The Slieve Bloom Mountains Nature Reserve is, at over 2,300 hectares, Ireland’s largest state-owned Nature Reserve. It was established in 1985, so that it could be managed in such a way as to ensure the conservation of the mountain blanket bog ecosystem. In addition, the Nature Reserve is designated a Ramsar Wetland Site and a Council of Europe Biogenetic Reserve. Much of the greater upland area has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The primary interest of the SAC is mountain blanket bog. The Slieve Bloom Mountains are also designated a Special Protection Area (SPA), of special conservation interest for the hen harrier, a rare bird of prey.
For more on Visiting the Nature Reserve, Activities, News and Events plus information on Conservation Projects and Wildlife click the link below.
Location & Visiting
Clara Bog is in Co. Offaly. The bog is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a statutory Nature Reserve, established in 1987. It covers approximately 460 hectares, and is situated about 2 kms south-east of Clara town. The Visitor Centre for Clara Bog is co-located at the library in Clara. Access to the bog is along the Clara to Rahan road (New Road). There is a car park on the left-hand side, and opposite, a trackway into the bog.
Visitors are recommended to stay on the trackway provided. To the east along the N80 there is another guided walk which takes in the eskers and Doory Wood.
Clara Bog is a naturally wet environment with many concealed dangers. Stay on the boardwalk. As with any outdoor activity, dress appropriately, be prepared for bad weather, and make sure someone knows your return plans. Please leave Clara Bog exactly as you would wish to find it. The Nature Reserve is home to many protected wildlife species. It is an offence to disturb these wild plants and animals.
Clara Bog is perhaps the best remaining example of midland raised bog in Western Europe. It has been said that you can experience ten thousand years of history in the ten square miles that accommodate Clara Bog. This refers to the influence that the last Ice Age had on the Irish landscape. To the north of the bog, an esker runs in an east-west direction. Eskers were laid down by retreating glaciars over 10,000 years ago. These glaciars would also have scooped out a low-lying area south of Clara which would have become a shallow lake. Approximately 8,000 years ago, this lake would have become overgrown with reeds and in time the area would have gradually turned into a fen, and then, as decyaing plant growth chokes the fen, mosses take over and the bog is born. The bog lays down so much peat that it becomes raised above the surrounding landscape. This gives it a dome shape and its name. It differs from blanket bog which is found in upland regions. Raised bog is much deeper.
Clara Bog contains fine examples of hummocks, hollows, lawns, pools and flushes; all classic components of a raised bog. Typically a bog becomes mildly acidic. At Clara, there are soaks which are considered an important part of what makes Clara Bog special. These soaks are mineral-rich pools and small lakes that are fed from groundwater and rain, and support alkaline plantlife.
Most boglands are acidic, poor in minerals and waterlogged, so Sphagnum Moss (Sphagnum cuspidatum), and other mosses dominate. Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium), Deergrass (Trichophorum cespitosum) and other sedges, Ling Heather (Calluna vulgaris), Cross-leaved Heath particularly around the pools, along with bladderworts. Scrub woodland with Downy Birch occurs around the fringes. To the east there are some coniferous and mixed woodlands. The esker ridges are rich in grassland wildflowers, including wild orchids.
The drier areas of the bog are dominated by heather and this provides good cover for Red Grouse, Snipe and Curlew. The wetter areas and pools offer perfect breeding and feeding sites for various insects, most notably dragonflies (such as hawkers, chasers and skimmers) and damselflies. It is also rich in moths and butterflies (the Large Heath, for example, depends upon raised bog), newts, lizards and frogs. Clara Bog is the only known site for two rare midges, and a click beetle. The small bird of prey, the Merlin, breeds here. More common bogland birds include the Meadow Pipit and Skylark. Otters and hares also seen.
Conservation and Management
Turf-cutting and drainage will degrade any bog habitat, as will fires. At Clara, restoration work has had a positive impact in sustaining, and in some areas, adding to, the levels of good quality active raised bogland. Understanding hydrology (the relationship between water and land in terms of water table and drainage, etc.) is key to the survival of any bogland, as water is the lifeblood of a bog. Blocking off drainage ditches is one of the key parts to the management at Clara. We can play our part too by respecting this delicate environment. Take great care on the bogs, and stay on the boardwalk. Keep all dogs on a lead, take all your litter away with you, and never light fires near peatlands.
The Nature Reserve is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service; part of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Address: 7 Ely Place, Dublin 2. Tel: 1800 405 000; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About: An excellent example of a midland raised bog. It is a valuable addition to the growing network of peatland reserves. Blocking of Bord na Móna drains was carried out in the 1990s in an effort to rehabilitate this bog.
Location: Situated near Clonmacnoise.
Area (ha.): 119
Animals and Plants of Interest: The bog is believed to be 9,000 years old and has formed in a basin between 2 east-west trending eskers. A typical midland raised bog vegetation exists with Sphagnum bog moss species that cause bog growth found in the wetter area to the centre of the bog. Mongan Bog has a notable lichen community due to the lack burning on the high bog in the recent past.
There are a good number of wintering Snipe to be found, however, Greenland Whitefronted geese no longer use this bog to the extent that the did in the past. Hen Harriers occasionally hunt over the site in Winter.
Access: From the Clonmacnoise to Ballinahown road [R444], park at the Bord na Móna rail underpass. Panoramic views of the bog may be seen from the Pilgrim's road to the North of the bog.
Established 1987. Owned by An Taisce.
About: A well-developed and exceptional example of deep midland raised bog, which is regarded as being of national importance.
Location: Situated 6 km north-west of Daingean.
Area (ha.): 162Access: Currently no public access.
Established 1987. State owned.