Banagher is located in the heart of Ireland in County Offaly. If driving, it is roughly 1hr 40 min (140km) from Dublin, 35 minutes from Athlone, 30 minutes from Ballinasloe and just over an hour from Galway City.
Banagher is a pretty marina town located along the River Shannon in County Offaly. It is a popular spot with boaters as the marina is right beside the town so you can just moor up and walk into the heart of the action.
For a small town, there is plenty to do, especially if you enjoy historic buildings and castles. You can also play a round of golf and soak up the atmosphere in some lively pubs, sink a pint of locally brewed beer and listen to traditional Irish music.
As you’d expect from a town on the River Shannon, there are plenty of water activities too including fishing, sailing, cruising and canoeing.
So, whether you are after a wet and wild water holiday or you’d rather stick to dry land, or you want the best of both (boat?) here’s our guide to the best things to do and see in and around Banagher.
Banagher Tourist Information Point
Your first stop for advice on things to do and see in Banagher is the Tourist Information Point. Here you’ll be able to pick up free guides and maps as well as other info to help plan your time in the area. But apart from this, the Tourist Information Point is located in Crank House, which is a quirky pink building that dates from the 18th century. It has a very striking full-height bowed doorway, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll spot a few more of these doorways on other buildings in Banagher and throughout Offaly.
J.J. Hough’s Singing Pub
Behind a door festooned with vines lies a charming 250-year old pub that fills at night with the sounds of traditional Irish music, song and dance. The craic is 90, as they say. Be sure to order a Bo Bristle beer while you are here, as it is brewed locally right in the heart of Banagher. Apart from the fantastic entertainment, the building itself is a listed heritage site, and the concrete floor dates back to an old 14th-century monastery. The decor is reminiscent of an old fashion bric-à-brac shop. It’s a wonderful mix of history, heritage and hops! Slàinte!
Napoleonic Fortifications were built along the River Shannon by the British to protect against a French invasion. The Martello Tower in Banagher was built around 1812 and is called the Fanesker Tower. It is the only inland Martello tower in Ireland. You can see the Tower from the river or you can walk around it, but you cannot go inside it. You’ll notice that the thicker wall faces the north-west as this was the expected direction of attack.
The beautiful six-arched Banagher bridge was built between 1841 and 1843, and it forms a county border between Offaly and Galway and a provincial border between Leinster and Connacht. On the north-west bank, you’ll see the Martello Tower, and on the north-east bank, you’ll see the harbour and malt house and to the south the barracks. It is a very picturesque setting and ideal for getting that postcard-perfect photo of the town.
Another thriving pub in Banagher is the Railway Bar. The first thing you’ll notice is its quirky facade with painted-on tiles and old-fashioned signage. The building itself dates back to around 1820, and you can still see the original six-over-six timber sash windows, slate roof and outbuildings. A warm welcome awaits you inside, and there is a lovely little beer garden to make the most of those sunny days.
There is an angling centre in Banagher which can help you with fishing gear and local fishing tips. You can walk to the popular Banagher Town Stretch which has space for about 18 anglers. Here you can catch bream, roach, pike and some hybrids.
As you’d expect from a town with a large marina, there is plenty of boats for hire. In fact, Carrickcraft has its second Marina Base right here in Banagher. Take your pick from our extensive fleet, don’t worry, we’ll help you choose the right boat for you, and then hit the water for an adventure. Banagher is a great starting point for cruising the River Shannon, Lough Derg or even the River Suck. There are plenty of routes from which to choose.
Flynn’s Bar and Restaurant
When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Flynn’s Bar and Restaurant in Banagher, which has been in business since 1912. Here’s your chance to try some proper home cooking and traditional Irish dishes. You can have a roast with all the trimmings at lunchtime or choose from Irish steaks, seafood or vegetarian options in the evening. Try to grab a seat by the cosy open fire, it’s a real warm welcome, especially in the wintertime.
Just a fifteen-minute drive away from Banagher is Birr Castle, the home of The 7th Earl of Rosse. A visit to Birr Castle is a great thing to do in Offaly with kids as there is a science centre as well as beautiful gardens full of flowers, wildlife, waterfalls and a brilliant treehouse adventure area. Not only that, but you’ll also find the world’s tallest box hedges in the gardens and what once was the world’s largest telescope.
Birr Golf Club
If you fancy getting in a round of golf whilst you are in the area, the Birr Golf Club is just a five-minute drive from Birr Castle or around fifteen minutes from Banagher. The Club was founded in 1893 and the challenging 18-hole course is carved out of natural woodland and eskers. The clubhouse has a welcoming bar and restaurant and there’s also a golf shop and driving range on site.
Another attraction just a short drive (25 minutes) away from Banagher is Clonmacnoise in Athlone. Clonmacnoise is a monastery and its Irish name, Clonmacnoise Cluain Mhic Nóis, translates as the “Meadow of the Sons of Nós”. It was founded in 544 by Saint Ciarán who was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. The site was a renowned centre of religion and learning and scholars came from all over the world to study and observe.
The site is now a preserved ruin but there is still loads to see including seven churches, three high crosses, two round towers and a cathedral. A walk amongst the well-preserved structures of Clonmacnoise Cathedral, Temple Doolin, Temple Hurpan and Temple Melaghlin will transport you back to Ireland’s golden age of learning. In fact, it was here the 11th-century Annals of Tighernach and the 12th-century Book of the Dun Cow were written.
An eight-minute drive from Banagher is Clonony Castle, a well-preserved tower house built in the 1490s by the Coghlan Clan and later seized by Henry VIII. Clonony Castle has been restored to show the way of life in the castle in the 16th century. With no entrance fee, Clonony Castle is one of the best free things to do in County Offaly. Visitors can tour the castle and discover what life was like during this historical period.
St. Brendan’s Clonfert Cathedral
Although technically in County Galway, Clonfert Cathedral is just a short drive (less than ten minutes) from Banagher. It is worth the visit as the Cathedral, which dates from the 12th century, is famous for its Hiberno-Romanesque western doorway. The doorway features six layers of elaborately decorated mouldings made from brown sandstone and another layer dating from the 15th century made from blue limestone.
Inside, there are more interesting carvings and mouldings as well as a 19th century carved oak pulpit. The building really is a wonderful example of medieval architecture.
Plan your next trip to Banagher
Melanie May spent five years backpacking solo around the world and turned her wanderlust into a career when she became a freelance writer and photographer. She won the ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the Travel Extra Travel Journalist of the Year Awards 2018 and is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. She runs her own blog, Travel Eat Write Repeat (www.melaniemay.com) and you can follow her travels over on Instagram @_maymelanie
Birr Castle “Birr Castle, The Great Telescope” by Bea & Txema & Alan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Picture credits: Clonony Castle “Clonony Castle” by Sarah777
Picture credits: Clonfert cathedral: “St. Brendan’s Clonfert Cathedral” by John Armagh