Travel back in time
Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum
Begin your journey with a fascinating bit of history at Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum in southern Laois. Immerse yourselves in 1850s Ireland at this evocative museum in a restored workhouse, where you learn about the people who worked within its walls.
Time travel is a classic feature of children’s storytelling and this is the perfect opportunity to teach the kids about a key period of Irish history. Explore authentically restored dormitories, a kitchen and a waiting hall, all of which housed 1,200 people during famine times – enjoy a family day out with a difference.
From poverty to opulence, 20 minutes west of Donaghmore is Castle Durrow, a 300-year-old estate and now one of Ireland’s most opulent country house hotels. Stroll around its beautiful gardens, maybe even finding time for an impromptu game of hide and seek.
To tire the little ones out, hop on bikes and cycle through the grounds. Growing herb gardens at home is a popular family activity and you can get some inside secrets from the castle’s head gardener with a tour of the estate. Explore the south gardens, courtyard, walled garden, herbaceous border, Herb Parterre, orchard and vegetable garden.
Finally, make time for a family dinner in the on-site restaurant. Taste the gorgeous food created from ingredients grown at Castle Durrow and see if the kids can remember what they spotted during the tour.
Family friendly trips
Rock of Dunamase
Jump back in time at the Rock of Dunamase, a half hour spin away from Durrow. An imposing and magnificent example of the remains of a Celtic fortification, you’ll get spectacular views of the surrounding countryside at this limestone outcrop. Get the kids’ imaginations going with talk of the warriors who fought throughout the centuries, from the early Christians to the Vikings and Normans, before it was finally destroyed in the Cromwellian invasion in 1650. That’s a whole lot of history for one visit.
Make it a family holiday they'll never forget and get out on the water with a narrowboat rental from Barrowline Cruiser. Journey to Vicarstown and experience the full extent of the Grand Canal and the River Barrow with no previous sailing experience necessary - the cruisers are simple to operate whether you choose to hire a larger wide beam barge or a narrowboat.
Combining traditional charm and modern-day convenience, the galleys on board are fully equipped with sinks, fridges, ovens and hobs and even running water. There’s a toilet, shower, central heating, separate cabins and a first aid kit to ensure a comfortable and safe adventure. Relax and enjoy the passing countryside as the waters gently guide you along the way.
Timahoe Round Tower
Although you’ll find Timahoe Round Tower in the heart of Laois, you’ll feel like you’re in another world when you arrive at the base of this 12th century tower. With its picturesque setting and spectacular doorway covered in carvings of human heads with flowing beards, Timahoe is a great spot to spend an afternoon with the family. Marvel at the intricate stonework while the kids check out the nearby playground.
After, take a spin down the road to Fossey Mountain Springs Ranch and experience western style horse riding along with other activities including barrel racing, roping and archery.
Castleview Open Farm
Animal lovers big and small will jump at the chance to meet new furry friends at Castleview Open Farm in Cullahill. See giant rabbits, baby goats and water buffalos up close, and say hello to the resident micro pigs, Declan and Ian.
With over 100 animals on the farm, wander through the 14 acres of land and make it a competition for the kids to find as many as they can. If the weather isn’t playing ball, there’s also an indoor play area, mini golf course and café on site to keep the whole family entertained on a rainy day.
Emo Court and Gardens
Picnic at the large neo-classical mansion at Emo Court and Gardens, where there’s a colourful history to uncover and beautiful gardens to enjoy. The pleasure grounds spread over 35 hectares, first laid out in the 18th century with formal lawns and a 20 acre lake.
The lakeside shores are the perfect spot to lay out your family picnic and enjoy the stately elegance of your surroundings. Pop into the house once you’re finished for a guided tour.
Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop
Lace up your walking boots if you’ve got older children, and set out on the Glenbarrow Waterfall Looped Walk, half an hour from Emo Court. The forest walk will take you through a mature coniferous woodland passing the Clamp Hole, the largest waterfall on the river, which is sure to impress the kids.
Get some family bonding time in along the remote, peaceful walk, but be aware the terrain can be sometimes rough and wet underfoot. Head in spring when the trail is ablaze with bluebells for a particularly special experience.