County Offaly lies halfway between Dublin and Galway, and it often winds up being a pleasant surprise for tourists who weren't planning on spending time here. Car hire in County Offaly is essential for visitors who crave the freedom to explore the wetlands and important monastic sites on their own time.
Clonmacnoise is reason alone to visit County Offaly. It perches over the River Shannon and hosts one of the world's premier monastic sites. The site's roots are ancient, but most of what stands today was built from the 10th century. This ecclesiastical city warrants a drive from Dublin (1 hour, 30 minutes) or Galway (1 hour, 20 minutes); in either event, it's not to be missed.
Elsewhere in the county, the sights are subdued but still worthwhile. The peat bogs and marshlands of Offaly made it all but impossible for Neolithic civilisations to build here, so most of the archaeological sites are recent. The waterways themselves (especially Clara Bog ) are worth exploring.
The towns and villages strung across the lowlands are known around Ireland for their culinary prowess. Tullamore is one of the main towns in Offaly, and it's loaded with traditional pubs and bed and breakfasts. Birr has a similar range of sightseeing, dining and drinking options, but its hotels stand out. County Arms Hotel is a popular wedding or conference venue, with luxurious suites and service. The Kinnitty Castle Hotel, housed in Birr's 13th-century castle, is as opulent as the name suggests and maintains plush gardens.
Buses and trains connect to Tullamore and Birr from Dublin. Travel time takes 2 hours or less depending on the mode. It's possible to drive in with a hire car from Dublin or to pick up an Offaly rental car at a local bus or train station.