Read on for some of our favourite spots to visit while you’re there.
Great walks in Laois
Slieve Bloom Way and Glenbarrow Walks
Laois has lots of lovely walks ready to be explored. Leap into the wilds at the Glenbarrow Looped Walks with trails for all abilities and interests. The Glenbarrow Eco Walk touches on environmental issues along its ten stops, or take a peaceful, moderate hike on the Waterfall Looped Walk through coniferous forests and hidden valleys, including the spectacular three-tiered waterfall.
Seasoned hikers should try The Old Mill Loop which starts at Glenbarrow trailhead and journeys past the exposed stone floor of the valley and past the stunning Glenbarrow Falls. Adventuring through mixed woodland, you’ll pass Clear’s Old House, a bog bridge and the Ridge of Capard Viewing Point with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
These walks feed into the Slieve Bloom Way, and if you’d prefer two wheels to explore this bit of paradise, bikes can be hired at M Kavanagh’s Bicycle Hire.
Emo Court and Gardens
From the wilds of the mountains take a 30 minute spin to experience the grandeur of Emo Court and Gardens. With a long, colourful history, this large neo-classical mansion designed for the Earls of Portarlington has been restored to its former glory. The 20-acre lake is the perfect place to plan a pretty picnic, or simply a stroll through the gardens at your leisure.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite after all that fresh air, head down the road to Treacy’s Restaurant for lunch. In the shadow of one of the most famous forts, the Rock of Dunamase, the family-run restaurant is known for its traditional, homecooked food made using fresh, local ingredients so you’re in for a treat when you stop for a bite.
Just 15 minutes away is Ballykilcavan Craft Brewery, built in a 230-year-old courtyard on farmland owned by the Walsh family for 13 generations. Open on selected weekends for guided tours, uncover the inner workings of craft beer production, and ring the 200-year-old bell that summoned farm labourers into work. Taste the malts and smell the hops, and finally, sample the finished product on a guided tasting.
Timahoe Round Tower
Admire the elegance of Timahoe’s Round Tower, with its ornate doorway and its 12th-century stonework. The main entrance features Romanesque-style carvings of human heads with flowing beards, and these elaborate carvings continue up the 30-metre-high tower which is decorated with interlace and chevrons. The walls are nearly two metres thick and inside are five different floors reached by ladders.
Abbeyleix Heritage House
While you’re in the area it’s worth making the short drive to Abbeyleix where you can go back in time at Abbeyleix Heritage House, a fascinating space in the historic North Boys’ school. This museum will transport you back to pre-Christian times and the warring tribes of Laois. Learn about the Norman influence, the suppression of monasteries, the county’s plantation past and the industrial revolution. You’ll leave with a new understanding of Laois’s history.
Continue on ten minutes to Ballinakill and relax in the calm ambience of Heywood Gardens, which were commissioned by the leading architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Completed in 1912 and consisting of 50 acres worth of gardens, lakes, woodlands and architectural features, the spectacular setting on a hillside only adds to its beauty.
Overlooking a sweep of undulating countryside, the gardens feature astonishing statues, a sunken garden, a loggia roofed with red tiles and circular terraces that lead to an elongated pool. Discover your inner peace in these stunning gardens.
Visit magnificent Durrow
Castle Durrow Gardens
A 20 minute spin from Heywood Gardens and you’ll arrive into the quaint town of Durrow. Where you can meander through the neighbouring Castle Durrow estate, home to one of Ireland’s most luxurious country house hotels. Take some time to explore the attached stunning formal gardens - walk along the river and parkland routeways, hop on bikes or simply stroll through this gorgeous estate. Find out some estate secrets by booking a tour with the Castle’s Head Gardener, which covers most of the estate’s 50 acres.
Bowe’s Foodhall and Café
While you’re in Durrow tuck in to some hearty fare at Bowe’s Foodhall and Café, found in a 250-year-old building in The Square in Durrow. Soak up the old-world charm of this restored setting and the accompanying beautiful walled gardens that provide the perfect backdrop to the café’s creative menu. Complementing locally sourced fresh produce, the kitchen garden is put to great use, and the staff make you feel right at home.
Finish your tour of Laois, only fifteen minutes away, with a final slice of history at Aghaboe Abbey, founded by St. Canice founded in 576 and it was rebuilt following centuries of attacks and fires. The church, which was lovingly conserved by the local community, contains a beautifully carved three-light window in the east wall. The present monastic ruins are part of that great Dominican foundation and are a vital part of Laois’s past.
If you’re planning a short break where you get out and about, you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful spot to explore than County Laois. Check out our Laois destination page for more ideas for your short break away.