County Laois is set in the midlands of Ireland and offers a variety of places to visit and things to do.
The Rock of Dunamase is one of the finest Celtic fortifications in Ireland, and is located to the east of Portlaoise. It was originally home to an Iron Age ring fort, and is now the site of a 13th century castle which was nearly destroyed by Cromwellian forces in 1650.
A number of the towns and villages in the county have associations with the Quakers, particularly Mountmellick and its surrounds, and the Huguenots. The county also offers wonderful scenery in the form of the waterfalls and valleys of the Slieve Bloom mountains, as well as several gardens of note. There are angling, golf and equestrian facilities for every level.
Top Attractions in County Laois
Emo Court – Portlaoise, Emo – Emo Court was designed by the architect James Gandon in 1790 for the Earls of Portarlington and is a magnificent example of this neo-classical style. During the middle of this century it was owned by the Jesuits, it was then acquired and extensively restored in the 1960s.
The Rock of Dunamase an excellent example of Celtic fortifications. It is located near Portlaoise.
Stradbally Hall Narrow Gauge Railway – Stradbally – See the longest established steam powered narrow gauge railway in Ireland.
Events and Festivals in County Laois
Electric Picnic is an annual music festival held in County Laois.
National Steam Rally is the oldest steam rally held in Ireland, first held in 1965. It is held every August Bank Holiday weekend and includes a number of vintage exhibits.
Main Destinations in County Laois
Abbeyleix was designed by the first Viscount of Vesci in the 18th century although there has been a settlement at Abbeyleix since 1183 encircling a Cistercian monastery. Today the memory of the monastery lives on in the town’s name.
Portlaoise is a prosperous commercial point, principal town and administrative centre of the county, situated on the intersection of a number of national roads and on the main railway between Dublin / Cork and Limerick.
Durrow was originally a Norman borough town. In the middle of the seventeenth century, the Ormonds made it part of Kilkenny. It was returned to the county by an Act of Parliament in 1846. Durrow is a planned estate village.
Mountmellick lies in a bend in the River Owenass, almost ringed by it, at the north – eastern end of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. Nearby is Cathole Glen with its cascades and trout pools.
Portarlington is divided into two counties by the River Barrow: Laois and Offaly. The most historically interesting feature in the town is the Protestant church of St. Pauls. Portarlington was founded in 1666 by Sir Henry Bennett (Lord Arlington)
Other towns include Abbeyleix, Ballacolla, Ballickmoyler, Ballinakill, Ballybrittas, Ballyfin, Ballyroan, Borris-in-Ossory, Castletown, Clonaslee, Donaghmore, Emo, Mountmellick, Mountrath, Portarlington, Rathdowney.
Getting Here and Around
It is possible to get to Laois by rail, bus, or car. As Laois is inland, it has no ferry ports. The M7 Dublin–Limerick motorway runs through the county, providing it with easy and direct motorway access to the cities of Dublin, Limerick and Cork, and onwards to the rest of the country.
There are a number of bus services from the main towns of Laois to the major cities, towns and airports of Ireland.
Further details on getting around Laois, and the nearest air- and seaports can be found in our Co. Laois Transport Guide.