When people think of Laois the first think that normally comes to mind is The Electric Picnic, the boutique music festival held annually in the grounds of Stradbally Hall. But there is so much more to the county – it’s a little landlocked gem of rolling hills, mountains, rivers, lakes and forests. A scrubby, fairytale-like place wedged between Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Offaly. When the leaves begin to change colour there is nothing finer than taking an Autumnal ramble along any one of the many scenic walks in this pretty little county.
1. The Boardwalk, Abbeyleix Bog
A cleverly constructed boardwalk allows walkers to venture right out into the middle of the Abbeyleix Bog and experience the wonderfully colourful habitat and natural resource. A must for all nature lovers.
2. Dunmore Woods, Durrow Loop Walk
Take a ramble around the quaint town of Durrow, through farmland, country lanes and lose yourself along the forest trails in the Dunmore Woods. Bring your boots for this wonderful mixed terrain walk.
3. Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill
This heritage site consists of lakes, woodlands with many architectural features and a wonderful walled garden designed by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1912. The perfect place to visit for a long walk around the lakes, a rest on one of the many ornamental benches to stare across at the beautiful view and check out the quirky turtles in the fountain of the sunken garden.
4. Emo Court, Emo
There is nowhere that comes to life in Autumn as well as Emo Court, Emo, just outside of Portlaoise town. One of the magnificent buildings designed by James Gandon, it sits within acres of beautiful parkland and formal lawns.
5. The Masslough, Ballinakill
A mere stone’s throw from Ballinakill village, the Masslough is a picturesque lake surrounded by woodland. There are many trails to take the wanderer deep into the heart of the woods, where the world disappears and the beauty of the changing leaves take your breath away. Peacefull and tranquil, the Masslough is the perfect place for an autumnal picnic but leave the swans alone – they’re not too fond of visitors!
6. The Rock of Dunamaise
Just off the N80 and between the towns of Stradbally and Portlaoise, the Rock of Dunamaise is a famous landmark, standing at 46metres. Once a stronghold of the Norman conqueror Strongbow it now lies in spectacular ruins. A swift hike from the car park will bring you to the top of the hill and the view across to the Slieve Bloom mountains is worth the puffing and panting.
Interesting fact: The American comedy Leap Year was filmed in part on the Rock of Dunamaise.
7. Oakvale Woods
Oughaval or Oakvale Woods is situated on the Carlow road just outside Stradbally and is very popular with walkers because of its many marked trails. There is a mass rock on the shortest loop walk.