Clara is a town in County Offaly in the midlands of Ireland. It's on the main Dublin-Galway railway and has become a commuter town for the capital, with a population of 3336 in 2016. Its main sight, 2 km south, is the wetland of Clara Bog.
Trains from Dublin Heuston take an hour to Clara via Portarlington and Tullamore, with five or six daily. They continue west to Athlone then branch either to Athenry and Galway or to Roscommon, Castlebar and Westport. The 1 railway station is south side of town.
Bus 73 traverses the country from Waterford via Thomastown, Kilkenny, Carlow, Stradbally, Portlaoise and Tullamore to Clara and Athlone. There are two M-Sa; the one Sunday bus continues north to Ballymahon and Longford.
By road from Dublin follow M6 to junction 5. From there N52 heads south to Tullamore, but you need to circle north through Kilbeggan to get onto R436 to Clara.
In 2008 there was a wildly ambitious plan to create "Ireland Midlands Airport" near Clara, but nothing came of it.
- Evil men – demons in human form ( . . . ) lure girls from the town to go for motor drives into the country, and you know what happens - it is not for the benefit of the motor drive. It is for something infinitely worse - sermon circa 1930
So you'd better walk or cycle.
- The town grew up in the 19th century when there was a textile industry, with St Brigid's RC church at its centre. North on higher ground beyond the green is St Brigid's C of I church of 1770, and somewhere buried around it was the monastery.
- 1 Clara Bog Visitor Centre is within the town library on Ballycumber Road, open M-F 10:00-17:00, free. Informative exhibition on this and other Irish bogs. The bog itself is 2 km south with no buildings there, since they'd damage the habitat.
- 2 Clara Boardwalk takes you on a 1 km circuit of the bog. After the last Ice Age, a lake backed up against an esker (a ridge of debris) then infilled. Over millennia the poorly-drained surface built up into a dome, a "raised bog". These formed across prehistoric northern Europe but most succumbed either to deliberate drainage, or to road-building which creates a channel that empties the bog. Cutting the "New Road" to Rahan (by which you get there) in the 19th century collapsed the dome, and its fringes were nibbled by peat-cutters. That might be sustainable on a traditional cottage scale but certainly not as the peat-burning industry it became in the 20th century. So a once-common habitat (much too common, if you were an early traveller trying to squelch across Ireland) is now rare and endangered. Clara Bog has been sufficiently scarred to scupper its bid for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, nevertheless it's one of the best examples in the country, and its drainage has been halted. It's free to access 24 hours: the parking layby is small but you're unlikely to find it busy. Don't step off the boardwalk, the habitat is fragile, and remember those grotesque bog-bodies you saw in the museum in Dublin.
- 3 Durrow Abbey - see Tullamore for this monastic site along N52.
- 4 Rahan is a village 12 km south with remains of a monastery from the 11th / 12th century, plus early modern churches. It's on the Grand Canal, which is navigable from Dublin to the Shannon.
- 5 Horseleap on the boundary with County Westmeath is named for a feat of medieval horsemanship and is graced by a horse sculpture of doubtful fame and provenance. This tale goes round and round more often than a Formula One Ferrari; its contortions involve a World War I Italian flying ace, minor European nobility, Scuderia Ferrari racing team, and their former driver Eddie Irvine. Such anyway was the baloney and horse-doodoo fed to the eejits persuaded to buy this prancing horse statue and erect it in 2000. So there it stands, outside Paddy Ryan's pub at the junction of R446 and R391: "Horseman, pass by" as WB Yeats put it.
- Clara Swimming Pool is a 25 m pool. It's on Ballycumber Rd just north of the railway station.
- Clara Sports and Leisure Centre is 200 m west of the pool. It's open daily.
- Golf: Esker Hills Golf Club is 10 km southeast off R420. Blue tees are 6617 yards, par 71. There's also a driving range 1 km east of town.
- Read and pass on: Ballycumber is a tiny village 5 km west of Clara. In 1983 Douglas Adams' Meaning of Liff defined Ballycumber as "One of the six half-read books lying in your bed". This sparked the idea of an exchange now called BookCrossing, where books are left in public places; some 12 million are in circulation.
- Centra facing St Brigid's Church is open M-Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 08:30-22:00.
Strung along the main road are Rose Garden, Macari's takeaway, Mill Bar, King Kebab, Jel's Kitchen and Yummy House.
Kilcoursey House just east of town was the home of Richard and Therese Flynn. On 8 July 1985 Father Niall Molloy aged 52 was found dead at the house: he had a room there, and joint business ventures with Therese. Richard was put on trial but the judge was convinced it was heart failure and directed the jury to find him not guilty. Unusually for heart failure, Molloy lay in a pool of blood with his skull bashed in; the judge was a close family friend who should never have been involved in the case. A surgeon and a politician had also been in the house while Molloy's life ebbed away. The case, which any Murder Mystery Weekend could have sorted before gin o'clock, remains unsolved.
As of April 2021, Clara has 5G with Three, but next-to-no signal from Eir or Vodafone.
- Tullamore is best known for its two distilleries.
- Athlone has a castle and fine cathedral.
- Birr has a pleasant Georgian centre. Within the castle grounds, the "Leviathan" was for 70 years the world's largest telescope.