Top ten places for tourists and locals to visit in Laois this summer

Michelle Hogan


Michelle Hogan

Our top ten tourist areas in Laois

With hot sunny days finally here in Laois, what better time to stay local and explore the finest destinations on offer.

We have ranked the top ten tourist hotspots in Laois. Have you hit them all yet? Where else is your favourite Laois haunt on sunny days?

10. Slieve Bloom Mountains

From the stunning Monicknew with its towering bridge, to the impressive Glenbarrow waterfall with flat rocks ideal for paddling, and the Ridge of Capard with a view across five counties, the Slieve Blooms offer 26 valleys of blissful unspoilt outdoors fun. 

9. Durrow Village 

The Durrow Scarecrow Festival draws buses of tourists from far and wide each year for its unique creativity in a beautiful quaint village. Durrow Castle is a beautiful place to stop in for afternoon tea, and check out the cute museum in Bob's Bar. The village itself is beautifully kept with unspoiled Irish character in every corner and scenic Durrow Leafy Loop walk.

8. Derryounce Lake - Portarlington Co. Laois

Portarlington Angling Club look after the biodiversity of Derryounce Lakes and Walks making it an stunning place to visit. After peat production ceased at Derryounce Bog, this area was flooded permanently. The flooded area is now known as Lough Lurgan. There is an area of dry grassland and wood on a small hill to the west of Derryounce Lake. This area is known as Nugent’s Hill and maps from the turn of the 20th Century show evidence of human habitation there together with a well and a spring. This is a beautiful part of the country and a great opportunity to explore nature and wildlife in Laois. Watch a video of the skies over the lake here.

7. Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum and Agriculture Museum - Rathdowney, Co. Laois

Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum is a unique place in Laois which aims to tell the story of the families who lived and died within the famine workhouse walls before, during and after the Great Famine. As a result of the Great Famine era of 1845-1849 about 1,200 people, or 10% of the population of the area, was forced to seek refuge here. Steeped in chilling history, the workhouse is now often used as a music venue. Donaghmore Agriculture Museum is nearby offering another selling point to visitors. Have you ever visited? 

6. Heywood Gardens - Ballinakill, Co. Laois

In 1773, Heywood Gardens were landscaped inspired by a Grand Tour of Europe. Hills were moved, lakes were dug, trees were planted and follies were placed. The results were considered to be the most exquisite romantic landscape of their time. Although the heritage house is gone, the gardens are among the best surviving example of Edward Lutyens’ work in Ireland. The formal gardens contrast with breathtaking views of the landscape. Some TripAdvisor reviews include: “A hidden piece of Irish history” and “Been here with my two year old. Loads of space to run around, a maze to get lost in, flowers to be amazed by and if you wanted, a long nature walk to do by the lake”. 

5. Mountmellick

Once known as the Manchester of Ireland, Mountmellick is a town of fine Georgian buildings and the home of a uniquely Irish embroidery technique, Mountmellick Work. Examples are on permanent display in Mountmellick Museum, at the MDA on the N80 approach road to the town. Across the road is an attractive tree lined riverside playground and a riverside walkway. There are plenty of local cafés, pubs and even a chocolate shop enticing you to take a break. The town is also home to the famous award winning Yarn Bombing Mountmellick group who decorate street furniture with woolly art every August.

Information boards in the O'Connell Square and around the town explain its history and how it was founded by the Society of Friends, known as Quakers. 

4. Abbeyleix

Abbeyleix is one of Laois' finest heritage towns, built by the de Vesci family, with stunning pretty houses and character filled shops. Heritage House was once home to the Abbeyleix Carpet Factory, where a number of hand tufted carpets were made for the state room for the Titanic. The Heritage Centre provides a fantastic insight to the pre-Christian warring tribes of Laois.  This site has some great TripAdvisor reviews “You'll get a very warm welcome to this small community-run museum. It tells some of the story of Abbeyleix and there is a model railway.”

Abbeyleix Bog is an award-winning restored bog that is teaming with butterflies and flowers, with an accessible board walk for visitors.

3. Laois playgrounds

Laois has no less than 19 modern playgrounds offering free family fun. Why not tick them off your list!

They are in... deep breath... Abbeyleix, Durrow, Clonaslee, Killeen, Mountrath, Mountmellick (reopening in late May following flood damage),  Portlaoise at the Leisure Centre and the People's Park on Timahoe Road, Portarlington, Stradbally, The Swan, Killeshin, Mountrath, Rathdowney, Ballylinan, Timahoe, Coolrain, Barrowhouse and Doonane.

2. Emo Court - Emo, Co. Laois

Designed by the architect James Gandon in 1790 for the Earls of Portarlington, Emo Court is a magnificent example of neo-classical style in the heart of Laois. In 1994 Cholmeley Harrison presented Emo Court House to the people of Ireland. Learn more on the free Abarta Laois Heritage Trail audio app.

Staff of the Office of Public Works now care for the estate and preserve its stately elegance for modern visitors. The beautiful gardens and parklands were first laid out in the 18th century, containing formal lawns and a lake. Walks through the woodland are a popular way to explore the beautiful grounds. The gardens and woodlands are free to visit (open until 9pm) and access to the house is by guided tour, with Catoca restaurant on site, and natural wood play zones for the kiddies. Dogs welcome to, but on a leash and with dog bags in tow!

1. The Rock of Dunamase - Portlaoise, Co Laois

The stunning Rock of Dunamase is ideal for weekend and summer holiday visits. The scenic views of rolling countryside on a sunny day cannot be beaten. They can now be teamed with the Abarta app to explain its tumultous history, with an information board now at the site too.  Click here to download.

Being a landlocked county we don't have white sandy beaches but it is clear that Laois offers a host of activities for locals and tourists to enjoy. Have fun!