A new €1.5m Bord na Móna visitor centre has been officially opened at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Co Offaly.  

Established in 1994 on a former cutaway bog, it features a sculpture park, walking and cycling trails, bike hire, angling, a mesolithic site and some of the rarest flora and fauna in Ireland. 

Fáilte Ireland's Colm Breheny said the centre would have particular appeal to families with children who want to stay in Ireland for holidays and to "culturally curious" overseas visitors.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White described the centre as a fitting focal point for the 2,000-hectare park.

He praised the work of Bord na Móna, Failte Ireland and Offaly County Council in creating the Lough Boora centre, which "pulls together all of the information on the industrial heritage of this area".

The architects, he said, had "very skilfully respected and shown great sensitivity to the landscape".

"Bogs are a bridge to our past and a valuable resource for tracing our history. What's exciting about today is this project looks to the future and to the potential of our cutaway bogs to providing interesting tourism and recreational destinations," Mr White added.

Bord na Móna chairman John Horgan praised the local community and said: "We do owe something to nature and this is one of the things that Bord na Móna is doing."

He noted the work of the Irish Grey Partridge Conservation Trust, which brought the species back from the brink of extinction.