. It is estimated that the Hoard was from the Late Bronze Age. It holds the impressive record of being the largest number of scattered items of the Bronze Age to be found in Ireland. In total, there were nearly 200 items found, where 190 of them were undestroyed. These items were separated so that 111 ended up in the National Museum of Ireland while the remaining 79 were sent to the British Museum. The items consisted of a cluster of axes (43), trumpets (24), and crotals (44) (A crotal is a bell/chime like instrument which is only found in Ireland). One of the highlights was a bronze bucket which was solely contrasted from sheets of bronze welded together – the other two buckets which were found are considered to originate from the nearby native colonies.
The history o the country itself stems from an attempt by the English crown to expand its influence in Ireland, which is how Laois and Offaly came into existence. The reasoning behind the creation was motivated by the decline in the English power, which was shown to happen greatly after the Norman Conquest of Ireland. Despite the importance of the countries, both Offaly and Laois, which was formally known as Leix, were considered to be smaller scale petty kingdoms in the Gaelic Irish region, which happens to be located closely to Pale. Pale has a rich history of being willfully loyal to the English Crown, even after Norman’s Conquest.
Most of the country was ruled over by the Kingdom of Firceall, which was ruled by the well-known O’Molloy clean. The kingdoms were not connected back then as Firceall was considered to be a branch of the Kingdom of Meath, while Offaly was considered to be a branch of the Leinster kingdom. Back then, most of the southern region of Offaly was ruled by Ó Cearbhaill of Éile. Which was originally formed to be a part of the Munster Kingdom. Though in due time, the petty kingdoms were disregarded by the Tudor plantations. It was not until 1556 that the Parliament of Ireland created a new Act which deemed “King’s County” to be an official area of land. The new county name originated from the king of Ireland at the time, King Phillip. This act slowly dissolved the past baronies and replaced them with the now current day County System. Despite being officially known as Offaly, there was no official legislation which changed the name from King’s Country – which is the current, legal name of the country.
Geography and Political Subdivisions
To date, Offaly is considered to be the 18th largest country out of the 32 located in Ireland and holds the title of being 24th in regards to the population. In a more specific light, it is considered to be the 5th largest out of all of the Leinster counties – which includes 12 – and has the 10th largest in population matters.
The county town, which doubles as being the largest of the towns in Offaly is called Tullamore. Offaly is surrounded by several other counties, some of which are popular tourist hotspots: Laois, Meath, Galway, Tipperary, Roscommon, and Kildare. Also, in Offaly, the Slieve Boom Mountain range can be clearly seen in the distance. The mountain range is home to some of the highest points including Wolftrap and Stillbrook Hill and. Another scenic spot in the county is located in the northern region and is called Croghan Hill.
In the north-western section of the country, the River Shannon can be spotted. Along with that, the River Camcor travels throughout the county and can be spotted in both Birr and can be walked alongside in the Wild Trout Conservation. Additionally, the country is no stranger to stunning nature as several additional rivers run through separate parts. The Brosna river spans across from Lough Owel to Shannon Harbor. While the Silver River spans across several towns and villages. Offaly is home to a variety of small-scale lakes and swamplands.
The landscape in Offaly is mainly composed of flatlands and has a respuitation for having a variety of bogs and peatlands. These bogs and peatlands cover nearly 21% of the land mass in Offaly – though that can be viewed through tourist tours and walk when the water is low. The most well-known bogs in the county are the Bog of Allen, Boora Bog, Clara Bog, and the Raheenmore Bog.
While bogs and rivers are the norms in Offaly, the county is home to thousands of acres of forest, and which unlike the bogs, it only amounts to around 4.5% of the total landmass area. This number also includes the woodlands found in the Sileve Blooms as well as the Parklands in Lough Boora. Though, a majority of the woodland area, 75% to be exact, is considered to stem from the vast Conifer High Forest.
Listed below are the towns and villages located in the county:
Local Government and Politics
As mentioned before, the local authority in Offaly is known as the Offaly County Council. The council is tasked with being responsible for an array of duties which can range from cultural and social services, housing and housing policies, economically related duties, taxing, as well as the internal structure in Offaly.
In 2014, the Local Government Reform Act was passed which changed the number of councillors .in the council from 21 to 19. Additionally, the electoral areas were changed to be set at three, which means Tullamore will only have seen members, Edenderry will have 6 members, and Birr will have only 6 members. Before the chance, there was another electoral area located in Ferbane which hosted four members.
Until 2011, Offaly’s general elections were considered to be a part of the Laois-Offaly community instead of being its own separate being. This was the norm for decades since 1921. Though in the 2011 election, some of the southern regions in Offaly were instead to considered to be attached to the Tipperary North. In 2013, another major change was created when the Electoral Act was established. This will be the final change from separating the Laois-Offaly elections to instead allowing the creation of 24 new electoral divisions.
Interesting Places in Offaly
• A shrew of wildlife can be found in the Boora Bog. A large number of Irish grey partridge’s can be found here.
• An ancient mummy was discovered in Croghan Hill, which is nearly 230 meters high. The mummy was dubbed as the Croghan Bog Man and is displayed at the National History Museum.
• Birr Theatre and Arts Centre
• Birr, which is located in the southern part of the country, is home to an impressive castle and garden mixture, which is officially known as Birr Castle. The castle is formally owned by the Parson Family, who proudly bears the cross of Earl of Rosse. Though, the real attention grabber is the 19th century styled telescope called the Leviathan of Parsontown.
• Charleville Castle located in Tullamore
• Clara Bog Nature Reserve
• Clonmacnoise is home to an ancient Christian monastic site which ancient Irish High Crosses can be viewed.
• Durrow Abbey and High Cross
• Georgian Birr
• Kinnitty Castle
• Leap Castle
• Scenic views of both Offaly and Laois can be seen from the Sileve Bloom Mountain range.
• Sculpture in the Parklands.
• The former U.S president, Barak Obama, ancestral home is located in Moneygall – which has a fitting visitor center which is called Obama Plaza.
• The Old Churches of Rahan and Lynally
• Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre