County Offaly is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Midlands Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the ancient Kingdom of Uí Failghe and was formerly known as King's County. Offaly County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county is 76,687 according to the 2011 census.
One of the earliest known settlements in County Offaly is at Boora bog which dates back to the Mesolithic era. Excavations here provides evidence of a temporary settlement as no structures were found at the site. Stone axes, arrow heads and blades were discovered which date to between 6,800 - 6,000 BCE.
The monastic complex of Clonmacnoise was of the most important in Ireland. Located at the River Shannon near Shannonbridge, it was the greatest centre of learning in Europe during the first millennium. It was regarded as the most important centre for learning, Arts and Crafts and Christianity in Europe and today tourists may see the famous Celtic Crosses of Clonmacnoise at the site.
The Dowris Hoard dating from the Late Bronze Age was found in a bog at Dowris, Whigsborough near Birr. It is the largest collection of Bronze Age objects ever found in Ireland. It includes more than 200 items of which roughly 190 are extant, 111 in the National Museum of Ireland and 79 in the British Museum. Forty four spearheads were found, forty-three axes, twenty-four trumpets, and forty-four crotals (a kind of bell or chime instrument, unique to Ireland). A bronze bucket was also found, it was constructed of sheets of bronze riveted together, this item is considered to be an imported item, two other buckets were also found and these are presumed to be native copies.
In Gaelic Ireland the area that now constitutes County Offaly was divided into a number of small kingdoms. The Kingdom of Uí Failghe from which the name Offaly is derived, was ruled by the Ó Conchubhair Fáilghe (anglicised as: O'Conor Faly) whose territory extended from the east of the county into north Kildare. The Kingdom of Firceall ruled by the O'Molloy clan constituted much of the centre of the county. The Kingdom of Firceall was part of the Kingdom of Meath while Uí Failghe was part of the Kingdom of Leinster. Much of the south of the present day county (as well as North Tipperary) was ruled by Ó Céarbhaill of Éile (anglicised as: O'Carroll Ely). Ely formed part of the Kingdom of Munster. These petty kingdoms were swept aside by the Tudor plantations. In 1556, an Act of the Parliament of Ireland created "King's County", named after Philip, the then King of Ireland. This replaced the old Kingdoms with Baronies and the present day County System. Despite the county's name being upheld as Offaly through the 2001 Local Government Act, no legislation was ever enacted after independence explicitly changing the name from King's County, the name formally established under the 1898 Local Government Act which continued to have legal effect.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article County Offaly. especially the section "Geography and political subdivisions" and its subsections "Towns and villages" and "Baronies"