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Home > Villages > History

Slieve Bloom History

The Normans arrived in Ireland in the twelfth century when Slieve Bloom was still divided among several Gaelic Kingdoms including the O'Carrolls who controlled the southern regions. An important Norman town was established at Ballybritt.

The Slieve Blooms were the site of many battles, being on the boundary between Laois and Offaly, and the ancient kingdoms of Thomond, Leinster and Ossory.

Slieve Bloom Rural Development Society

Welcome to the Slieve Bloom website. The site has been developed by the Slieve Bloom Rural Development Society-a non-profit making community group which promotes people working together to develop rural enterprise and amenities in the Slieve Bloom area. The objective of the site is to give you some basic information about Slieve Bloom – a small area in the absolute centre of Ireland.

The Slieve Bloom Rural Development Society and any of the service providers listed on the website will be delighted to give you additional information, and the people of Slieve Bloom will extend a full Irish welcome to you should you come to visit us. Suggestions for improving the site will also be gratefully appreciated.


The people of Slieve Bloom are descended from various clans who inhabited the surrounding lowlands prior to the plantations, especially the Cromwellian confiscations. When dispossessed of their lands, they took refuge in the hills and valleys of Slieve Bloom where they settled and farmed for subsequent generations. There, they preserved the Irish traditions, folklore, music and of course the Gaelic language, to this day.

Most of the families in the area are descended from the Gaelic clans. However some are of Norman descent while others are descended from English settlers who intermarried within the local community.

Irrespective of origin and the history of battles in bygone days, today the people of Slieve Bloom live and work together within an extremely strong community fabric and they are always eager to extend their welcome and hospitality to visitors.

Famous People

Brian Boru and Hugh O Neill:

Due to it's central location Slieve Bloom occupied a strategic military position and over the centuries ancient Irish kings including Brian Boru and Hugh O Neill led their foot troops through the valleys of Slieve Bloom on their way to battle.

The O’Dunn clan — originally known as Dunn Ui Riagain — controlled the northern territory of the Slieve Blooms for most of the last millennium. Ruins of the O’Dunn castles are still evident at Castlecuff, Brittas, Tinnahinch and Castlebrack.

Ely O'Carroll:

The name O'Carroll is one of the most common surnames in Ireland. Ely O'Carroll is an area of more than 100,000 acres in County Offaly, much of which is in the Slieve Bloom area. It's name is derived from O'Carroll, king of Ely, one of the leaders of the victorious native Irish army against the invading Danes at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 A.D.


Slieve Bloom Mountains:

The Slieve Bloom Mountains consist of rock generally covered with a blanket of sediment and bog. The rocks are still to be seen along the larger rivers in the area where the water has worn through the glacial deposits which usually hide the rocks. The rocks were formed up to 400 million years ago, when the area was beneath a shallow sea.

The local sandstone has been used extensively in old buildings in the area, and in the network of drystone walls dividing the local farmland.


The mountain areas were quite populated up to the time of the famine in 1846 when the failed potato crop meant either death or forced emigration. The remains of some of hamlets of the stone walled houses are still to be seen in some remote areas of the mountains. Local people have fascinating stories about the hardship of life, within the past 60 years, when they tried to achieve basic survival out of very small subsistence farms. Today, Slieve Bloom is sparsely populated- with most people residing in the foothills of the mountain range.