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The 11 best things to do in County Laois
Enjoy the panoramic views of Laois from the top of the Rock of Dunamase.
A county peppered with fascinating historical sites, set amongst beautiful scenery and some of Ireland’s most impressive gardens, Laois is the perfect spot to visit for your next adventure.

Here are 11 things you can’t miss while you’re in Laois.

1Heywood Gardens

With over 50 acres of stunning gardens, lakes and woodland, Heywood Gardens near Ballinakill is a fascinating place to get out exploring. The romantic park was created by Frederick Trench in the late 1700s inspired by a tour of Europe, and the formal gardens followed in the 1900s by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Seek out the lime tree-lined walkway, the formal terrace with views of the surrounding countryside, the sunken garden with an elliptical pool at the centre, and the poetry of Alexander Pope inscribed in the loggia on the top level. Hang out by the lake and you might even spot moorhens and kingfishers. 

Pink flowers at Heywood Gardens  in County Laois
Explore the 50 acres of stunning gardens, lakes and woodland of Heywood Gardens.
2Timahoe Round Tower

Discover one of Ireland’s most elegant examples of existing 12th century stonework at Timahoe Round Tower, just outside Portlaoise, with its Romanesque doorway and carved heads decorating the entrance. Cross the footbridge over the Bauteogue River to admire the Tower’s 30m height and enjoy a family picnic in the surrounding parklands.

Timahoe Round Tower
3Rock of Dunamase

You might recognise the Rock of Dunamase from the film, Leap Year, but the crumbling, Celtic fortress, not far from Portlaoise is even more impressive in real life. Roam the ruins and imagine its former grandiosity, before it was destroyed in the Cromwellian invasion in 1650. It stands atop a steep rock, so head to the highest point and soak in the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

4Ballykilcavan Brewery

Smell the hops as you wander through the 230 year old stone courtyard on the family farm at Ballykilcavan Brewery in Stradbally. Head inside to discover the inner workings of a small craft brewery where all the barley and water used to make the beer is sourced on the farm and you can ring the 200 year old bell that summoned the farm labourers into work every morning. The guided tasting of their core beers at the end is always a hit.

Ballykilcavan Brewery
5Take a narrowboat on the Grand Canal

Hop on a narrowboat from Barrowline Cruisers on the Grand Canal which flows through County Laois to explore the waterways and unspoilt beauty of the Barrow Valley. You don’t need to be a seasoned captain to give it a go. Relax and enjoy the passing countryside along the canal or sail towards the Barrow for more lively waters and unbroken views.

All cruisers come equipped with a full kitchen set up, bed linen, toilets, showers and central heating, as well as navigation charts. Game anglers will find trout and salmon fishing (permits are available at local angling clubs and tackle shops), while course fishers will enjoy bream, tench, rudd and pike fishing throughout the season.

Barrowline Cruisers
6Emo Court House

There’s a long and colourful history to be uncovered at Emo Court House near Portarlington, if you can pull yourself inside from its beautiful gardens. Designed by noted architect James Gandon, the neo-classical mansion has been restored to its former glory, and guided tours are available hourly. While you wait, explore the formal gardens originally laid out in the 18th century. Spot the rare red squirrels, wander the glades of azaleas, and don’t skip The Grapery – an arboretum – as the views of Slieve Bloom from its pathways are unmissable.

Emo Court and gardens, County Laois
Explore the 18th-century gardens of Emo Court House.
7Slieve Bloom Mountains

Take a walk in the stunning Slieve Bloom mountains and discover a vast variety of landscapes; from blanket bogs and forestry paths, to wooded valleys and mountain streams. Enjoy some of the best walks in Laois, there are 16 looped trails to choose from with something to suit all ages and levels.

The Glenbarrow Eco walk will teach you about the environment as you enjoy the ten stop trek, while the Glenbarrow Waterfall walk takes you along the riverbank to a spectacular three-tiered waterfall and natural woodland that’s ablaze with bluebells in spring.

Walking through the forest in Slieve Bloom, Laois
Explore the magical woods on Slieve Bloom.
8Gash Gardens

Take a trip to the moon house grotto where a waterfall cascades into a lily pond, and try to spot the many interesting and unusual plants along the way, at Gash Gardens. Created in 1986, the now mature gardens feature colourful herbaceous borders, a large rock garden with rare alpines and even a secret passage leading to a riverside walk.

Gash Gardens
9Aghaboe Abbey

St. Canice famously founded Aghaboe Abbey in 576. Rich in history, today you can enjoy the tranquillity of the ruins, which the local community have generously come together to restore. Don’t miss the beautifully carved three-light window in the east wall, opposite where the public would have entered in the Middle Ages.

Aghaboe Abbey
10Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum

Step back in time at the evocative Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum, built during the 1850s to hear the story of the families who lived and died within its walls in famine times. Discover the harrowing history of Irish workhouses in the authentically restored, original dormitories, kitchen and waiting hall.

11Glamping in Laois

Experience an unforgettable night under the stars and enjoy a boutique-style camping adventure at the foot of Cullenagh Mountain. Take in the idyllic countryside views that surround the site and roast marshmallows over the campfire. Rest your head for the night in one of the quirky wooden lodges or luxuriously furnished bell tents at the family-owned Glamping Under the Stars campsite.

Truly a memorable experience for all ages, it’s one of the best things to do in Portlaoise and provides a perfect base for discovering all that County Laois has to offer.

Experience more great things to do in Laois

Find so many more wonderful things to do and places to visit on our Laois destination page and discover the absolute best of The O’Moore County.

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