ROSCOMMON IS an uncommon county just pretending to be ordinary” says the sign on the wall of a pub in Castlerea. It`s true -- there`s much more than you imagine to this inland county which is often characterised as a combination of fertile farmlands and enormous stretches of water interspersed by bog-meadows brimful of butterflies.
Yet there`s no better place to connect with honest Irish history, real Irish people and authentic Irish attractions than in this tranquil, untrampled corner of true Ireland.
Strokestown Park House is a good example of what we mean. It should be on the itinerary of every visitor to Ireland who seeks a genuine understanding of the influences that have shaped this nation. You are sure to be saddened, and then uplifted , as you move from the Famine Museum, which interprets the catastrophe which changed Ireland`s destiny, into the glorious gardens of this restored Georgian mansion. There is now a programme of guided walking holidays exploring the impact of the Great Famine on the countryside around Strokestown and the nearby county town of Roscommon. What an invigorating way to get to know true Ireland!
So too, is a visit to the family-run Derryglad Folk Museum, featuring a delightful collection of everything from horse-drawn farm implements to old 78rpm recordings of Irish ceilidhe bands that helped to stimulate the county`s musical traditions, still thriving in our many singing pubs.
King House, now beautifully refurbished, is a great starting point for an exploration of Boyle , the charming lakeside town that was at the centre of once-mighty Rockingham Estate. Lough Key Forest Park , the county`s liveliest and most popular attraction, has been created on the edge of Boyle from the remnants of the Estate.
Although Roscommon is the only other Western county without a coastline, two-thirds of it is bounded by Ireland`s most welcoming waterways -- from the greating boating loughs of Key and Ree to the abundant fishing waters of the Suck --particularly around Athleague -- and the Shannon. This is where the traditional values of true Ireland merge with modern amenities to produce unique opportunities for discerning tourists in search of something ‘different`.
Where else but on Lough Ree could you join a vacation course to master a 21st Century powerboat almost within sight of a 12th Century monastery? Nowhere!
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