Ireland’s landscape is probably best known as either the rugged West or the stunning coastlines of the South. Not much is known about the Midland areas, which are also worth visiting and exploring such as what you’ll find in County Laois. From garden estates to castle ruins, chasing waterfalls and riding steam – here are some of the best things to do in Laois if you find yourself in this Irish county.
Things you'll find in this article
- 10 Things To Do in Laois, Ireland
- 1. Emo Court & Gardens
- 2. Rock of Dunamase
- 3. Slieve Bloom Mountains
- 4. Glenbarrow Waterfall and Ridge of Capard
- 5. Timahoe Round Tower, Laois
- 6. Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum
- 7. Portlaoise Farmers Market
- 8. Heywood Gardens
- 9. Barge Ride on the Grand Canal
- 10. Stradbally Steam Museum
10 Things To Do in Laois, Ireland
1. Emo Court & Gardens
The picture-perfect Emo Court & Gardens is one of the best places to see in Laois that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. The Neoclassical Mansion is set in green parklands that you can stroll around in. The place surrounds a lake and a walk around it takes you through lush sceneries. Make sure you also tour the house, which is an example of neoclassical magnificence, and don’t forget to check out the tea rooms!
Monday to Friday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Adult €5 | Senior/group €4 | Child/student €3 | Family €110
Address: Emo Laois, Republic of Ireland
Phone: +353 57 8626573
2. Rock of Dunamase
The Rock of Dunamase is situated 46 meters above a flat plain, and one of the more peculiar things to see in Laois. The rock holds the ruins of Dunamase, which was a fortress back in the early Hiberno-Norman period. From there, you get amazing views of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
What you’ll see here now may just be remains of the old structure, which was destroyed in the 12th century. The foundations are still recognizable though, so you can imagine how formidable it was before.
Open at 24/7
Address: Dunamase Carlow Road Portlaoise Laois, Republic of Ireland
Phone: +353 57 8664129
3. Slieve Bloom Mountains
You can’t be in town and not hike in any of Slieve Bloom Mountains’ popular trails, which is among the best things to do in Laois. Each trail, or ‘walk’ suits a particular hiking/trekking mood or ability, but all of them offers fantastic views around Slieve Bloom. Moniknew, for example, is short and easy, best for the relaxed, not so committed hiker. While in Slieve Bloom, make sure you visit Glenbarrow waterfalls or Brittas Lake in Clonaslee, where you might encounter deers or wild goats.
Open 24 Hours
The fee is €5 per walk.
4. Glenbarrow Waterfall and Ridge of Capard
These two natural attractions in Laois just had to go together, as they form what could be an ideal setting for a fantasy film about faeries. The Ridge of Capard isn’t just a boardwalk, it’s also where you’ll have easy access to some of the most stunning views in this part of Ireland. The Glenbarrow Waterfall walk meanwhile, leads you through a forest that takes you to the waterfall itself. It’s a real piece of paradise and something you shouldn’t miss when in Laois.
Open 24 hours
5. Timahoe Round Tower, Laois
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The Timahoe Round Tower is about 30 meters high and 17 meters wide at its base and built approximately in the 1100s. One of the best places to see in Laois, this was constructed on the site of a religious community founded by St. Mochua. Its walls are almost two meters thick and inside, the tower had five stories that are connected by ladders. A former beacon for travelers looking for the monastery, Timahoe Round Tower is set in a scenic area, right across a footbridge over the Bauteogue River.
Address: Heritage Office Laois County Council Portlaoise Laois, Republic of Ireland
Phone: +353 57 8664129
6. Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum
A sobering and informative visit awaits you at Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum, which is one of Laois’ best attractions. A poignant reminder of Ireland’s turbulent history and one of its more devastating events, the museum features not just displays and exhibits, but also stories of people who lived through the Potato Famine in the 1800s. There’s also another museum on site that features various agricultural equipment and antiquities. The museum is free to visit and located close to Aghaboe Abbey so it’s a great stop if you’re headed that way.
Monday to Friday – 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Adult €5 | Family €10 | Student/Senior €3 | *Please confirm prices with premises directly.
Address: Donaghmore Portlaoise Laois, Republic of Ireland
Phone: +353 86 8296685
7. Portlaoise Farmers Market
A great way to get to know a new town or city you visit is through its farmers market. In Laois, you have Portlaoise Farmers Market which opens during Fridays in Market Square. Go there early and get your hands on fresh local produce, interact with the vendors, and get great deals on goodies like cakes, cheese and jam directly from the people who actually make them. A fun filling day awaits you at Portlaoise Farmers Market and a visit here is one of the best activities to do in Laois.
Friday from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Address: Market Square Portlaoise Laois, Republic of Ireland
Phone:+353 87 9458458
8. Heywood Gardens
Heywood Gardens is a massive expanse of both natural and man-made wonders that are made up of gardens, lakes, and woodland. The garden sits on the hillside and used to have a house in it that’s now a community secondary school. Definitely one of the best attractions in Laois, Heywood Gardens has so much in it to see and explore such as an obelisk, a bathhouse, a castle and a more structured sunken garden called Lutyens Gardens.
The former was named after the prominent architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. He designed Heywood Gardens which was completed in 1912 and an example of some of his best works in Ireland.
All year – Daily Opens – 8:30 AM
Address: Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, Co. Laois
Phone: +353 87 2202686 and +353 87 6349153
9. Barge Ride on the Grand Canal
If you just want to spend a few hours of your day relaxing while enjoying some stunning sceneries, a barge ride on the Grand Canal that passes through Laois should be in your Ireland itinerary.
Go to the picturesque Vicarstown and hop on a barge for a cruise of the Grand Canal. This journey will take you through the Barrow line part of the Grand Canal, which links to the main line in town.
The cruise lasts a couple of hours, and takes you through the diverse waterways, valleys, forestry and some of the most magnificent views of the River Shannon as well as passing some historic towns.
10. Stradbally Steam Museum
An amazing place to visit in Laois if you’re interested in the history of transportation particularly the train system is the Stradbally Steam Museum. This place pays tribute to the steam engines that once powered road constructions, helped in farming and ruled the railways.
Here, you’ll find different types of steam-powered engines such as the Mann Steam Cart which was built in 1918 and used to plow the land. There’s also The Fowler from 1936 that was used in roadworks. The Stradbally Steam Museum also houses a black steam engine from 1912 that was used in the Guinness Brewery. It also features a steam train that runs during holidays around the Stradbally Hall estate.
Admission Price – €10. Children (Under 12) – Free
Address: 36 Cillbeg Manor, Stradbally, Co. Laois
Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.