To the north of Kildare town lies the great Bog of Allen, Ireland’s most famous peatland. Actually a complex of bogs that once covered two thousand square kilometres between the rivers Liffey, Barrow, Shannon and Boyne, it’s now much diminished by drainage and stripping. The best place to get a handle on the bog is LULLYMORE, a tranquil parish and former monastic settlement on the road to nowhere 16km north of Kildare, which sits on an island of mineral soil, surrounded by peat. Here you’ll find the Bog of Allen Nature Centre, run by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, a charity whose aim is to ensure the conservation of a representative sample of Irish bogs. Informative exhibits at the centre, which is housed in the farm buildings of nineteenth-century Lullymore Lodge, trace the development of bogs, as well as their significance as habitats for rare animals and plants. The latter include species such as sundews, butterworts and pitcher plants, which have developed the capacity to eat insects, as the peat they grow on is deficient in nutrients; a small greenhouse in the centre’s back garden displays carnivorous plants from Ireland and around the world, and their various methods of drugging, gluing or otherwise catching the poor critters. Next to the centre, a hundred-metre boardwalk has been built over Lodge Bog, a small raised bog that’s home to around 150 species of plants, including carnivorous round-leaved sundews, as well as mountain hares, foxes and over seventy species of butterflies and moths.

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