County Laois (from the Irish, Contae Laoise) is unique for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the name – “Laois” – which is largely informal, bestowed on the county during the establishment of the Republic in 1922. The official name is, in fact, “Queen’s County,” as shired by Queen Mary in 1556. And it is, uniquely, the only county in Ireland totally landlocked on all sides.
Laois is an otherwise fairly typical county. The earliest people arrived around 6,000 B.C. During the Neolithic and Bronze Age, the area was settled with crude hill forts, some of which remain today (in the towns of Clopook and Monelly). The Iron Age afforded the development of more sophisticated kinds of weaponry, and as a result Ireland was upended in warfare and sprawling, tribal battles. Christianity sought to bring civility to Laois, and was violently succeeded by the Norman invasion. The county was settled at last by English pioneers during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Notable religious establishments remain at Aghaboe Abbey, Timahoe village and the Rock of Dunamase. Of them, the Rock of Dunamase is particularly noteworthy. The fort at the top was established as a Christian base in the 9th century and later became a military outpost, with the construction of the castle during the 12th century (at 150 feet, the perfect defence against oncoming invaders). The rock is overlooked by the incredible Slieve Bloom Mountains, said to be the oldest in Europe.
Unmissable Attractions County Laois
5. Heritage House (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.) Prices: Adults €3.00 / Students €2.50 / Senior citizens and groups €2.00
6. Heywood Gardens (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 8.30 a.m. – 9.00 p.m.)
7. The Sensory Gardens (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.)
8. Mountmellick Museum (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.) Prices: €5.00 per person
9. Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 11.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. in summer)
10. Emo Court (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. in summer) Prices: Adults €3.00 / Senior citizens and groups €2.00 / Children and students €1.00 / Family €8.00