Take note Fáilte Ireland - Our top ten tourist areas in Laois

There's a lot more to Laois than prisons and it's about time Fáilte Ireland sat up and took note of Lovely Laois

Michelle Hogan


Michelle Hogan

Our top ten tourist areas in Laois

Laois was met with some disappointing news this week when it was revealed that it had received pittance from Fáilte Ireland in tourism funding.

Laois was granted €93,750 from a €125 million fund between 2007 and 2014.

This is in contrast to the larger cities like Dublin which received huge boosts to the tune of €18 million, Cork which got a €14.7 million and Limerick which benefited from €12.6 million.

After Laois, Carlow received the next lowest amount of capital funding at €415,745.

Laois Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming has called on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, to address the severe lack of funding for tourism in Laois.

We have ranked the top ten tourist hotspots in Laois and fleshed out some of the ways these areas could be better promoted to put Laois on the map. What do you think?

10. Stradbally Hall - Stradbally Co. Laois

One of the very underrated gems Laois has to offer, the history engrained in Stradbally Hall dates all the way back to 1580. This beautiful building is open to individuals, groups, cultural events, weddings and more. Have you ever visited Stradbally Hall? With thousands of people from all over the country coming to Stradbally for Electric Picnic every year, is there more that could be done to boost this Irish Historic House?

9. Durrow Village - Scarecrow Festival and Castle Durrow - Durrow, Co. Laois

The Durrow Scarecrow Festival draws buses of tourists from far and wide each year for its unique creativity in a beautiful quaint village. People are coming in their droves, are we taking advantage of this? Durrow Castle is a beautiful place for tourists to stay, enjoy the surroundings and afternoon tea. The village itself is beautifully kept with unspoiled Irish character in every corner and scenic leafy walks on offer.

8. Derryounce Lake - Portarlington Co. Laois

Portarlington Angling Club look after the biodiversity of Derryounce Lakes and Walks making it an interesting visit for tourists who enjoy the great outdoors. After peat production ceased at Derryounce Bog, this area 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 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”. What could be done to promote Heywood Gardens to more young families?

5. Mountmellick Museum - Mountmellick, Co. Laois

Once known as the Manchester of Ireland, Mountmellick is a town of fine buildings and the home of a uniquely Irish textile art, Mountmellick Work. The foundation of the town was laid by members of the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. Weaving became one of the town’s major industries. By the mid-1700s, Mountmellick was a leading centre of textile production in Ireland. Pims was the town’s main industrial firm. Its enterprises included malting, brewing, baking, tanning, and the manufacture of glue, snuff and candles as well as wholesale and retail businesses. Mountmellick experienced a boom in 1836, when a branch of the Grand Canal opened, linking the town with markets throughout Ireland and beyond. The rich architectural heritage of Mountmellick tells the story of the town’s growth. The oldest surviving dwelling is Johns Pim’s house on Harbour Street, built in 1686. Mountmellick Work, a white-on-white embroidery technique, was invented in the early 1800s by Johanna Carter. Mountmellick museum is dedicated to telling the stories of times past and showcasing the unique offerings that lived on in the townspeople all these years.

4. Abbeyleix Heritage House - Abbeyleix, Co. Laois

Abbeyleix 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. Discover the story of Abbeyleix, built by the de Vesci landlords. 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 also has an award-winning bog which the Entente Florale Europe judges said should be used to tap into tourism.

3. The Slieve Bloom Mountains

€1Million in funding was allocated in February of this year to develop a strategic cycle trail across the Slieve Blooms that would attract cyclists from all over the country to the Laois mountains. No more has been mentioned about this development since February. What do you think could be done with the Slieve Blooms to attract tourists? Is there potential to target walkers, hikers, nature lovers?

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. 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 currently free to visit and access to the house is by guided tour only. With such rich history and stories to tell, a visit to Emo Court could be developed into day-trip in itself for tourists.

1. The Rock of Dunamase - Portlaoise, Co Laois

Proper car parking facilities, an information centre, marketing and signposting the history and heritage of the Rock of Dunamase could make it more attractive for weekend and summer holiday visits. The scenic views of rolling countryside on a sunny day teamed with an interesting history lesson would be well worth a visit from Irish and foreign tourists alike. 

What do you think? Do you agree with our list? Being a landlocked county we don't have white sandy beaches on offer but from this list it is clear that we can still target tourists that are searching for outdoor adventure, wildlife and those who appreciate rich history and heritage.