Portlaoise is not a well-established tourist destination, but it is gaining popularity as a place worth visiting on the outskirts of Dublin. In particular, this is an ideal stopover for anyone driving between the capital and Limerick, as it lies roughly halfway between the two. Attractions that are not to be missed include the Slieve Bloom Mountains, the Rock of Dunamase and the opportunity to ride a horse-drawn caravan through the countryside.
The following are amongst the popular tourist attractions around Portlaoise:
Rock of DunamaseThe single most popular sightseeing attraction around Portlaoise are the ruins of an ancient fortress at the Rock of Dunamase. Little beyond a few arches remain of the original structure, as the castle was all but destroyed some 200 years after it was built in the 12th century. Even so, the castle foundations are clear enough to imagine what this sight may have looked like in its day. From this vantage point, you can also see the town of Portlaoise with the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the background. The ruins are found around 10 km outside of the town centre, and those with a hire car can arrive by driving east on the N80. The site is visible from the motorway.
Slieve Bloom MountainsThe Slieve Bloom Mountains are among the major attractions outside of Portlaoise. These rolling hills link County Offaly with Country Laois, ambling through the countryside and setting the stage for scenic hikes, cycling excursions and weekend escapes. Horseback riding through the Slieve Blooms can be arranged with tour operators in the town centre.
Kilvahan Horse Drawn Caravans and Adventure FarmOnce a popular tourist attraction across much of Ireland, the horse-drawn caravan experience is increasingly difficult to arrange. This working farm found in Coolrain features a range of on-site activities and attractions, but the main draw here is the possibility to hire a horse-drawn caravan and head out into the countryside. Horses follow old secondary roads and know their routes well, which means tourists can get on their way with minimal training. Tour the countryside in old-world style, stopping by old farms and pubs along the way. The caravan includes everything needed for overnight getaways.
Portlaoise Downs Town ParkThe town park is a relatively new addition to the town. It opened in 1999 in an area near ‘The Downs’ and was intended as an ecological park featuring a range of native plant species. Originally boggy marshlands, the area was drained and a man made lake criss-crossed with foot bridges was installed.
O’Moore ParkGaelic sports are a unique aspect of Irish heritage and still boast a strong following within the country. O’Moore Park was built in 1888 and hosts the Laois Gaelic football and hurling teams. Given this particular stadium’s history and popularity, it’s also a popular venue for other Irish teams in need of a neutral stadium. The Laois GAA website provides details on upcoming matches and events.
Donaghmore Famine Workhouse MuseumThe old Donaghmore workhouse reached the peak of its operation during the Great Famine, when roughly one out of ten local people were forced to take refuge here. Life in the workhouse was far from comfortable – though probably preferable to the alternative. Today, the building has been transformed into a museum that tells recounts the stories of those who lived here through recorded personal accounts and exhibits featuring period artefacts.
Dunamaise Arts CentreThis modern attraction features a varying line-up of events throughout the year, including visiting art exhibits and film screenings. Check the website for details on upcoming events to see what’s on while you are in Portlaoise. Visit the arts centre
Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting MuseumThe countryside around Portlaoise features several excellent places to go fishing. One local angler turned his passion for fly fishing into a full-on museum chronicling three centuries of hunting and fishing in Ireland. It is housed in the restored Attanagh farmhouse and features taxonomic specimens, period rods and reels, fishing tackle and antique guns. Visit their website
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