Lough Boora Parklands, Co. Offaly

After last weekend’s enthusiastic, if not slightly foolhardy, attempt at a ‘Moderate’ 5k loop walk, taking in the summit of the Devil’s Bit mountain…I set my sights on some flatter terrain for this outing.  Lough Boora Parklands fitted the bill perfectly!

Lough Boora 01

I’ve driven past a few times, but I’ve never stopped there.  Looking on the website, there seemed to be a few walking options, so we packed a picnic, loaded the dog with the best stamina (Dolly) and decided to make a full day of it.

We decided to have a stroll around the Sculpture Park first and do the 3km Sculpture Park Loop.  I think this such a wonderful idea, massive art sculptures in the middle of wilderness and wetlands.  A fascinating way to enhance a public amenity.

If I could offer any criticism at all it would be that once you’ve left the trailhead, the direction markers are non-existent, and its not always clear which way you’re meant to go.  The loop walk map indicates we should have crossed the bridge and turned right at this point…but doing this would miss out several sculptures further up the trail to the left?  In the end we did turn left, but I’m still not convinced we saw all the Sculptures?
And one more issue was the bridges we came across.  We had to carry our dog across the bridges.  This metal grid work, with the raised serrated ridges on it, might be marvellous for being less slippery for the human visitors, but it is horrific for dog paws!  The signs we saw claimed that dogs on leads were welcome, but these bridges were most definitely notdog-friendly.  If our dog had been any bigger/heavier it would have been a struggle to carry her across, and any alternative route would have involved a fairly lengthy detour.

Sculpture Walk 14  Sculpture Walk 15
 Which way now?  Not so nice for dog paws…!

Back to the car park for tea & sambos…and a quick conflab on a change of plan for the afternoon.
It was Easter, so we scoffed home-made Creme-Egg brownies too…so much for my diet!  My version of Kendal Mint Cake, if you like 🙂

Lough Boora 09

The change of plan was due to the HUGE and very clear “No Dogs” signs on the gate at the entrance to the Farmlands Loop, which was my original plan for our afternoon walk.  A lovely,  flat (very important!) 7km loop walk, graded ‘Easy’, which would have suited me down to the ground.  The nice man at the Bicycle Hire spot suggested it was due to the nesting birds, which is understandable.  Although Lough Boora is an open access public amenity, we do have to remember and respect the fact that it is a nature reserve too!

Bike Hire available at Lough Boora

Bike Hire available at Lough Boora

The only other loop walk from this trailhead was 9km and graded ‘Moderate’, and my heart sank at the thought of it.  I wanted to do more than the 3km stroll we’d done around the Sculptures that morning, but last weekend’s ‘Moderate’ trail had scared me off a little.  My own fault for trying it before I was ready to do so, but I didn’t want to go home…not yet.

So, we decided to do a modified version of the Mesolithic Loop walk.  The proper version is 9km, and graded ‘Moderate’.   I was shying away from the ‘moderate’ bit, but being the nosey cow that I am I really did want to go and see the Mesolithic site itself.  So we decided to walk out to the Mesolithic site, have a look around, and then walk back the way we’d come.  This allowed me to get a bit of mileage under my belt, on good flat trails.  build my confidence back up a little, not feel like such and unfit lump, and also get a nose at the Mesolithic site. A good compromise 🙂

Out and back was just over 3 miles. On the way back to the car park, perhaps feeling a little too confident after setting a good pace in the afternoon sunshine, and enjoying a really great walk on lovely flat sandy trails, I hatched a bit of a plan for Easter Monday…

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