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Travel Writer Thom Breathnach’s 24 hours in Laois

Thom Breathnach

During the summer Thom Breathnach contacted Laois Tourism to help plan his trip to Laois.  He was researching an article for the Irish Examiner on the Heritage of Laois and what there was to do.

Historic Tour of Laois

As Thom had recently stay in the luxury of The Heritage Hotel and enjoyed the amazing spa and fine dining this time he wanted to stay in a historic property.   For this trip he chooses Roundwood House, just outside Mountrath at the foot of the Slieve Blooms as it also offered foraging tours.

Impressive Castle Durrow

So one Monday morning Thom and his friend Aine left Cork and within an hour and a half found themselves in Durrow.  Their first stop was to Castle Durrow to tour the hotel and gardens.  The beautiful mature gardens in Castle Durrow were started by the Flower family over 300 years ago and individual areas overflow with their own identity, feel, and character.  A perfect place to begin a sunny day.

Lunch at Bowes

Next stop was lunch just across the village green in Durrow at Bowes Café.  This is the perfect spot for an amazing lunch or breakfast with everything made on site and using local ingredients. It should be on everyone’s to do list when in Laois.

Timahoe Round Tower

From there Thom and Aine headed to Timahoe Round Tower which is about a 20 min drive.  You pass through the historic town of Abbeyliex, another great place to stop, but for today’s tour time didn’t allow.   The Round Tower is one of the best preserved towers in Ireland, set in a picturesque setting just off the village green.  It’s free to visit and open daylight hours.  Check the website for opening times of the visitor centre.

The Rock of Dunamase

A 10 min drive from Timahoe brings you to the Rock of Dunamase.  For well over a thousand years, the iconic Rock of Dunamase has seen Vikings, Normans, native tribes, and even Cromwell himself fight tooth-and-nail to seize control of this commanding site.  Today, you can wander to the very top and soak in the history, before taking in the most incredible views of the rich Laois landscape.  The Rock is a 5 min drive off the M7 Motorway and really worth a visit.

Roundwood House & Foraging

From the Rock of Dunamase the guys crossed the county and headed to the Slieve Bloom Mountains.  The beauty of a small county like Laois is this only takes about 25 mins.  And within that short journey the landscape changes from rich fertile land to mountain bog, forest and higher elevations.

Thom checked in to Roundwood House an early Georgian house built in the 1730s which is situated at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.  Owners Hannah & Paddy are passionate about what they do and treat all their guests like friends.  As part of the Hidden Ireland group dinner is normally served around one large table.  (This has been amended to meet covid regulations).   One of the tours offered by Roundwood is a foraging tour in the nearby mountains.  Wild Food Mary is on hand to expertly explore the woodlands and mountain bog and uncover the foodie jewels.  On this trip Thom foraged some chanterelle’s which Paddy was happy to include in dinner that evening.  What an experience.

Slieve Bloom Mountain Bike Track

Eager to see what the Slieve Blooms had to offer, next morning Thom took the mountain pass road to nearby Kinnity to try out the new Mountain Bike Track.  This is only a 20 min drive through some of the most stunning scenery.  Expert guide Jonathan from Mid Ireland Adventure put Thom through his paces!  For the more experienced mountain biker the red track at Baunreagh (just 10 mins from Roundwood, 15 from Mountrath) is an incredible trail of assents and descents, not for the faint heated.

Ballyfin Demesne

We now know that the Slieve Blooms are home to great walking and road biking trails and now have the addition of a Mountain Bike track. There is one other incredible place in the mountains that make it a perfect spot for a special get away from it all retreat. The 5 star Ballyfin Demesne exclusive 600 estate should be on everyone’s to stay list, at least one.   Thom took a quick visit to enjoy afternoon tea and experience the magic for himself.

Plan your own whistle stop tour

Why not come and recreate Thom’s trip to Laois.  You can see how much he packed into 24 hours due to the compact size of the county buy why not come for a couple more days and really explore. You’re always welcome in Laois.