The hostel is very well situated to provide access to a great number of attractions, including golf, walking cycling (bicycles are available), excellent fishing (both game and course fishing are available close by) as well as many sites of historical and cultural interest.
The Slieve Bloom Mountains rise from a plain covering an area of 600 square miles. The view enjoyed from the top of its many summits is unforgettable. Walkers delight in many tracks and paths in the numerous glens, where the fortunate may surprise local wild life and enjoy the wonderful flora and fauna. The most famous walk is the 20-mile Slieve Boom Way.
A walking festival is held annually, usually over the May Bank Holiday.
“Nature lovers, health enthusiasts and history buffs will benefit from the development of a 10 mile walk which will provide access to on one of the most historical areas in South Laois,” writes the Leinster Express of this delightful spot.
The Granstown Lake and its surrounding woodlands is a national nature and wildlife reserve owned by the Office of Public Works. A local committee has been working in partnership with them in recent years to promote the amenity and to provide increased access to visitors and the local community. The first phase of this development saw the provision of a car park, access path and fishing jetties. The current proposal will add to this, three loop walks, and plans the restoration of a deserted village pump in the wood and the compilation of information on the many heritage sites along the route.
The lake and woodlands at Grantstown hold a reputation as a rewarding place for fishermen to visit. The course angling is renowned and anglers travel from throughout Ireland and the UK to catch the Pike, the Rudd and the Tench that abound. It is expected that the next phase of the development historians, walkers and nature enthusiasts will attribute a similar reputation to the area.
This picturesque late 18th century village is set in the heart of the countryside. Clough Church built in 1770 and refurbished in 1871 is one of the main features. Built alongside St. Canice’s Monastery, Aghaboe, it is of great historical significance. It is situated near the fisherman’s paradise of Grantstown Lake, and is well worth a visit. Dont forget to pop into Mary’s Bar for a pint!
This late eighteenth century village consistently performs well in the annual Tidy Towns Competition. The village grew on the crossing of two important country roads, and has access to attractive countryside.
Donaghmore was originally associated with an early medieval church, and then with an early Norman Fortification. In the early in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it became an extensive industrial complex. It has attractive buildings and two thriving pubs overlooking a river and an old bridge.
A short distance north- west can be seen the unique Donaghmore Workhouse Museum, originally built as a workhouse, it depicts the poignant story of Ireland’s poor in the 1800s. The museum, restored by Avonmore, presents a window on past workhouse conditions. It was originally built as a workhouse, housing over 1200 people during the Great Famine. It is estimated that at that time ten per cent of the local population were left destitute.
Abbeyleix is an elegant heritage town, centred on the spacious main street. It is an example of 18th century town planning by the second Viscount de Vesci. Two de Vesci fountain memorials are located in the town. Places of interest include Heritage House, which once housed a Patrician Monastery and a boys’ school as well as the splendid architecture of the town’s churches. Other important buildings are South School, the Bank of Ireland, Pembroke Terrace, Knocknamoe, Market and Station Houses and old shop fronts. Although located on the main Dublin/Cork road, Abbeyleix offers many tranquil country delights such as the lord’s Walk, fishing along the River Nore and a Sensory Garden.
These gardens lie in what was the most admired demesne of Co Laois at the end of the 18th Century. Although the house was destroyed by fire in 1960, the spectacular Italian Gardens can still be visited. The route is well signposted. The Gardens are one of four in Ireland designed by Edward Luytens, and are magnificently situated on a hillside. The centrepiece of the garden forms a fountain pool encircled by bronze turtles. A circular wall shelters a beautiful flower display and has openings to allow breathtaking views of the local countryside.
Portlaoise, the county town of Laois was once called Marybourough. In the reign of Philip and Mary was fortified as part of a plan to subdue the local chiefs, the O’Mores. Today nothing remains apart from the outer wall of the tower.
One of the finest natural limestone caves in the country, Dunmore Cave has a large number of chambers with magnificent dripstone formations. Most spectacular is the ‘Market Cross’ stalagmite, which is over 20 feet high. The cave is reputed to have been the site of a massacre in Viking times, and numerous bones have been found there.
This is an example of a seventeenth century market town. The ruins of Ballinakill Castle are of a late seventeenth century castle. Built by the Dunnes on the site of one destroyed by Cromwellian troops under Fairfax, it was never inhabited. The configuration of streets around the large rectangular square is eighteenth century. Two trees known as toll trees mark the town’s entrance from Abbeyleix. Here visitors in the past paid a toll to enter the town. Ballinakill had important fairs, a brewery, woollen and tanning factories.
Borris-In-Ossory was originally a cluster which grew around the now ruined fifteenth century Fitzpatrick castle The village grew along the eighteenth century coach road and depended on the wool trade. North of the village is Kyle or Cluain Ferta Molua, the site of a monastery founded by St. Lugaid or Molua who came from Limerick and died in 609. It was in the seventeenth century an important centre of learning and the home of Laicead mac Baith-Banning whose works on biblical commentaries may still be seen in Dublin.
During the seventeenth century Durrow was originally a Norman borough. The Ormonds made it part of Kilkenny. It was returned to the county in 1848 by act of parliament. It is a planned estate village, developed under the patronage of the Viscounts Ashbrook. Its finest feature is the suite of buildings around the Green under the gates and battlement wall. These in turn enclose a tastefully designed modern primary school and the important “castle” (1713-23) designed by its owner William Flowers. It is one of the last large pre-Palladian houses to be built in Ireland.
Kilkenny is a beautiful medieval town situated on both banks of the Nore. There are many historical points of interest including Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice Cathedral, Rothe house and many more. The “cat laughs” comedy festival and the Kilkenny Arts Festival are held annually in Kilkenny.
This town takes it’s name from the rath or ring fort which until 1840 was at the end of the town square near the Church of Ireland church. It was a thirteenth century Norman manor, and developed as a town in the early nineteenth century. Brewing was the main industry until 1966 when Perry’s Brewery was converted into a successful meat processing plant. Rathdowney is the birthplace of Thomas Prior, founder of the R.D.S.
This is magnificent neo-classical house designed by James Gandon in 1790. Extensive parklands with formal lawns, a lake woodland and lawns surround it.
Stradbally is he birth place of the historian John O’Hanlon, and contains the Stradbally steam museum. The view from the windy gap on the Stradbally Carlow road is famous.
This prosperous town owes its origin to the monastery founded here in the seventh century by St. Cronan. Roscrea is a good centre if one wishes to walk and climb in the Devil’s Bit and Slieve Bloom mountains. Roscrea castle, sometimes known as King John’s castle, dates in its present form to the thirteenth century. In the centre of the castle is Damer House.
Built c. 1715 and restored by the Irish Georgian Society. The house contains a magnificent carved wooden staircase, an elegant carved stone doorway, paintings, furniture and local heritage exhibits.
Templemore lies on the plain beneath the western slopes of the devils bit mountains. In the 70-acre town park are the remains of Templemore Abbey and Black castle, both of which are believed to have been founded by the knights templar. There is good fishing for brown trout on the upper reaches of the siver Suir near the town, and the lake in the town holds pike, perch and tench.