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Less than an hour by car from Dublin, this small, centrally located county was the birthplace of the prolific 1930s writer and Poet Laureate, Cecil Day-Lewis. Once known as 'Queen's County', County Laois has a particularly contrived 'claim to fame', as the most landlocked county in Ireland, being the only county that does not border any other county which touches the coastline.
The landscape is one of thick forest and woodland, as well as undulating valleys, fine farmland, and the blanket bog which is unique to Ireland. Between Laois and the neighbouring county of Offaly, the gentle rolling hills and coniferous forest of the Slieve Bloom Mountains rise from the central plains of Ireland, close to the geographical centre of the country, at the natural crossroads between Belfast and Cork, Dublin and Galway, and Rosslare and Donegal.
Things to do in County Laois
Portlaoise – The county town of Portlaoise was once a centre for flour milling and the manufacture of worsted fabric. Today it is still a thriving commercial hub, due in no small extent to its strategic position, at a major crossroads between Dublin, Limerick and Cork.
Rock of Dunamase – A limestone outcrop, perfectly positioned high above the countryside near to Portlaoise, the Rock of Dunamase (also known as Dunamaise) is thought to have been the site of encampments and fortresses since ancient times. The Rock stands in a dramatic and dominating position, 46m above an otherwise flat plain. An early Christian settlement here was raided by the Vikings, and with the Normans arrival in Ireland in the late 1100s, the hilltop became the most important Anglo-Norman fortification in the county. The current ruins, which are perched precariously at an impressive angle, are said to have been created by the destructive actions of Cromwellian generals in the 1650s. Today, it is a place of great archaeological interest and is open to visitors.
Abbeyleix – Once an infamous bottleneck for traffic en route between Cork and Dublin, the town was freed from vehicle pressures by the opening of a by-pass in 2010. The area is well known for its excellent range of local historical buildings, and a number of ancient ring forts, burial grounds, religious buildings (including a Cistercian monastery), and Norman and mediaeval castles are to be found in the area.
Cullohill – This small village is primarily known for being the site of Castle Cullohill, the ruins of a once-fine 15th century tower house. The TV chef, Darina Allen, hails from Cullohill, and her family still run the local village pub.
Timahoe – Twelve kilometres from Portlaoise, the village of Timahoe is situated in a broad, fertile valley, with houses grouped around a large central green. The village is also the site of one of the finest 12th century round towers to be found anywhere in Ireland. Although the cap of the tower dates from rebuilding work which was carried out during the 19th century, and there are no floors or ladders within the structure, the rest of the 30m tall tower is impressively original, and is decorated in quite an elaborate fashion, in a largely Romanesque style. In the doorway, the pillars are decorated with carvings of human heads, their hair intertwined.
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