Lough Boora Discovery Park – Tullamore, Ireland - Atlas Obscura

Tullamore, Ireland

Lough Boora Discovery Park

An Irish peat mine has become a stunning sculpture park. 

Lough Boora Discovery Park is a post-industrial peat mine in the heart of Ireland that was converted to a wetland sculpture park with an abundance of trails and wildlife.

After the Irish company Bord na Móna extracted peat from this area, formerly host to lakes and bogs, they converted approximately 5,000 acres to a public amenity where wetland plants and wildlife could move back in. More than 130 bird species have been spotted in the park, including overwintering migratory birds such as Icelandic whooper swans.

The lakes around the park were created by rewetting the landscape after it had been intensively drained for mining. Turraun Wetland, one section of the park, was the first area where the company re-established wildlife habitat on the site, and thus has the most diversity of flora and fauna to see along its trails.

On foot or bicycle, you can check out more than 20 miles of trails. You’ll pass plenty of the soil—moist black peat—that Bord na Móna came to harvest as you explore. Peat was once several yards high in the bog that used to exist here. Be sure to grab a handful and experience this unique organic material, a precursor to coal, that holds plant remains from thousands of years ago.

Installed atop the thin layer of remaining peat soil in the park, you can view sculptures made from retired peat mining equipment, as well as some that are woven from living willow, a woody plant that grows well in wetlands. In 2002, the first sculptures were installed in the park after seven artists spent a three-week residency at the former peat mine. The artists were given access to the company’s workshop and free reign with scrapped equipment and materials, including an old peat-hauling train. Today, you can see more than two dozen sculptures at Lough Boora Discovery Park. The number of sculptures fluctuates from year to year as some are added and others, intentionally made to erode or decay, disappear.

For kids and adults alike, Fairy Avenue is worth exploring. Numerous fairy doors, tunnels, and other structures woven from willow branches wait to be explored in a young forest beyond the sculpture trail.

Know Before You Go

Entrance is free to Lough Boora Discovery Park. There is paid parking near the café as well as free parking along the main road in the park. Trails can be explored on foot or bicycle and there is bicycle rental available on site. Fishing is allowed on some lakes in the park. Contact the park for information about permits required to fish. Due to its rural location, a car is needed to reach the park.

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