– an inlier the special language of the geologist, where a heart of older rocks rises out of the midland limestone plain.
The highest point is only 1,734 feet above sea level, but so unvarying is that surrounding central plain that on a clear day you may expect to see all the way to Wicklow from Capard Ridge, and from Arderin, the highest point, you can see Lough Derg and the mountains beyond.
During the last Ice Age 15,000 years ago, the great glaciers which stretched right across the Irish Midlands completely overrode Slieve Bloom, knocking off all the edges and giving it the rounded outline so familiar to today’s traveller.
Reproduced courtesy of Ireland of the Welcomes Vol. 3, May – June 1992 For the hurried motorist travelling from Dublin to Cork or Limerick, Slieve Bloom is no more than a horizon that long range of low mountains which rises away on your right until you finally turn your back on them at Roscrea (or in Portlaoise if you are heading for Cork).
Most people never get any closer than this, because no main road takes you to the foot of the mountains.
Slieve Bloom is a place you must make a decision to visit.
But it you do decide to step aside, you will find you have entered a world which might put American visitors in mind of the Catskill Mountains in the foothills of the Appalachians, where Rip Van Winkle encountered those strange little men from another place and time, and slept unknowing for twenty years.
For the visitor with a geological bent – or indeed for anyone who feels the thrill of being reminded how very recently Ireland lay frozen in the lifeless grip of the Great Cold – there is a special thrill in these places where today’s rivers are cutting their way through these relics of the Ice Age.
Today the summit plateau of Slieve Bloom is clothed with the longest stretch of untouched mountain blanket bog in the country; a botanist’s dream, special for the way the typical plants of upland bog are joined by others more at home on the great lowland bogs – plants like bog rosemary; the county flower of Offaly so beloved of the great Linnaeus.
Much of the lower ground is now forested – too much so in the eye of many lovers of natural landscape, but in autumn these new woods are very special places too, with a very rich flora of toadstools and mushrooms of every shape and hue.
The mountains are full of hidden magic places, especially perhaps along the streams and rivers which radiate out in all directions.
Each has its hidden waterfalls and miniature ravines, places where the wild plants of the mountains still find a natural home.