County Laois is located in the midlands of Ireland. It is bordered by several counties, including Kildare, Offaly, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Carlow, and Kildare. It is situated in the province of Leinster and has a rich history, natural beauty, and unique cultural heritage. Let’s dive into everything you need to know, from its history to the best places to stay.
The Rock of Dunamase:
This historic site and a striking ruin are situated atop a rocky outcrop. This prominent limestone rock formation, with its ruins of a once-mighty fortress, offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
– Early Origins: The site’s history dates back to ancient times, possibly in the 9th century. Initially, it served as a fortification for the local Gaelic Chieftains of the Kingdom of Ossory.
– Norman Influence: In the 12th century, the Rock of Dunamase gained prominence during the Norman invasion of Ireland. It was captured by Strongbow, the Anglo-Norman leader. It became a strategic stronghold for the Norman lords in conquering the region.
– Strategic Importance: The fortress served as a critical defensive position due to its elevated location, offering a commanding view of the surrounding landscape, making monitoring movements and potential threats easier.
– Ruins: While now mainly in a state of picturesque ruins, the site still showcases remnants of defensive walls, gatehouses, and other architectural features that offer insight into its past grandeur.
– Scenic Views: Visitors climbing to the top are rewarded with stunning vistas of the lush countryside and neighbouring counties, providing a sense of the strategic significance of this location in ancient times.
– Visiting the Site: Visitors can explore the ruins of the Rock of Dunamase and climb the rocky hill to the top, soaking in the stunning views and imagining the site’s historical significance.
– Heritage Attraction: As a heritage site, the Rock of Dunamase captivates tourists and history enthusiasts, offering a glimpse into Ireland’s medieval history and its architectural heritage.
The Rock of Dunamase is a testament to medieval Ireland’s tumultuous past and a picturesque site that invites visitors to explore its history, take in its stunning views, and appreciate the cultural heritage it represents. Be cautious if travelling with small children, the site isn’t ideal for strollers and you should be careful walking around the rocky grounds.
Where To Stay In Laois?
Our 5* Pick – Ballyfin Demesne
Our 4* Pick – The Heritage
Our 3* Pick – Maldron Hotel Portlaoise
Our Budget Pick – Abbeyleix Manor Hotel
Food & Drink:
To Eat: Kelly’s Steakhouse
To Drink: Jeremiah Grant Bar & Eatery
Luxury Beach Resort In County Laois:
You probably didn’t expect to read that heading. To be honest, neither did I. The Ranch Cabin has defied the norm and built a beautiful Chalet in the only double-landlocked County in Ireland. Check it out here.
Facts about Laois:
1. Location and Proximity:
Laois is centrally positioned in Ireland, making it accessible from major cities like Dublin. It is approximately 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Dublin, with easy access via road and rail networks.
2. Natural Landscapes:
It’s known for its diverse landscapes, including rolling hills, lush greenery, and picturesque countryside. The Slieve Bloom Mountains, a prominent natural feature, offer hiking trails and breathtaking scenery.
3. Historical Significance:
The County is steeped in history, boasting ancient ruins, castles, and heritage sites that reflect its past, including its Gaelic and Norman influences.
4. Cultural Heritage:
Laois has a solid cultural heritage, evident in its traditional music, arts, and crafts. The County hosts various festivals and events celebrating its cultural richness.
What Laois is Famous For:
1. Heritage Sites:
Known for its historical landmarks, such as the Rock of Dunamase, a majestic ruined castle offering panoramic views, and Emo Court, an elegant country house surrounded by beautiful gardens.
2. Natural Beauty:
The Slieve Bloom Mountains and their serene landscapes attract outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking, cycling, and nature exploration opportunities.
3. Cultural Events:
Known for hosting cultural festivals, including music and arts events that showcase local talents and celebrate the County’s heritage.
History of Laois:
– Laois has a rich historical background dating back to ancient times. It was once part of the Kingdom of Ossory and later became the Kingdom of Leinster.
– The County played an important role during the Norman invasion of Ireland whicin the 12th century, witnessing conflicts and the construction of castles.
– Throughout its history, it saw periods of prosperity, turmoil, and cultural development, leaving behind a legacy of historical sites and stories that continue to captivate visitors and historians alike.
It’s a region steeped in history, adorned with natural beauty, and characterized by a vibrant cultural heritage that offers a fascinating glimpse into Ireland’s past and present.
Fairytale Wedding in Laois:
If you’re looking for a fairytale wedding or to explore some castles, be sure to check out Castle Durrow.
Family Day Out in Laois:
The Dome Entertainment Centre in Laois is ideal for a family day out. The amusement zone for children offers loads of different activities. Check it out here.
Towns & Villages in Laois:
Here are some of the main towns:
It’s situated in the midlands of Ireland, is home to several towns, each with its unique charm, history, and contributions to the County.
1. Portlaoise: As the county town and administrative centre, Portlaoise is the largest town in the County. It serves as a hub for commercial, administrative, and cultural activities. Portlaoise offers various amenities, including shopping centres, cultural venues, and recreational facilities.
2. Portarlington: Positioned on the border with County Offaly, Portarlington is known for its historical significance and picturesque setting along the River Barrow. The town has a strong heritage with a blend of Irish and French Huguenot influences, evident in its architecture and cultural traditions.
3. Mountmellick: Renowned for its heritage in the textile industry, Mountmellick has a rich history in embroidery and lace-making. The town showcases its textile legacy through museums, craft centres, and events celebrating its cultural heritage.
4. Stradbally: Stradbally is recognized for hosting the annual Electric Picnic music festival, one of Ireland’s foremost music and arts events. Beyond the festival, Stradbally offers a charming atmosphere and historical landmarks, including Stradbally Hall.
5. Mountrath: Situated in the northeastern part of the county, Mountrath is a town steeped in history and surrounded by picturesque landscapes. The city has historical sites, such as the ruins of Mountrath Castle, and provides access to the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
Here are some of the Villages:
1. Abbeyleix: Known for its picturesque streets lined with Georgian and Victorian architecture, Abbeyleix boasts a rich heritage. Visitors can explore the historic Abbeyleix Heritage House and Gardens and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of this quaint village.
2. Ballinakill: Nestled near the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Ballinakill is famed for its scenic beauty and closeness to outdoor activities. The village hosts cultural events and festivals celebrating local traditions.
3. Durrow: Renowned for its annual Durrow Scarecrow Festival, Durrow is a lively village with a strong sense of community. It features historical sites like Durrow Abbey and offers opportunities for outdoor pursuits amidst beautiful landscapes.
4. Emo: Emo village is adjacent to Emo Court and Gardens, an exquisite country house surrounded by stunning gardens and parkland. The town exudes a peaceful ambience and serves as a gateway to the historic Emo Demesne.
5. Rathdowney: Positioned near the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Rathdowney is known for its scenic countryside and outdoor recreational activities. The village offers a glimpse into rural Irish life and provides access to hiking trails and nature reserves.
6. Borris-in-Ossory: Situated close to the border with County Tipperary, Borris-in-Ossory is a historic village with connections to Ireland’s past. It has historical sites such as St. Canice’s Church and offers a tranquil setting for visitors.
These villages, among others in County Laois, contribute to the County’s rural charm, allowing visitors to explore historical landmarks, embrace local traditions, and enjoy the serene landscapes of Ireland’s countryside.
Map of Laois:
Here’s a map of the County. The two main castles in Laois are in Durrow and Borris-in-Ossory (just southwest of Mountrath).
I hope this answers your questions about Laois! We’ve covered the top sites to see, it’s history and where to stay. Wishing you happy travels in this county close to our heart!