Laois, Ireland: Discover this Underrated County


Nestled in the heart of the Emerald Isle, Laois, Ireland, remains one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbours, this underrated county is a treasure trove of history, natural beauty, and cultural richness. In this comprehensive Laois Ireland guide, we invite you to embark on a journey of discovery, uncovering the hidden gems that make Laois a truly remarkable destination. Whether you’re an adventurer, a history buff, a foodie, or simply seeking a unique Irish experience, Laois has something special in store for you. Let’s explore the best things to do in Laois and reveal its many hidden treasures.

A Brief Overview of Laois

Before diving into the hidden gems of Laois, let’s get acquainted with this charming county. Laois, also known as “The Land of the Hurdles,” is situated in the province of Leinster, right in the heart of Ireland. Its central location makes it an ideal starting point for exploring the rest of the country. Despite its modest size, Laois packs a punch when it comes to history, culture, and natural beauty.

Laois Rich Historical Heritage

Laois is a county steeped in history, and it proudly wears its heritage like a badge of honour. For history enthusiasts, there are countless treasures to uncover. Start your journey at the iconic Rock of Dunamase, a medieval fortification perched atop a limestone outcrop, offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Nearby, the Timahoe Round Tower stands as a testament to Ireland’s early Christian heritage. Its intricate stone carvings are a sight to behold.

Continuing your historical exploration, don’t miss Emo Court and Parklands, an exquisite neoclassical mansion surrounded by stunning gardens and lakes. The mansion’s architecture and lush landscapes provide a glimpse into Ireland’s aristocratic past.

Natural Wonders of Laois

Laois is a paradise for nature lovers, with its diverse landscapes that range from rolling hills to pristine lakes. If you’re an avid hiker, the Slieve Bloom Mountains offer a network of trails that lead you through ancient woodlands, heathlands, and blanket bogs. The Slieve Bloom Way is a must for those seeking breathtaking vistas and a deep connection with nature.

For a more tranquil experience, visit Grantstown Lake or Garryhinch Bog. These serene spots provide opportunities for birdwatching, picnicking, and peaceful reflection amidst unspoiled natural beauty.

Charming Towns Of Laois

One of the joys of exploring Laois is the chance to wander through its charming towns and villages. Portlaoise, the county’s bustling market town and administrative centre, is a great place to start. Explore its vibrant streets, visit local markets, and experience the warmth of the locals.

Abbeyleix, with its picturesque streets and historical architecture, is a hidden gem within a hidden gem. Take a leisurely stroll and uncover the town’s secrets, including the impressive Abbeyleix House and the tranquil Abbeyleix Bog.

Cultural Experiences in Laois

Laois may be small, but it packs a cultural punch. The county is known for its lively festivals and cultural events. One standout is the Electric Picnic, an annual music and arts festival that attracts international talent and a diverse crowd of music lovers. It’s a must-visit if you happen to be in Laois during early September.

For a taste of Irish traditions, look out for local music sessions in the county’s pubs. You might just find yourself clapping your hands and tapping your feet to the rhythm of traditional Irish tunes.

Culinary Delights of Laois

Exploring Laois also means indulging in its culinary delights. Laois lamb is a local speciality, known for its tender and succulent flavour. Visit a local restaurant or pub to savour this delicious dish, often served with traditional Irish accompaniments.

Farmers’ markets in Laois offer an opportunity to sample artisanal cheeses, fresh produce, and baked goods made with love by local producers. It’s a delightful way to experience the country’s food culture and support its vibrant community of artisans.

Outdoor Activities and Adventure

For those seeking outdoor adventure, Laois has you covered. The county’s diverse terrain lends itself to various activities. Cyclists can explore scenic routes, such as the Slieve Bloom Cycling Loop, which takes you through picturesque landscapes and charming villages.

If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to cast your line in Laois’ lakes and rivers. The leisurely pace of angling in these serene settings is the perfect way to unwind.

Horseback riding in the Slieve Bloom Mountains is another unforgettable experience. Guided tours allow you to explore the rugged terrain while enjoying the company of these majestic animals.

Hidden Gems Off the Beaten Path

While Laois has its well-known attractions, it’s also a county brimming with hidden gems off the beaten path. For a unique experience, consider visiting the Abbeyleix Heritage House, a fascinating museum showcasing the history and heritage of the town and its surroundings.

The Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk is another hidden treasure. This wooden boardwalk meanders through the peaceful bog, providing a close-up look at this unique ecosystem. It’s a tranquil escape that allows you to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty.

Getting to and Around Laois

Getting to Laois is relatively easy, thanks to its central location. If you’re arriving by air, Dublin Airport is the closest major international airport. From there, you can reach Laois by car, train, or bus. The road network in Ireland is well-maintained, making it a convenient way to explore the area.

Once in Laois, you’ll find a reliable bus network that connects major towns and villages. Additionally, there’s a train station in Portlaoise, offering connections to other Irish cities.

Free Things to do in Laois

Exploring Laois, Ireland, doesn’t have to break the bank. This charming county offers a variety of free activities and attractions that allow you to experience its beauty and culture without spending a dime. Here are some fantastic free things to do in Laois:

  1. Rock of Dunamase: This iconic medieval fortress offers not only a glimpse into Ireland’s history but also breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It’s a fantastic spot for a hike and some memorable photos.
  2. Emo Court and Parklands: Explore the beautifully landscaped gardens and serene lakes of Emo Court. The neoclassical mansion itself is a marvel to behold from the outside, and you can enjoy a leisurely walk around the grounds at no cost.
  3. Timahoe Round Tower: Delve into Laois’ ancient past by visiting the Timahoe Round Tower. This well-preserved tower is a testament to Ireland’s early Christian heritage and features intricate stone carvings. It’s a fascinating historical site to explore.
  4. Grantstown Lake: Enjoy a peaceful day by the water at Grantstown Lake. Whether you’re interested in fishing, picnicking, or simply soaking in the tranquillity of nature, this lake provides a relaxing and scenic setting.
  5. Abbeyleix Heritage House: Discover the history and heritage of Abbeyleix and its surroundings at the Abbeyleix Heritage House. This museum offers free admission and provides insights into the town’s rich past.
  6. Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk: Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Laois by taking a stroll along the Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk. This wooden boardwalk offers an up-close look at the unique bog ecosystem and is an ideal spot for birdwatching.
  7. Local Festivals and Events: Keep an eye out for free local festivals and events happening in Laois. From music festivals to cultural celebrations, there are often free activities and entertainment for visitors to enjoy.
  8. Village Exploration: Wander through Laois’ charming towns and villages, such as Abbeyleix, Stradbally, and Mountmellick. Explore the streets, admire historical architecture, and soak up the local atmosphere without spending a cent.
  9. Natural Trails: Laois offers a network of natural trails, including those in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. While some activities in the mountains may require a fee, there are many trails and pathways where you can enjoy the scenery and fresh air for free.
  10. Picnic in the Parks: Pack a picnic and head to one of Laois’ beautiful parks, like Emo Court Parklands or a local community park. It’s an affordable and enjoyable way to savour the outdoors.
  11. Local Markets: Visit local farmers’ markets, such as the Stradbally Country Market, to browse fresh produce, homemade crafts, and artisanal goods. While you might be tempted to make a purchase, simply strolling through these markets is a delightful experience.
  12. Self-Guided Walking Tours: Many towns in Laois offer self-guided walking tours that take you through the area’s history and landmarks. Pick up a brochure or map at a local tourism office and explore at your own pace.
  13. Photography and Scenic Drives: Laois’ landscapes are a photographer’s dream. Take a scenic drive through the county’s countryside, capturing stunning shots along the way. The ever-changing Irish weather can create dramatic scenes.
  14. Historical Churches: Visit historic churches and religious sites scattered across Laois. While some may request a small donation, many allow visitors to explore their architectural beauty and serenity for free.
  15. Local Music Sessions: Keep an ear out for local music sessions happening in pubs and venues. Sometimes, these impromptu performances offer a genuine taste of Irish culture without an entry fee.

With these free things to do in Laois, you can enjoy the county’s natural beauty, history, and culture without worrying about your budget. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Laois has something for everyone to enjoy at no

Accommodation in Laois

To fully enjoy your Laois adventure, it’s essential to find comfortable accommodations. Laois offers a variety of lodging options, catering to different budgets and preferences. Whether you prefer the charm of a boutique hotel, the warmth of a bed and breakfast, or the independence of a self-catering cottage, Laois has the perfect place for you to rest and rejuvenate after a day of exploration.

Tips for a Memorable Visit

To make the most of your visit to Laois, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Timing Matters: Consider visiting during the Electric Picnic festival if you’re a music lover. However, Laois is beautiful year-round, so choose a time that aligns with your interests.
  2. Local Etiquette: Engage with the locals and immerse yourself in their warm hospitality. You’ll find that the people of Laois are eager to share their stories and make you feel at home.
  3. Outdoor Gear: If you plan to partake in outdoor activities, pack appropriate gear, especially if you’re hiking in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
  4. Food Adventures: Don’t hesitate to try local dishes and explore farmer’s markets. The culinary scene in Laois is very good.


1. FAQ: What are the top tourist attractions in Laois, Ireland?

  • Answer: Laois, Ireland, offers a range of top tourist attractions, including the historic Rock of Dunamase, the picturesque Emo Court and Parklands, and the ancient Timahoe Round Tower. Additionally, visitors can explore charming towns like Abbeyleix and enjoy outdoor activities in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

2. FAQ: How do I get to Laois from Dublin Airport?

  • Answer: To reach Laois from Dublin Airport, you can take a direct train from Dublin Heuston Station to Portlaoise, which is the county’s main transport hub. Alternatively, there are bus services and car rental options available at the airport for a convenient journey to Laois.

3. FAQ: What are the best outdoor activities to enjoy in Laois, Ireland?

  • Answer: Laois offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, fishing at Grantstown Lake, and exploring the Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk. Cyclists can also enjoy scenic routes, and there are horseback riding opportunities in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

John C

Hey, my name is John Conway and I love travelling around Ireland. I have a passion for All Things Ireland. I love the Emerald Isle! I love Guinness and green fields!

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