Hi Everyone. Welcome to this week’s leg of my Virtual Tour of Ireland. It’s so hard to believe we’ve been on the road for almost 6 months! As always it’s wonderful to have your company and it gives me great pleasure this week to share some of my favorite spots in County Laois.
County Laois Highlights
1. Emo Court
So first up we’re off to the palatial surroundings of Emo Court. This simply stunning mansion dates back to 1790 . It was designed by the renowned architect James Gandon for the Earls of Portarlington. It is unashamedly neo-classical in architectural style complete with imposing pillars. Major Cholmeley Harrison took over the estate in the 1960s and set about restoring the mansion to it’s former glory. The house and 18th century gardens were gifted to the people of Ireland in 1994.
Abbeyleix is one of my favorite towns in Ireland with one of my favorite pubs in the country. No visit to the town would be complete without dropping into Morrisseys pub and general store which dates back to 1775. The town boasts beautiful examples of 19th century architecture including several fountains and the magnificently restored Heritage House. The Church of The Most Holy Rosary is incredibly impressive and we’ll be visiting the nearby Sensory Gardens at the end of our trip.
3. Rock of Dunamase
The Rock of Dunamase rises out of the County Laois countryside between the towns of Portlaoise and Stradbally. Life on this site began as an early Christian settlement in the 9th century. The ruins we see today date back to the 12th century and rise majestically some 46 meters above flat terrain.
Vikings attacked the settlement in 845 AD. After the Norman invasion in the late 12th century, Dunamase became one of the most important fortifications in the county. This was due to it’s strategic position overlooking the surrounding counties. Diarmuid MacMurrough (The King of Leinster), gave the castle as part of his daughter Aoife’s dowry to the Norman invader Strongbow. As a result of this exchange he received help to win back his lands.
4. Cullenagh Mountain
Time for a very gentle mountain walk as we take a trip up to the top of Cullenagh Mountain. It stands at 320 meters at its highest point where you can enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding lush County Laois countryside.
5. Sensory Gardens
As mentioned earlier, we now take a trip the Sensory Gardens in Abbeyleix. This is the perfect final stop on our County Laois journey. The gardens are designed as feast for all the senses. You can hear wind chimes and humming stones while feasting your eyes and sense of smell on vibrant and fragrant plants. A place of peaceful contemplation and tranquility.
Time to sign off now. See you next time as the tour takes us to County Carlow.
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!