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Durrow, County Laois, Ireland

Durrow and Environs Guide

Find the best attractions surrounding 30 miles of Durrow, County Laois.

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Difficulty: Easy
Duration: Multiple days
Family Friendly
Overview: The great oak forests that once covered ancient Ireland gave Durrow its name, which comes from Daurmagh Ua nDuach, or the Oak Plain of the people known as the Uí Duach. The forests are long gone, replaced with a host of sites we hope you'll find interesting to visit during your time in Durrow.

Durrow is a great place from which to let yourself see a great range of world famous attractions - the Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle, the Irish National Stud are all included. Other more recent places that have come to prominence also feature - Ollie Hayes' pub in Moneygal had a visit from President Obama in May 2011! We've sought to give a wide range of attractions from Castlecomer Discovery Park to Emo Court, Stradbally Steam Railway Museum to Tipperary Racecourse.

We've also ensured that the real gems are there to be it Bob's Vintage Bicycle Museum or Walter's Fishing and Shooting Museum. Sheila na Gigs, Holywells, gardens, golf courses, auction houses and good stores are also covered. With this comprehensive guide, you can find a host of great attractions within a 30 mile radius encompassing Laois, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Carlow and Kildare. You're perfectly based from which to enjoy some of the best places Ireland has to offer.

A special word of thanks is due to South Laois Tourism and the Laois Heritage Officer, Catherine Casey, for the provision of certain material used in this guide.

Tips: Ensure you familiarize yourself with the points of interest beforehand - there are a lot of places to enjoy, but your time may be limited. Ask a local or the receptionist of your hotel if you want to get a further 'feel' for a place before going there. There are some breathtaking scenes along the way with plenty of stops required.

Do not use this App while driving. The guide is offered subject to acceptance of the Licence Agreement, which is linked on the right hand column of this page. If you are downloading, we recommend the use of the EveryTrail Pro app, which allows for offline map usage of the guide.

Points of Interest


Castle Durrow

Castle Durrow Hotel in County Laois is a piece of Irish history embodied in stone. As a building, its massive solidity is combined with an old-world charm and elegance that is distinctive and attractive. It is the creation of an Anglo-Irish landlord family, a relic of an age that has vanished forever. Castle Durrow is the first country house of importance that still stands in close to its original condition and is one of the few 18th century houses for which precise building records survive.

Built by earlier generations of Durrow inhabitants, the legacy of Castle Durrow is its unique sense of proportion, restrained good taste, and a spaciousness that has largely disappeared from present-day living. Complex traditions unite at Castle Durrow – it was built and lived in during a period of high taste and high culture.
Formerly the home of the Flower family, Barons Castle Durrow and Viscounts Ashbrook, it was built in the early 18th century (1712 – 1715) when domestic architecture in Ireland was developing an independence of the need for defence and economy that had characterised earlier construction.

The construction began after the Cromwellian and Williamite wars; this resulted in a new Protestant aristocracy that was beginning to enjoy the lands that they had inherited. The fashion of this new era dictated that inherited land should now separate the burden of agriculture from that of class, and create elegant mansions that could not in any way resemble the farmhouse type buildings of the previous age.
Colonel William Flower commenced with the construction of the Manor in 1712. The Flower family assumed residency of Castle Durrow in 1716 and continued to expand and improve their Estate on various occasions during their 214-year reign. Past research indicates that the Ashbrooks were generally regarded as benevolent landlords and of course the largest employers of Durrow Village.

In 1922 the banks finally foreclosed and the Flower family was forced to relocate back to Britain. Subsequently, the property was sold to Mr. Maher of Freshford, Co Kilkenny who was primarily interested in the rich timber reserves of the Estate. By 1928 the old hard wood forests of Durrow were scarce.

Eventually the Land Commission divided up the arable portions of the property and the Forestry Department took over many of the woods for further plantation. During this time the great manor house which stood in a commanding position near the town overlooking the beautiful River Erkina remained entirely empty for a few years. The Bank of Ireland acquired the town and consequently for the next 40 years house property in Durrow was purchased from that bank.

In 1929 with the Bishop’s approval the Parish of Durrow acquired the Estate for the purchase price of £1800 and Castle Durrow was transformed into a school, St Fintan’s College and Convent. The advent of a school at Castle Durrow was testimony to the fact that beautiful buildings of the past could be used in the modern world.
Peter and Shelley Stokes bought the castle in 1998 and transformed it into the luxurious Castle Hotel it is today.

Abbeyleix heritage centre

The original town of Abbeyleix grew up near the River Nore, on the site of an early Christian abbey. The town developed under the protection of a twelfth century Cistercian monastery. In 1562, Queen Elizabeth granted the abbey and associated lands to Thomas, Earl of Ormond. Over the next century, the village grew to contain 52 families. However, regular flooding from the River Nore made the town an unhealthy place to live.

When the de Vesci family acquired Abbeyleix in 1750, they decided that the town would have to move. The de Vescis levelled the old town of Abbeyleix and moved its people to a new planned town. Abbeyleix prospered in its new location and by 1837, had grown to 140 houses. Local farmers traded at the Market House and business premises lined its crescent. Over the next century the main industries included flour mills, a brewery, and a factory that made carpets used all over the world, including on the luxury liner Titanic.

Lady de Vesci looked after poor widows in the Alms House on Temperance Street. The destitute were admitted to the Workhouse, which opened in 1842.
Today visitors can admire the fine period buildings that remain in Abbeyleix, including the Church of Ireland, Baptist Meeting House, Wesleyan Meeting house, and Catholic Church. Those wanting to learn more about life in the mid-1800s can visit the restored Sexton’s House. For the full story of the town, go to the Abbeyleix Heritage House in the old Patrician North School.

Abbeyleix Heritage House
Phone: 057 873 1653
Facilities: Car park, toilets, coffee shop

Heywood garden

Intrinsically linked with the history of Ballinakill is Heywood. Heywood House lies in Heywood Demesne which is passed every day by people leaving the town by the two trees and heading towards Heywood Community School. Remnants of the old demesne wall are still visible on the right hand side of the road.

The old entrance to Heywood House was through the Tower Lodge and the walker should closely examine the crest above the gate and see the Stanhope crest and motto. The motto reads "Mihi gravato Deus " which means " Let God lay greatness on me". Philip, Earl of Stanhope, took ownership of the land around Ballinakill in 1765 when the last Ridgeway died.

As the gates are locked the walker must proceed to the Heywood CS entrance and turn right immediately, The route takes you behind the entrance gate and up the old entrance to the house and garden passing a grotto and a spire.

The Spire: The spire was what greeted the visitor to Heywood. It is shown in a painting by G. Holmes in 1821. It is six-sided, made from pale sandstone and a milestone. It commemorates the visit of Andrew Caldwell, a friend of Trench. The letters TRENCH are at the top.

The Grotto: This was built on a site known locally as Judy's Wood. It was blessed on February 11th 1958. This marked the centenary anniversary of the apparition of our Blessed Lady to St. Bernadette at the Grotto in Lourdes. Locals Joe Ryan, Jack O Connor, Charlie O'Loughlin, Pierce Phelan and Jimmy Fitzpatrick worked on the project under the guidance of Fr. Treanor.

Gothic Orangery: Moving up the old road we come to a Gothic Orangery, the Gothic Orangery is at the new entrance to Heywood C.S. It is also marked on the 1818 sketch of the estate by F.W. Trench. It was marked on the 1st edition OS maps of the estate. Built mainly of brick it has five pointed arches to the front. It essentially was a conservatory or greenhouse.

The Gardens: Built between 1906 and 1912 next year is the centenary of the construction of the Lutyen's designed gardens. The numerous guide signs explain the history of the gardens and they are well worth a visit.

Rock of Dunamaise

Stunning views of the surrounding countryside make the towering Rock of Dunamase a strategic place to build a fortress. Through the centuries, warriors have fought to control this limestone outcrop. The first known settlement on the rock was Dun Masc, an early Christian settlement that was pillaged in 842 by the Vikings. When the Normans arrived in Ireland in the late 1100s, Dunamase became the most important Anglo-Norman fortification in Laois. It was part of the dowry of Aoife, the daughter of Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, when she was given in marriage to the Norman conqueror Strongbow in 1170. When Isabel, the daughter of Strongbow and Aoife, wed William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Dunamase was part of her marriage portion. It is likely that Marshal carried out some building on the rock when he lived there between 1208 and 1213, though most of the castle is earlier.

The castle was successively held by Marshal’s five sons before passing to the Mortimer family through Marshal’s daughter, Eva de Braoise, who passed the castle to her daughter Maud on her marriage to Roger Mortimer. All the Mortimer’s lands, including Dunamase, were forfeited to the Crown in 1330. Shortly afterwards, the castle appears to have passed into the hands of the O’Moores and been abandoned. Local tradition has it that the castle was besieged and blown up by the Cromwellian generals Hewson and Reynolds in 1651. While there are no contemporary records of these events, it is probably the best explanation for the ruinous state of the castle as we see it today.

In 1795, Sir John Parnell, chancellor of the Irish Parliament, tried to develop a residence and banqueting hall at Dunamase. All the late medieval features such as windows and doors were taken from other ruins and added to the castle at this time. When Parnell died, his son allowed the buildings to fall into decay. Today the ruins on the Rock of Dunamase are managed by the State. Archaeological excavation and conservation work by the Office of Public Works have ensured that the Rock of Dunamase will survive for further generations to explore.

Open daily during daylight hours. Visitor facilities: Car park

Emo court and gardens

The house is a magnificent example of the neo-Classical style, reflecting the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland which were first laid out in the 18th century and contain formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks with many very fine trees and shrubs.

Gandon designed Emo Court in 1790 for John Dawson, the First Earl of Portarlington. When the earl died in 1798, the house was incomplete. No more work was done until the 1830s, when the second earl completed the garden front and commenced work on the interior. Starting in 1860, the third earl oversaw building of the copper dome on the rotunda, as well as work on the interior and construction of a bachelor wing.

When the last of the Portarlingtons left Emo Court in 1920, the house fell into decline. The Jesuits purchased the house in 1930 and used it as a seminary. In 1969, the order sold Emo Court is a country villa designed by architect James Gandon (1743-1823), best known for his great public buildings, including the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin.

Note: Emo Court is owned and managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

For details of events, opening and other enquiries, please see the website of Heritage Ireland or contact the OPW at Emo Court, phone 057-862 6573.Emo court to Major Cholmley Dering Cholmley-Harrison who began the laborious process of restoring Emo Court and its grounds. Today Emo Court and its gardens are owned and managed by the Office of Public Works. Check the Heritage Ireland website for details of opening hours and events.

Dunaghmore workhouse and agricultural museum

Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum is a unique attraction in Co. Laois, Ireland and aims to tell the story of the families who lived and died within the Famine Workhouse walls before, during and after the Great Famine. The Museum uses guided and self-guided tours combined with various exibits to explain the socio-economic conditions which led to the establishment of this and other Workhouses.

Visitors to the Museum will also enjoy an agricultural collection made up of a wide range of artefacts donated by local people, rangeing from farm implements, household items and hand tools located in one of the two buildings that make up the Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum.

Famine Museum: The Great Famine of 1845-1849 had a considerable impact on the national consciousness down through the years. A system of relief was desperately needed at that time to relieve the suffering of the Irish people. The response was the setting up of the Poor Law Commission who built 130 Workhouses throughout the country.

Donaghmore Workhouse opened in September 1853. The authorities consciously devised a policy of maintaining the lowest standards of living within the workhouse. The workhouse was portrayed as a last resort. People feared most the loss of dignity associated with them. The lifestyle and rules of the workhouse system mitigated against the maintenance of a family structure. With a strong emphasis on religion and moral habits, wards divided the men from women, boys from girls. This stringent sex segregation within the workhouse system ensured that the traditional family structure was all but impossible to maintain. Donaghmore Union Workhouse closed its doors on the 25th September 1886.

One of the five buildings of the Workhouse Museum is restored to its previous state and stands empty with its white washed walls reflecting the bleak stories of life 150 years ago in the Workhouse.

Agricultural Museum: The Agricultural Museum has many exibits ranging from buttermaking, cultivation and horse drawn. Butter making goes back for thousands of years but it is basically the same, which is the agitating of cream. The display shows a range of churns used over the years.

The display of cultivation implements shows ploughs, tillers and sowing barrows. The three horse drawn implements shows a restored corn sower, sprayer and trap all used on Laois farms in the last fifty years.

Stradbally steam museum

The Stradbally Steam Museum celebrates the steam engines that once ruled Ireland’s railways, built its roads and worked its farms.

Inside the museum, visitors can see a variety of steam-driven engines. The collection includes the Mann Steam Cart, built in 1918. This small steam traction engine cleared and ploughed land. The Fowler, another steam traction engine, built in 1936, was used in roadworks and to power stone crushers. Also on display is an elegant black steam engine commissioned by engineer Sam Geoghan in 1912. This small engine hauled raw materials around a track inside the Guinness Brewery. It took barrels of stout to the wharf on the Liffey, where they were put on boats and taken throughout the world.

Not far from the Steam Museum, the Steam Preservation Society operates a narrow gauge heritage railway in the grounds of Stradbally Hall. This track, about one kilometre long, was built between 1969 and 1982 by volunteers. As with the feeder railways of rural Ireland, which once linked into the main railway lines, the gauge, or width, of this track is three feet. The steam locomotive that pulls the train was constructed for Bord na Móna in 1949.

Rides on the narrow gauge railway are available to the public on Bank Holiday Sundays and Mondays from May to September. Each August Bank Holiday Weekend the Society hosts a Steam Rally in the grounds of Stradbally Hall.
for museum opening hours and running times for Heritage Railway Check or phone 057 864 1878 or 086 389 0184 facilities: Car parking, toilets

Irish fly fishing and game shooting museum

Approaching the village of Attanagh on your right is the old Attanagh railway station House which closed in 1963. In Attanagh village to your right is the bridge crossing the Owenbeg River which divides counties Laois and Kilkenny - take note of the resplendence of black and amber. Turning left in the village in the directon of Fermoyle Cross Roads on your left is Attangh Fly Fishing Museum.

The Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum explores 300 years of hunting and fishing in Ireland. It is a treat for anyone interested in country life. The museum was founded in 1986 by Walter Phelan, who comes from a family devoted to fishing. He has restored and adapted a traditional farmhouse to house a collection of vintage rods, reels, guns, tackle, tools and specimens of birds and fish.

Exhibits tell the stories of hunting and fishing from two angles. They show ingenious devices—such as hollowed cow horn, used to hold mayflies for fishing—made by ordinary people who hunted and fished to supplement their diets. The museum also displays the exquisite guns, rods and tackle used by the well-to-do, who hunted and fished for sport. An entire room is dedicated to Garnett's & Keegan's, an Irish firm that supplied fine fishing and hunting equipment worldwide.

Visitors to the museum can enter reconstructions of a Gamekeeper's Room from the 1800s and a Gunsmith's Workshop from about 1900. Other displays are housed in the Fishing and Game Shooting Room, the Trophy Room, the Clay Pigeon Room, the Boat House, and the Hatching Room. An ever-expanding Library contains information on all aspects of fishing and hunting in Ireland.

Why were Irish flies so colourful?: One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of flies, some of which date to the early 1800s. In the 1700s and 1800s, sailors collected the feathers of the brilliantly coloured birds they saw on their travels. When their ships docked in Ireland, the sailors sold these exotic feathers to local fly-tiers. Fishermen found that salmon were more likely to strike at the flies made from colourful, exotic feathers than at those made from the duller feathers of local birds.

Man Traps: The most horrifying artefacts in the museum are three devices that people used to hunt each other. In the late 1700s, the owners of large estates used mantraps to discourage poachers. If a person sprung a man trap, large metal teeth would grab his or her leg. While the victim usually escaped, the broken bones and mutilated feet caused by mantraps often resulted in gangrene, and ultimately death. The traps were so lethal that they were outlawed in 1829.

Telephone: (057) 8736112 or eMail:
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Museum introduction

Kilkenny castle

The castle stands dramatically on a strategic height that commands a crossing on the River Nore and dominates the 'High Town' of Kilkenny City. Over the eight centuries of its existence, many additions and alterations have been made to the fabric of the building, making Kilkenny Castle today a complex structure of various architectural styles.

The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (c.1146-1219) during the first decade of the thirteenth century. Kilkenny Castle later became the principal Irish residence of the powerful Butler family for almost 600 years. The Butler ownership began when James (c.1360-1405), 3rd Earl of Ormond, purchased the castle in c.1391, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde (1893-1971), presented it to the people of Kilkenny in return for a token payment of £50.

The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969, and many important programmes of archaeological excavation, conservation, and restoration have been carried out there.

Opening Arrangements
October - February 09.30 - 16.30
March 09.30 - 17.00
April - May 09.30 - 17.30
June - August 09.00 - 17.30
September 09.30 - 17.30

Visit by guided tour only, although please check with site for possible changes on the day. Last admission 45 minutes before closing. Closed on Good Friday. Check with site for opening arrangements over Christmas and New Year. Photography/filming not permitted. Groups of 10 people and more must be pre-booked.

For bookings: telephone: +353 56 770 4106, fax: +353 56 770 4116 or e-mail:

St. Canice's cathedral

St Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower are an essential part of the structural heritage in the vibrant medieval city of Kilkenny. This ecclesiastical site was founded in the 6th century and named after St Canice. Cill Channigh is the Gaelic for the Church of Canice, the church that originally stood on the site in the 6th century.

Combining the early Christian settlement, the Round Tower, the Anglo Norman Cathedral and its rich cultural ecclesiastical heritage makes St Canice’s Cathedral and its environs a must to visit while you are in Kilkenny.

Worship has taken place at this site for over 800 years. The Cathedral has wonderful stained glass that includes two windows from the Harry Clarke Studio, Dublin. Local stone masters The O’Tooneys carved some of the tombstones many of which are unique to the Cathedral and Kilkenny. The See Chair of the Bishop of Ossory dating back to 1120 can be seen inside the Cathedral.

The Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny City. Tourists can enjoy climbing the Round Tower capturing great views of the city (weather permitting). St Canice’s Round Tower is one of only two Round Towers that people can climb in Ireland.

At St Canice’s Cathedral worship takes pre-eminence over all other activities. However, this jewel of Gothic Architecture is also used for national concerts and events – for example the Kilkenny Arts Festival held every August – which are in keeping with the environs of the Cathedral.

As a pilgrim or tourist visiting the Cathedral Close you will witness a spiritual, cultural, architectural and archaeological wonder of Kilkenny.

October – March
Mon – Sat: 10am -1pm
& 2pm-4pm
Sun: 2pm – 4pm

Rothe house and garden

Rothe House & Garden, a historic house in Kilkenny in the South East of Ireland, is the only example of an early 17th century merchant’s townhouse in Ireland.

It is an important element of Kilkenny’s heritage.

By clicking on the links you will find out more about the history of Rothe House and Kilkenny. You will also discover our historic garden and our museum, which is one of the few private museums in Ireland.

Rothe House is the centre for Irish genealogy in Kilkenny city and county, and you can research your Kilkenny family history with us.

Built between 1594 and 1610, Rothe House is steeped in rich local and national history and a visit is high on the list of things to do in Kilkenny.

The House and Garden are owned by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, and managed by Rothe House Trust. The House is open to the public as a Museum, displaying some of the 2,500 historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947. These artefacts all relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from pre-historic times.The Garden, open since 2008, is a reconstruction of an early 17th century urban garden, and has become a very popular garden to visit in Ireland.

April - October
10:30am - 5pm (Mon to Sat), 3pm - 5pm (Sunday)

November - March
10:30am - 4:30pm (Mon to Sat)
Phone: +353 56 7722893

Jerpoint abbey

An outstanding Cistercian abbey founded in the second half of the 12th century. The church with its Romanesque details dates from this period. In the transept chapels the visitor can see 13th to 16th century tomb sculpture. The tower and cloister date from the 15th century. The chief delight of the Abbey is the sculptured cloister arcade with unique carvings. The Visitor Centre houses an interesting exhibition. Access for visitors with disabilities. Guided tours available.

Location: 2.5km south west from Thomastown on the N9
Bus Route(s): Contact Bus Eireann, Travel Centre +353 1 8366111

Guided Tours:
Maximum number: 50 - 55
Duration: 45 minutes

Leaflet/Guide book: English, Irish, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Seasonal Events: Please check in advance using contact details listed above
Photography / Video allowed: Yes

ddress: Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny
Telephone No: +353 56 772 4623
Fax No: +353 56 775 4003

Opening Hours
Early March - September: Daily 09.00 - 17.30
Oct: Daily 09.00 - 17.00
Nov - Start Dec: Daily 09.30 - 16.00
Dec - Early March: Pre-booked tours only.
Closed for the Christmas period.
Average Length of Visit: 1 hour
Admission Fees
E Adult: €3.00
Sen/Group: €2.00
Child/Student: €1.00
Family: €8.00
Exhibition, toilets, including disabled toilets, car / coach park
Restaurants/Tearooms: None

Castlecomer discovery park

This wonderful 80 acre discovery park & visitor centre, located at Castlecomer Demesne and Estate Yard is a place to escape and reconnect with nature, to discover more about our coalmining heritage and contemporary craft, and to explore an abundance of things to do in magical woodland surroundings.

Discover…Family Days Out
The park itself is free to visit, with its walking trails, woodland sculptures and many things to see and do throughout the year in our extensive events calendar.

Discover… Science and History
Discover the richness and diversity of our local history and science through exploration of the intriguing indoor multi-media experience ‘Footprints in Coal’ and engaging outdoor activities.

Discover… Fishing
Whether a beginner or an expert, Castlecomer Lakes provide the complete fishing experience, with two well stocked lakes in a mature woodland environment.

Discover… How to
Castlecomer Discovery Park hosts an exciting and varied programme of inspirational workshops to allow you discover your creative side.

Discover… Craft
Housed in the former farmyard and stable yard buildings, craftspeople create and sell direct from their craft workshops.

Opening Times At Castlecomer Discovery Park
May to August 9.30 to 17.30
September, October, March and April 10.00 to 17.00
November to February 10.30 to 16.30

Admission To Castlecomer Discovery Park
Adult €8.00
Child (4 - 12 years) €5.00,
Child under 4 Free
OAP/Student €6.00
Family (2 adults + 1 child) €18.00
Each additional child with family €2.00
Additional charges for educational programmes
056 4440707

Reptile village zoo

Ireland's only dedicated and Licensed reptile zoo. Ever wondered what a snake really feels like? Or how a chameleon catches its prey? Displaying over 120 animals and 50 species, from geckos to giant spiders, cobras to crocodiles. Individuals, families and groups are all catered for. For groups of 10 or more please book in advance, discounts available. Our trained and experienced staff will assist you in the handling of our safe and conditioned species. Those who prefer to view them through glass are more than welcome to and will not be pressurized in any way.

The Demesne,, Gowran, Co. Kilkenny
056 7726 757

Dunmore cave

History and geology blend at Dunmore Cave to give an interesting and unique situation. Consisting of a series of chambers formed over millions of years, the cave contains some of the finest calcite formations found in any Irish cave. The cave has been known to man for many centuries and is first mentioned in the 9th century Irish Triads. The most interesting reference however, comes from the Annals which tells of a Viking massacre at the cave in the year 928 A.D. Archaeological finds within the cave confirm Viking activity. Exhibitions and displays in the Visitor Centre. The cave is inaccessible for wheelchair users.

Location: 10km from Kilkenny, 1km off N78 Castlecomer (road is well signposted).
GPS Co-ordinates: N52 44.036', W007 14.810', Elev. 121m

Bus Route(s): Bus Eireann do not provide a direct service to the Cave. Contact site for details of local operators

Guided Tours: Access by guided tour only
Maximum number: 40 - 50
Duration: 1 hour

Leaflet/Guide book: English, Irish, German, French, Italian, Spanish.

Seasonal Events: Please check in advance using contact details listed above.

Photography / Video allowed: No

Additional Information:
Audio visual covering 4 main topics aimed at all ages and interests. Geology and Evolution over 350 million years; Animated Formation of Dunmore Cave; Ecology of Cave and its surrounds, Myth and History of the cave.

Interactive Virtual Museum consisting of the several treasures found in the Cave including one of the most significant Viking finds in the country.

Woodstock garden and arboretum

Woodstock is well known for its collection of trees from all over the world and is home to many ‘champions’. Come and see one of the longest Monkey Puzzle Avenues in Europe, our ‘Champion Coast redwood, the tallest Silver Fir in Ireland and our very rare and important Bentham Cypress.

One of the most outstanding features at Woodstock is the Monkey Puzzle Walk (Araucaria araucana) which is set out on an almost north/south axis to the south of the house. Also at Woodstock is the Noble Fir Walk (Abies procera). The walk which is over 1/4 of a mile in length is a very fine and important surviving feature from this 19th Century garden. It was the last great work to the ornamental planting in the grounds made by William F.Tighe, planted during the year of his death in 1878.

Car Parking, Toilets, Children’s Playground, Picnic area.
Limited Wheelchair Access – Mobility buggy available for less able bodied persons, please phone ahead if you wish to avail of this service (free of charge)
Tea Rooms (Currently open weekends only, 11am to 5pm).

Guided tours available by appointment only – Please contact John on 087 8549785.

Abbeyleix library

Facilities: Adult Lending
Children and Young Adult Sections
Foreign Language Novels
Audio Books
Large Print
Learning Resources
Internet Access
Access to Ordnance Survey
Historic Maps
Sheet Music
DVDs, adult and children

Contact Aideen McDonald
057 8730020

McEvoy's steak and wine bar

Situated in Abbeyleix, one of Irelands best kept heritage towns. Mc Evoys is a stylish little eatery with a lively atmosphere and great food, Our Menu has something for most tastes, using fresh locally sourced ingredients and prepared with great care and a touch of class. Mc Evoy’s also boasts a fully licensed bar and a well thought out wine list. Mc Evoy’s is proudly run by the Stokes family who opened their first steak house in 1976 and have enjoyed continued success since. So wine and dine with us and let our extensive culinary experience captivate you at very affordable prices.

Main Street,
Co. Laois.
057 8757500
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Morrissey's pub

In more carefree times, there was an unofficial commandment that stated: "Thou shall not drive through Abbeyleix without pausing in Morrissey's for a pint." Considering Abbeyleix's beguiling location on the main Dublin-Cork road, this law firmly established the premises as an institution of major importance. The pub is effectively a large wooden cavern, softly lit by lamps that hang from a ceiling held up by metal beams. The room is loosely carved into a warren of snugs and seating areas by dint of wooden partitions and stand-alone walls seemingly crafted from old biscuit tin lids and dismantled clocks.

The legendary charm of Morrissey's undoubtedly hails from the incredible collection of old-world goods on display on its dark shelf-lined walls. These shelves are packed with the sort of products that would have abounded in a village grocery half a century ago: huge jars of sweets, an old slicing machine, Boyne Valley cornflakes and Morrissey's own Famous Tea, right beside the scales on which the packs were weighed.

Main Street, Abbeyleix, Co Laois, +353 57 873 1281

Sheppard's auction house

As one of Ireland's leading auction houses, Sheppard's are specialists in period pieces of high quality furniture, especially Irish. Sheppard's Irish Auction House equally enjoys a reputation for artworks ranging from early eighteenth-century portraits to contemporary paintings. Clients include leading Irish, British and American collectors, and national institutions such as the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland.

The Square, Durrow, Co. Laois
Contact: Michelle Brophy
+353 57 874 0000
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Bramley department store

Tucked away on the high street in Abbeyleix, is a rather special emporium of style. BRAMLEY Department Store brings a new centre of style excellence in home and fashion to this heritage Midlands town County Laois.

Shelly Stokes, the stylist behind Castle Durrow brings to BRAMLEY Department Store an eclectic mix of antiques and curiosities, stylish furniture, clothes and jewellery. The perfect one stop shop for gifts with a full Wedding List service based on Shelly's Castle Durrow wedding expertise.

And now the new BRAMLEY cafe style restaurant Lunch Room is a must on the route south and a perfect place to meet for lunch!

Bramleys Department Store, Main Street,
Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, Ireland.
Phone : +353 (0)57 8730996
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Vintage bicycle museum

Bob's Bar features a little museum containing artifacts from years gone by out the back. The museum is a must-see on your visit to the area. However, it is upstairs that Bob has really 'gone to town' with his vintage bicycle museum. It's a very personal experience with each and every bike having a picture of its owner with their words on happy memories on that very bike. Other details in the museum include letters from locals who emigrated.

Not to rest on his laurels, Bob has set up a very active and congenial vintage bicycle club, complete with uniforms and regular meet ups for cycling. Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to be about when they're next out? Even if you're not, with this guide, you'll get to sample some of the best places in the area on a high nelly!

Telephone: (087) 6165484 or (057) 8736630.

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Every bike has a story

Rock of Cashel

Iconic landmark overlooking Cashel,recently visited by the Queen of England. It's huge, it's complex, it's iconic, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick's Rock, it is also known as Cashel of the Kings. Reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. Long before the Norman invasion The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, although there is little structural evidence of their time here.

Opening hours: Mid March to Mid June, daily 9.30am - 5.30pm Mid June to Mid September 9.00am - 7.00pm Mid September to Mid October 9.00am - 5.30pm Mid October to Mid March 9.00am - 4.30pm Last admission: 45 minutes prior to closure Admision Fees: . Adult - EU5.30;.. Senior Citizen - EU3.70; .. Student (valid I.D.) - EU2.10; .. Family - EU11.50

Rock lane,
Cashel 062 61437

Cashel tourist office/heritage centre

The award-winning Heritage centre provides a large scale model of Cashel in the 1640s highlighting the lessor known treasure of the town. Charters dating from 1663 and 1687 are on display. Free admission. Accommodation reservations and tourist information for both the historic town and Tipperary are available.

Opening hours: March - October 7 days 9.30am-5.30pm November - February. Weekdays only. 9.30am-5.30pm

Main street,
Cashel 062 62511

Tipperary racecourse

Home to the world famous Coolemore Stud, responsible for producing some of the finest thoroughbreds ever to race, Tipperary is a county rich in equestrian tradition. It is only right, therefore, that it should be host some of the best horseracing in the country. The first meeting of Tipperary races was held in March 1848 and racing began on the present site in September 1916 and has gone from strength to strength since.

There is a buzz and an energy to the Tipperary races that is simply infectious and the team has taken great care to ensure that everyone is kept entertained, young or old, horse fanatic or social butterfly, so that there’s something for everyone.

Ideally situated, the beautiful countryside of the Golden Vale is the setting for flat and national hunt racing that is a joy to behold. The passion and excitement that is aroused by these magnificent animals is unforgettable.
Tipperary Racecourse,
Limerick Junction, Tipperary
Tel: +353 062 51357

Ollie Hayes pub

They'll never forget the day the most important man in the world, US President Barack Obama, dropped in with First Lady, Michelle, to their little family pub.
May 23, 2011, went down in the history books because it was the day the Obamas came home to Moneygall. Mr Obama took the time to retrace his third great-grandfather, Fulmouth Kearney's footsteps here in Ireland and, for that, we salute him. He lifted our nation's spirits with his "is féidir linn" attitude.

Ollie Hayes – The publican who poured the presidential pints
“YOU tell me when it’s properly settled, I don’t want to mess this up,” Barack Obama says as Ollie Hayes pours him a creamy pint. Ollie has been pulling pints since childhood but nothing could have prepared him for this moment. Inside his small pub, he is about to serve a pint of Guinness to the world’s most powerful man, the president of...

National stud and Japanese gardens

The Irish National Stud belongs to the people of Ireland but prides itself on being enjoyed and appreciated by visitors from all parts of the globe. Nowhere better symbolises all that is great about County Kildare, the beating heart of Ireland's thoroughbred industry, than the stud, a unique attraction of outstanding natural beauty that is home to some of the most magnificent horses and sumptuous gardens to be found anywhere in the world.

From horses to horticulture, the Irish National Stud offers you a unique experience that can be enjoyed at your own leisure or as part of a guided tour. Come to the Stud and share with us one of Ireland's true treasures.

Japanese Gardens

The Irish National Stud's Japanese Gardens, renowned throughout the world and the finest of their kind in Europe, are far more than simply a treat for the eye. They also provide comfort to the soul, achieving exactly the objective that was set out when the gardens were created between 1906 and 1910.

Devised by Colonel William Hall Walker, a wealthy Scotsman from a famous brewing family, the gardens were laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. Their aim was, through trees, plants, flowers, lawns, rocks and water, to symbolise the "Life of Man". That plan was executed to perfection and Eida's legacy is now admired by the 150,000 visitors who soak up the peace of the gardens every year.

Athy heritage centre

Located in the former 18th century Market House (now Athy Town Hall), Athy Heritage Centre-Museum brings the history of Athy to life, from its Anglo Norman foundation, through the 1903 Gordon Bennett Race, to Athy Men and World War 1 and the story of local Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Athy Heritage Centre-Museum has the only permanent exhibition anywhere devoted to Shackleton. Its highlights include an original sledge and harness from one of his Antartic expeditions, a 15 foot model of Shackleton's ship 'Endurance' and an audio visual display featuring original film footage of his 1914-1916 expedition. The Heritage Centre hosts an annual Ernest Shackleton Autumn School over the October bank holiday weekend.

Athy is one of Irelands designated heritage towns.

Emily Square
Republic of Ireland

T: +353 59 8633075

Abbeyleix golf club

The new 18 hole course at Abbeyleix is fast developing a reputation as one of the best courses in the midlands. Designed by the well known Golf Architect Mel Flanigan, the new 18 hole layout will prove a fair test of Golf for players of all categories.

The old 9 hole course was recognised as one of the best 9 hole courses in the country and now having obtained an adjacent piece of rolling terraine which contains many specimen mature trees, the new 18 holes ensures enjoyable golf with many scenic views.

A famous feature of the old course at Abbeyleix was the beautiful soil based greens, as well as retaining the old greens, all the new greens are again soil based giving a consistancy over 18 holes.

(05787 31450)

Rathdowney golf club

Rathdowney Golf Club is a beautifiul parkland golf course set in the south western corner of county Co. Laois. Established in 1930 it covers 104 acres of countryside and offers a pleasent round of golf. In 1997 the course was extended to 18 holes and offered a new challenge to its players. In recent years a new clubhouse was opened offering modern facilities and services. Today the course is of a matured state with challenging holes and fairways. The bar and restaurant are open to the public and cater for all events including societies and open events.


Coolaghcurragh wood

The wood was originally part of the Castletown Estate and is located near Grantstown Manor, which was owned by Lord Castletown until the 1930s. In 1962, the wood came into ownership of the State under the Irish Land Commission, who passed it on for commercial forestry purposes. Its value for nature conservation, however, soon became apparent and in 1982 it was designated as a statutory nature reserve.

Thousands of years ago, Ireland was covered in native woodland. However, as the years progressed the amount of naturally wooded land declined dramatically. Today, native woodland covers only 2% of the land surface of Ireland and Laois is the fifth most densely wooded county in terms of native woodland. Coolacurragh Wood along with Grantstown Wood represents the oldest designated nature reserve in Laois County. The Irish translation of Coolacurragh Wood is ‘Coill Chuil an Churraigh' meaning ‘Wood at the back of the Moor'.

Forestry records show that norway spruce, scots pine and sycamore were planted as early as 1900 and further planting of norway spruce, sycamore, ash and beech continued from 1930 through to 1967. Removal of the conifers began in the 1970s and today most of the commercial conifers have been removed.

In 2007, National Parks and Wildlife Service started managing the wood under the Native Woodland Scheme, administered by the Forest Service. Since this new management began, there has been an active policy to encourage the native woodland to recover with the removal of exotic trees and shrubs. Public access has been improved in order to promote awareness of this woodland ecosystem.

The woodland has developed fen peat and the soil is base-rich and moist. There is an abundance of native tree species. The dominant native tree is ash but many other natives are found here including birch, pedunculate oak, alder and willow with some holly and hazel in the understorey. Among the shrubs the most common is hawthorn, with other species including spindle, blackthorn and guelder rose. A wide array of herbaceous woodland plants can be found such as enchanters nightshade, male fern, honeysuckle and ivy.

The native animals in Coolacurragh include badgers, Irish hares, bats and many birds. Among the birds found here, you can see sparrowhawks, blue tits, coal tits, blackbirds, treecreepers and goldcrests. Along the trail, you will see a number of nest boxes, strategically located at various points in the wood to encourage nesting birds. You will also see bat boxes which have also been erected on trees to encourage roosting bats. Frogs breed in the old drainage ditches. Many moth species have been recorded in these woods.

Cullohill Castle

Cullohill Castle, built in 1425 by Finghin Mac Giolla Phádraig was the principal stronghold and residence of the Mac Giolla Phádraigs of Upper Ossory. It was cannoned and wrecked by the Cromwellians. In 1657 it was ruinous and uninhabited.

(From the History and Antiquities of the Diosces of Ossory, by Canon William Carrigan).

The castle has an interesting Sheila-na-Gíg. There are 125 of these figures in various places in Ireland. Sheila-na-Gíg on Cullohill Castle is the only one visible in Laois.


The cult of the holy well was deep rooted in the religious traditions of this part of the country but Ladywell is the sole survivor of holy wells in this and adjoining parishes. In order to indicate the sphere of pious practices from which Ladywell sprung there is included in the Ladywell booklet (2008) a brief account of other holy wells in this parish and from Canon Carrigan (historian of Ossory) a list of the holy wells of this diocese.The holy well and shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary are in the part of Castlemarket townsland to which they give their name – Ladywell. This hallowed spot is situated just off the Ballinakill to Durrow road about 2km from Ballinakill. It is about 90 metres into County Kilkenny being that distance from the Disheen stream which forms the county boundary at this point. Ladywell therefore is in the civil and ancient parish of Rosconnell in the modern parish of Ballyragget and in the diocese of Ossory.

The visual scene at Ladywell has been transfigured and the devotional scene changed completely. All the principal ceremonies of Catholic worship will be found here now during the pilgrimage time. Gone are the rounds of the well, the tying of pieces of cloth to the bush and the pitching of coins or medals into the well and many improvements have been carried out to its general area over the past eighty years.

The pilgrim to Ladywell seventy years ago and before followed a grassy path to an open green field site marked by an ancient hawthorn or skeagh bush which bent over a spring well. There was no shelter at this spot from the wind or weather and people knelt on the damp grass to pray their stations around the holy well.

Today the visitor or pilgrim arrives here by modern tarmac road to a state of the art site that affords a dry footing and shelter from the elements with space to stand, sit or kneel in relative comfort. This transformation has been brought about over three quarters of a century by an energetic committee supported by clergy and people and encouraged by the ever increasing numbers who have come here to pray but the curious and interested will want an explanation of this phenomenon.
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Poet's cottage

This replica thatched cottage gives visitors a sense of what daily life must have been like for most people in rural Ireland in the 1800s.

Ireland’s cottages evolved over centuries. While each community had its own variations, most cottages were one storey high and one room wide. The windows and doors were located on the side walls, with a chimney stack along the roof. The walls of the cottage were built of local stone or mud; the roof was thatched with reeds or straw.

People both worked and relaxed near the kitchen hearth. They used the crane to hoist pots of food for cooking over the open fire. Near the warmth of the fire, families sewed, knitted and mended clothes and tools.

Rooms beyond the hearth wall were considered to be “above” the kitchen, while those at the other end were “below”. These rooms were used as bedrooms, storerooms and occasionally as parlours. In early cottages, animals were sometimes kept in a room at one end of the cottage, while people slept in a bedroom on the other side.

The cottage is named after Patrick Ryan, a poet who lived in Camross between 1750 and 1825. He wrote about the natural beauty and the people of this community.
The absolute simplicity of Irish cottages is what makes them beautiful. The stone walls and thatched roofs look completely at home in the countryside, just as this cottage nestles into its flower garden in the heart of Camross.

For museum opening, phone mick Dowling 087 410 6493 slieve Bloom visitor information
Pictures in this guide taken by: navigatourist, kozik

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