County Laois

Rock of Dunamase

From hiking in Europe’s oldest mountains to snapping photos at Ireland’s quirkiest festivals and museums… landlocked Laois has plenty to please

Nestled in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East, County Laois is peppered with enchanting castles and ancient sites, but this is a place that likes to live it up, too, with great festivals from the quirky to the traditional. One that has withstood the testament of time is the annual Stradbally Steam Rally, organised by the Irish Steam Preservation Society. Held every August since 1966, the festival sees majestic steam machines oiled up and paraded before the crowds, as well as sheepdog trials and even a musical chairs steam engine competition! Just a short distance away is the Stradbally Steam Museum where you’ll find an old black steam engine that was used around the cobbled streets of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin over 50 years ago!

Or what about the vintage fishing and shooting paraphernalia at the Irish Fly-Fishing & Game Shooting Museum in Attanagh? Take a look back at 300 years of Irish hunting and fishing in this beautifully restored traditional farm house. There are some really fascinating tales of Irish country life to discover here…

Emo Court
Emo Court

The waters and the wild

Anglers will find sweet temptation outdoors, too. Two of Ireland’s longest rivers – the River Nore and the River Barrow – flow through the lush countryside of Laois. Why not try coarse fishing in the many lakes on offer around the county or venture toward the riverbanks and casting for brown trout or specimen coarse fish?

The Barrow rises in the Slieve Bloom Mountains – one of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe along with France’s Massif Central. A sprinkling of pretty villages, a panorama of rolling green hills and a very slow place of life makes this one of the most beautiful places to walk on the island of Ireland. Get away from it all and delight in the landscape’s nooks and crannies, from the cascading Glenbarrow Waterfall to the 84km-long Slieve Bloom Way.

Electric Picnic © Allen Kiely
Electric Picnic © Allen Kiely

Welcome to the modern age

If steam trains and fly-fishing aren’t your thing, you can amp up the entertainment at the Electric Picnic. What started as a boutique music and arts event in 2004 is now one of the island’s biggest events, and is held every September at the in the grounds of the 18th-century Stradbally Hall, a 550-acre estate of natural woodland and rolling countryside. Expect an eclectic line-up from big names to emerging talent, great food, innovative artistic areas, comedy shows, teepees and family campsites.

Rock stars

Electric Picnic Festival may bring some of the world’s biggest rock stars to little County Laois, but one that remains year-round is the Rock of Dunamase. First claimed as a Christian settlement then later becoming a fortress for Anglo-Norman invaders, the towering limestone structure has become a popular spot for visitors to appreciate the stunning landscape of the legendary, County Laois.

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