County Laois Bed and Breakfast Accommodation
Ireland’s most inland county – it is the only one bordered by counties that have no coastline – Laois is perhaps one of the lesser known and more unexplored areas in the country. But it has much to offer and its landscape provides a remarkable mix of low-lying land (including bogs) and the higher ground of the splendid Slieve Bloom Mountains.
Visitors are always drawn to the Rock of Dunamaise and the great gardens at Abbeyleix, Heywood and Emo Court, the latter being the single biggest visitor attraction in Laois. Laois is farming country but it also well known for hosting the nostalgic Steam Rally in Stradbally every August and in more recent times the Electric Picnic weekend concert later the same month at the same venue.
History and Heritage
It’s known in some quarters as ‘Queen’s County’, a reference to its plantation in the 16th century by the British who also created a new town called Maryborough after Queen Mary (now Portlaoise).
The stately homes and estates of the former planters are now open to the public, many with fine gardens.
The outstanding heritage feature in the county is the dramatic Rock of Dunamaise. Mapped by Ptolemy in 140 A.D., plundered by Vikings in 842 A.D., the seat of tribal lords in the 14th century and destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1650, the ancient fortress is currently undergoing vital restoration work.
Sites to see
Stradbally Steam Museum and Narrow Gauge Railway (although museum is not open full-time), Workhouse & Agricultural Museum in Donaghmore, Abbeyleix Heritage House, Ballaghmore Castle, Rock of Dunamaise, Emo Court Mountmellick Museum.
Sports and Leisure
GAA is traditionally strong in Laois but there are plenty of small rivers for angling enthusiasts and golf is increasing in popularity all the time.
There are several small, homely golf clubs in the county but if you want to go more upmarket, there’s a Seve Ballesterosdesigned 18-hole course at The Heritage Hotel in Killenard.
Since Laois is largely flat, it makes for good walking tours and for those seeking a more demanding stretching of the legs, a walk up the Slieve Bloom Mountains is not to be missed. From the highest point, Mt.Arderin (528m), it is possible on a clear day to see the highest points of all four of Ireland’s ancient provinces.
Eat, Drink and Stay
Laois has witnessed the emergence of a number of new hotels and more are coming on stream. The Heritage in Portlaoise and its sister hotel at Killenard, Castle Durrow and Abbeyleix Manor are all gaining excellent reputations but B&Bs are still the most established form of visitor accommodation in the county and they are not be found wanting.
For good food, places such as The Kitchen & Foodhall, Egan’s, The Lemon Tree and The Kingfisher Restaurant in Portlaoise and Blooms Restaurant in Clonaslee while the hotels mentioned earlier all have fine dining rooms.
There are no shortage of pubs in Laois but the Foxrock Inn in Ballacolla and The Anchor Inn in Vicarstown are among the best known while Morrissey’s of Abbeyleix is universally accepted as one of the finest and most atmospheric pubs in Ireland.
May/June: Rosenallis Festival of the Mountain, Gordon Bennett Rally & Festival
August: Durrow Carnival Weekend Irish Steam Rally, Stradbally
August: ‘Electric Picnic’ Music Festival, Stradbally
Things you have to see or do
Dunamaise Arts Centre – a purpose built theatre and arts centre
Lutyens Garden, Heywood – in Ballinakill
Emo Court Gardens – fifty-five acres of beautiful gardens
Slieve Bloom Mountains – in the very heart of Ireland
Click on the links below for Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Laois
Laois Tourism www.laoistourism.ie
Dunamaise Arts www.dunamaise.ie
Steam Trains www.irishsteam.ie
Laois County Council www.laois.ie
Slieve Bloom www.slievebloom.ie
Ireland’s East Coast & Midlands www.eastcoastmidlands.ie
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