One-fifth of Offaly’s land area is covered by bog. Throughout Europe, ancient peatlands like these have largely disappeared, but the Irish Midlands still have plenty around to prove just how abundant in wildlife these mysterious places can be.
Full of intricate ecosystems and exotic flora and fauna, bogs are little universes unto themselves. Take Clara – despite being only 460 hectares in size, it’s one of the best remaining examples of an intact raised bog in western Europe.
The new visitor centre here tells a story some 10,000 years in the making – from the bog’s genesis in an ancient lake to the famine roads dug by 19th century labourers, to the sphagnum moss and sundew plants spread across it today.
Another fascinating link to history was discovered in the boglands near Crochan Hill – an Iron Age “bog body” known as Old Croghan Man, estimated to be over 2,000 years old. Now on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, Croghan Man is believed to have died from a stab wound.