Top 10 Places to Discover in Laois this Summer
Header image: Heywood Gardens by Lisa and Lori Photography
You’re welcome to discover our place!
There’s no place like Laois to discover more about Ireland’s story, its landscapes, historical sites, ruins, art and culture, tours and so on. Put these 10 places on your Laois bucket list and make it your mission to visit each of them and more when you visit Laois this summer.
Without being biased, you can’t visit Laois and not take a trip to the wonderful Rock of Dunamase. Whether you venture at sunrise, sunset or anytime for that matter, you’ll be greeted by the most breathtaking views of Laois’ countryside. It still holds its feel of grandiosity while since ruined, but this highlights just how important the Rock of Dunamase was during Anglo-Norman times. According to Discover Ireland, it’s an ‘imposing and magnificent example of a Celtic fortification overlooking the valley of the O’Moores.’ It was a site of early Christian settlement which was pillaged by the Vikings in 842.
Learn more about the Rock of Dunamase here
Another historic moment in Laois in the 1100s saw Timahoe Round Tower erect on the site of a monastery founded in 600A.D. Today, the adjacent heritage centre has community toilets, an audio-visual presentation, a playground and a coffee shop awaiting visitors willing to learn more about the tower. Timahoe Round Tower is a stunning example of 12th century carved stonework which rises almost 30 metres high and is more than 17 metres wide at its base. The walls are also nearly 2 metres thick. Inside the round tower, there are five different floors, all of which were reached by ladders. It’s definitely a worthwhile visit, giving visitors an insight into its religious heritage and the reasons behind it’s architecture.
Learn more about Timahoe Round Tower here
Emo Court & Parklands combines beauty between a neo-classical mansion surrounded by stunning gardens and parklands. Emo Court House was designed by architect James Gandon in 1790 for the Earls of Portarlington. With so much work gone into the house since then, Cholmeley Harrison bought it in the 1960s and restored the house. It’s now in the care of the Office of Public Works which preserves its beauty and elegance as noted by it’s thousands of visitors that adore the grounds every year. Having been first laid out in the 18th-century, the blossoming gardens and parklands are home to formal lawns, a lake and an array of flora and fauna with woodland walks worth walking.
Learn more about Emo Court & Parklands here
Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum is a harrowing museum near Portlaoise which tells the story of the families who lived and died within the famine workhouse walls before, during and after the Great Famine. Between 1845 and 1849, around 1,200 people were forced to seek refuge here. It’s an evocative experience with feelings of sadness surrounding every wall and corner of this restored workhouse which was originally built in the early 1850s. It’s certainly a must-visit when in County Laois and one to put on the list if you’re looking for something more to explore on a rainy day.
Learn more about Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum here
Become engrossed with beautiful blooms and gardens to desire in this 18th-century landscape in Ballinakill, County Laois. Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens was the brains behind designing the formal gardens which lay centre to the entire property while it is likely that designer Gertrude Jekyll landscaped the remainder. Holding place for stunning gardens, lakes and woodland also surpasses expectations with the finishing touches touched so delicately among the architectural features. With so much to love in these well-presented gardens, from groundbreaking features like a sunken garden containing an elongated pool, to a grandurous fountain, it’s a must-visit site when in Laois.
Learn more about Heywood Gardens here
Located in a refurbished grain mill which was built in 1830, Mountmellick Museum showcases the village’s rich Quaker industrial past, and part of its story is told within its Victorian and Georgian architecture that surrounds the village and its heritage. In the Victorian era, Mountmellick Embroidery became a popular hobby for the ladies that filled the building. Since then, Mountmellick Museum has passionately held on to that tradition with each delicate piece hanging so beautifully for visitors to closely study. Today, the museum also holds craft workshops and a tour of the museum with audiovisual representation is also a new addition to the historic museum. Hail, rain or shine, Mountmellick Museum is an interesting visit to recall the women of Ireland that were employed throughout the late 1800s and their lives that are remembered.
Learn more about Mountmellick Museum here
Since 1639, the family that made Ballykilcavan Farm and Brewery what it is today, have made every effort to share this experience with visitors and continue their success with an award-winning brewery and visitor experience that no one wants to miss when visiting County Laois. From its breathtaking landscapes and forestry like a fairytale to the beautiful beers and an experience on the farm and brewery like no other, make it a must-do whether its rain, hail or shine in Laois.
Learn more about Ballykilcavan Farm and Brewery here
Discover pre-Christian times in Heritage House Abbeyleix where warring tribes of Laois are uncovered, the hand tufted carpets upon the Titanic were made and various stories through time that are retold in the heritage centre and museum. Learn about Norman influence, the suppression of the monasteries at the hands of Henry VIII and progress through plantations, the influence of the landlords and Ireland’s brush with the industrial revolution. Ancient artefacts and trafitional craft from Laois are also exhibited in the museum. History recalled and the story of Laois unveiled, this visit into ancient Ireland is also a must-visit when you’re caught in a shower of rain in County Laois.
Learn more about Heritage House Abbeyleix here
Dunamaise Arts Centre is an intimate state of the art establishment in Portloaise compromising of a 240 seat theatre, cinema, gallery, workshop and café. Throughout the year, it plays host to a range of national and international performing and visual arts from theatre, music, dance and film to literature, comedy, and pantomime. Dunamaise Arts Centre was one of Ireland’s earliest established professional arts centres and is known as a regional. As one of the earliest established and most highly regarded professional arts centres in the country, Dunamaise Arts Centre is firmly established as a regional cornerstone of the arts on the Emerald Isle.
Learn more about Dunamaise Arts Centre here
Glenbarrow waterfall loop is a must-do when in Laois with lots to discover along the way. From its trails along the Slieve Bloom way, to the trail following along the River Barrow through to a mature coniferous woodland up to the impressive 3 tiered Clamp Hole waterfall, what’s not to love? Get outdoors and discover more in Laois this year!