Laois - the Heartland of Ireland
Laois is the most centrally situated County in Ireland. It is within one hour's drive from Dublin, Birr, the Curragh of Kildare, Kilkenny, the Rock of Cashel and Clomacnoise. There is also a regular bus service to Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Athlone and Waterford. The varied landscape of Laois includes the Slieve Bloom Mountains - the oldest mountains in Europe and once the highest. These are a walker's paradise containing gems of geological history Celtic Mythology, fauna and flora and panoramic views. The Rock of Dunamaise. which predates Newgrange and the Pyramids, preserves a history from the Stone and Bronze Ages (c 3000BC) through to the Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Norman Eras. The Rock was known to the Phoenician traders in the first century AD. Game Fishing is relaxing in the pool-ripple and glide sequences of the Nore and the Barrow, while coarse angling is a tradition in the many lakes, rivers and canals where Eel, Pike, Trench and Rudd are found.
The Wealth of Big Houses - Emo Court, Ballyfin and Cosby Hall among them and ruined Castles indicates a complex past. Associated with the Big Houses are the many very fine gardens of English, French and Italian inspiration. Among these are Emo Court and Lutyens in Heywood. Also, worth a visit are Abbeyleix Sense Gardens and Gash Gardens. Play Golf on the Heath- one of the very few open Heathland golf courses in Europe, or on one of the four open parkland courses in the County. The Golden Age of Irish Monasticism (when Irish monks saved European civilisation in the Dark Ages (6thC - 9thC) has left a rich heritage in Laois. There is the Timahoe Round Tower, Aghaboe Abbey founded by St. Canices from which St Virglies went as bishop to Salsburg in Austria, there is the monastic site of Clonenagh, (the Gallic School of c.600 A.D from which were founded the monasteries of St Gaul in Switzerland and Bobbio in Italy. The illuminated Manuscript (the book of Leinster) was written in Oakvale, Stradbally.
"It was what we do in Ireland, done as well as it can be done. It was inspiring, inspiringly delicious. What a treasure for the lone traveller! "
John McKenna, Bridgstone Guide, Ireland