While Ireland’s midlands region may not have the dramatic coastline that the Wild Atlantic Way is known for, there are plenty of attractions for the visitor in this part of Ireland.

Located in the middle of the country, it includes the counties of Laois (pronounced “leash”), Longford, Offaly, and Westmeath.

The region’s largest towns include Portlaoise (“pronounced “Portleash”), Athlone, Mullingar, Tullamore, Longford, Portarlington, Edenderry, Mountmellick, Birr, and Clara.

Lakes, waterways and canals dot these counties, but ancient historic sites are also prevalent in this region.

County Laois

You’ll get stunning views of County Laois from the impressive hilltop perch known as The Rock of Dunamase in Ireland's midlands region.

castle ruins at the top of a hill Ireland's Midlands
Photo: Liam Murphy, Failte Ireland.

In 842 AD, the Vikings attacked what was at the time a Christian settlement and by the 1100s, it was known as an important Anglo-Norman fortification.

Dermot Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, gave Dunamase to the Norman conqueror Strongbow in 1170 after Strongbow agreed to marry his daughter Aoife. It was part of a deal to enlist Strongbow’s in helping to regain his land.

Photo: Liam Murphy, Failte Ireland.

It was abandoned by the 1300s and in the 1600s, the notorious Cromwell destroyed it. Its ruins are what you see today.

The site is free to visit, and is well worth an exploration if only to imagine the events that took place in it over the centuries.

Other sites to see in County Laois include the Heywood Gardens (also free to visit) and the impressive Emo Court and Gardens.

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County Longford

Longford is a county in Ireland's midlands that is often bypassed by tourists rushing to get to Galway or other coastal parts of Ireland.

But did you know that it boasts the longest county shoreline with the Shannon, Ireland’s longest river, and that there are ample opportunities to enjoy its lakes too, including Lough Gowna and Lough Ree?

a man kayaking on a river Ireland's midlands
Kayaking on the River Shannon in County Longford. Photo: Pat Hannon, courtesy of Longford Tourism.

As a result, outdoor water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding are popular activities in Longford.

people looking at wood slats Ireland's Midlands
The Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre in Longford. Photo: Chris Hill for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

An interesting attraction in Longford is the Corlea Visitor Trackway Centre showcasing what has come to be known as “The Danes' Road,” a perfectly preserved piece of Iron Age road that was believed to have been constructed around 148 B.C.

Other attractions you might want to check out in County Longford include the Edgeworth Literary Trail, which traces the life of Maria Edgeworth, Center Parcs, a short-break holiday village in the heart of the county, and St. Mel's Cathedral in the town of Longford, among other sites.

County Offaly

The most notable attraction in County Offaly includes the sixth-century Clonmacnoise Monastic Site, which is situated along the banks of the River Shannon.

Clonmacnoise cemetery with the Shannon river in the background. This is a popular attraction in Ireland's midlands region. Photo: Liam Murphy for Failte Ireland.

Looking at the remains of this great monastery, which became the center of religion, learning, craftsmanship, and trade in early Ireland, one can only imagine the industriousness of the monks who ran it and the manuscripts they produced.

The site includes ruined churches, round towers, and three ancient high crosses.

Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre is another must-see attraction in Offaly.

Birr Castle in County Offaly, which is within driving distance of Glamping Under the Stars. Photo: Chris Hill for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

The Anglo-Normans were the first to build a castle on this site, which was later occupied by the O’Carroll family from the 14th through the 17th centuries.

The Great Telescope on the grounds of Birr Castle. Photo: Chris Hill, Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

The main feature on the grounds of the castle is the “Great Telescope,” which was designed and built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1840 and for 75 years was the largest telescope in the world.

The Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre is a popular whiskey destination in Ireland's midlands region. Photo: Justin Ronan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74386768

County Offaly is also the home of the Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey Distillery.

Known the world over, Tullamore Dew is the world’s second largest selling brand of Irish whiskey and among the popular whiskey distilleries in Ireland.

The visitor center, located in the Old Bonded Warehouse along Tullamore’s Grand Canal, is where you can learn about the history of the distillery, which was established in 1829 by Daniel E. Williams (hence the name “Dew”).

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County Westmeath

County Westmeath in Ireland's midlands region is not far from Dublin (about an hour's drive), but there is plenty of countryside to explore.

Belvedere House Gardens & Park is a popular destination. The Jealous Wall is what seems to attract the most attention.

The folly at Belvedere House Gardens & Park in Co. Westmeath, otherwise known as “The Jealous Wall.” Photo: Beth Ellis, Tourism Ireland.

It is known as Ireland's largest folly, which is essentially a large ornamental structure with no practical purpose.

The structure was built by Robert Rochfort, the owner of Belvedere House and the 1st Earl of Belvedere to obstruct the view of his brother's house nearby.

Tullynally Castle, also known as Packenham Hall Castle, is located in County Westmeath. Photo: By Peter Gavigan – Prakica DCZ 6.2, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3821210

Tullynally Castle and Gardens is another stately home that you can visit while in County Westmeath.

If you're looking for what is reputedly the oldest pub in Ireland, you'll find it in Sean's Bar in Athlone, Co. Westmeath.

The carbon-dating of mud, wood, wattle, and tavern tokens, all found at the site of the pub, puts its founding at around 900 AD, according to research conducted at the National Museum of Ireland.

Additional attractions to explore in County Westmeath include Athlone Castle, The Hill of Uisneach and Kilbeggan Distillery.