33 Best Sights in The Midlands, Ireland

Strokestown Park House & Irish National Famine Museum

The highlight of a trip to Strokestown in County Roscommon is the Irish National Famine Museum in the stable yard of Strokestown Park House. The museum tells the story of the devastating Irish potato blight in the 1840s, which is now regarded as one of the greatest social disasters in 19th-century Europe. Two million people—about a quarter of the population of Ireland—either died or emigrated and their harrowing story is well worth exploring. Museum exhibits include original famine documents found during the restoration of the house; it's a remarkable contrast to the opulent surroundings of the Georgian Palladian mansion and its 6 acres of restored garden, which includes a fernery, rose garden, and lily pond representative of horticultural practices and garden architecture from the 1740s. The Strokestown Park House landlord, Major Denis Mahon, was assassinated in November 1847 at the height of the famine. A poignant glass memorial wall bears the names of 1,492 tenants from the estate who boarded famine ships to Quebec. Almost half died on their way to Canada. Guided tours of the house are held three times daily (at noon, 2:30, and 4 pm) in the main tourist season, and once in winter at 2 pm. During the early spring of 2021, an investment of more than €5 million transformed the famine museum using cutting-edge technology along with new projects and soundscapes. The money, provided by Fáilte Ireland, the Irish Heritage Trust, and the owners of Strokestown Park House, is part of the Hidden Heartlands scheme to attract more visitors to the Midlands. While the work is in progress, the museum and house will remain open as normal.

It is not possible to tour the house on your own---all visitors must join a guided tour.

The River Queen

If you happen to be in Banagher in summer, consider taking a cruise along the Shannon aboard The River Queen, an enclosed launch run by Silver Line Cruisers Ltd. that seats 50 passengers and has a full bar on board. It also runs cruises on certain days to Shannonbridge and Clonmacnoise

Call to book in advance; seats aren't guaranteed to those who turn up and a minimum number of 25 people is required per trip.

Banagher, Ireland
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €13, Closed Sept.–Jun., Cruises July–Aug

Tullynally Castle and Gardens

It's hard to figure out which is more famous: Tullynally's storybook castle or the magical parklands that surround it. Tullynally—the name, literally translated, means "Hill of the Swans"—has been the home of 10 generations of the Pakenham family which has produced Elizabeth Longford (the well-known biographer of England's Queen Victoria) and Antonia Fraser---the best-selling biographer of Mary, Queen of Scots. Her brother Thomas, a historian, is the current earl but does not use the title. He inherited Tullynally from his uncle and has planted 90,000 trees.

As a result of an 18th-century "Gothicization," the former Georgian house was transformed into a faux castle by architect Francis Johnston. The resulting 600 feet of battlements were not just for show, as the earls vehemently opposed civil rights and the freedom for Catholics to vote and hold land in Ireland. The total circumference of the building's masonry adds up to nearly ½ km (¼ mile) and includes a motley agglomeration of towers, turrets, and crenellations that date from the first early fortified building (circa 1655) up through the mid-19th century, when additions in the Gothic Revival style went up one after another.

Today, more attention is given to the beautiful parkland, in part due to the passion of Thomas Pakenham, a tree-hugger extraordinaire who founded the Irish Tree Society in 1992 and authored several books. The estate's rolling parkland was laid out in 1760, much along the lines you see today, with fine rhododendrons, numerous trees (oak, ash, sycamore, Scots pine, beech, silver fir, larch, and spruce, among others), and two ornamental lakes. A walk through the grounds in front of the castle leads to a spacious flower garden, a pond, a grotto, and walled gardens. You'll also find a Tibetan garden, a Chinese garden, and a kitchen garden, one of the largest in Ireland, with a row of old Irish yew trees.

  Don't miss the forest path, which takes you around the perimeter of the parkland and affords excellent views of the romantic castle. After your walk, enjoy a visit to the Tullynally Tea Rooms in a renovated Georgian stable block, which serves lunches such as lasagna, quiche, and preconcert supper roasts.

Castlepollard, Ireland
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Garden only €8. House tour cost €16 with limited access, includes entry to garden. Prebooking advisable, Closed Oct.–Mar., and Mon.–Wed., Not wheelchair friendly or suitable for children under the age of 10

Recommended Fodor's Video