Portlaoise is one of the well-established tourist destinations in Ireland that has plenty of unique attractions. This town is one of the best day trip destinations from the city of Dublin. It is a well established commercial, retail and arts hub in the Irish Midlands. This town has a wide range of shopping and dining options that you can explore to experience the very friendly Irish hospitality. You can enjoy the freshly cooked local favorites, witness the town’s unique artifacts and handmade products, experience the vibrant nightlife, visit its many art galleries and more in this beautiful little town between Limerick and Dublin. Check out our list of the top things to do in Portlaoise, Ireland.
1. Marvel at the wonderful Rock of Dunamaise
Rock of Dunmaise is one of the most famous things to see in Portlaoise. It is a large 46-meters (151 ft) tall rock in Port Laoise along with the ruins of the Dunamaise Castle ruins. This rock overlooks the Slieve Bloom Mountains that offer breathtaking views. History says that Dunmaise Castle was a defensive stronghold during the Hiberno-Norman period. This is a historic landmark of the Irish Republic and the country’s national monument. This 9th-century monument sits between the towns Port Laoise and Stradbally near the N80 road. Learn about the story of the Dunamaise Castle, its destruction and its timeless ruins during your visit to Rock of Dunamaise.
Rock of Dunamaise
Address: Dunamaise, Aghnahily, Co. Laois, Ireland
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
2. Drop by Portlaoise Farmers Market
Shop for fresh farm products at Portlaoise Farmers’ Market every Friday. You will also be able to get fresh fish, home-made cheese, baked goods, pickles, jams and preserves in this market. The farmers’ market happens at Peppers Lane in Lyster Square and has a parking space available for a charge. The brown bread and falafel in this place is a must-try. You will not only be able to get fresh organic products but also support the local farming community. Explore the local vegetables, fruits, and other specialties at this lively market place that is an epitome of quality.
Portlaoise Farmers Market
Address: Lyster Square, Port Laoise
Website: Portlaoise Farmers Market
Opening hours: Friday: 9am - 3pm (closed from Sat - Thu)
3. Explore the insightful Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum
Did you know more than 10 percent of the Donaghmore population comprising of about 1200 people were given refuge at the Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum? During the great famine of 1845 to 1849, many families lost their lives behind the walls of this workhouse. Go on a guided or a self-guided trip to learn about the socio-economic conditions during the period that led to the Great Famine and the moving stories of the people who lost lives before, during and after this calamity. You will also be able to witness the original dormitories, waiting-hall, and kitchen in this museum. Though somber, this Portlaoise point of interest is certainly worth a visit.
Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum
Address: Dunacleggan, Donaghmore, Co. Laois, R32 PC58, Ireland
Website: Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11am - 5pm (closed on Sat & Sun)
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4. Add Dunamaise Antiques to your itinerary
Dunamaise Antiques is a popular antique store located at the heart of the city specializing in Pine and Mohogany furnishings, Chinaware, Silverware, Paintings and more. This antique store has a unique collection of antiques and curios that will give life to your home. There are antique furnishings like mirrors, beds, seating arrangements, tables, storage boxes and more that you can choose and it will be delivered to your door by reliable and expert professionals. You can also check out the amazing display of pieces available here.
Address: 60 Main Street, Portlaoise, Co. Laois
Website: Dunamaise Antiques
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 5:30pm (closed on Sun)
5. Plan a visit to Dunamaise Arts Centre
Dunamaise Arts Center is a popular Portlaoise tourist attraction. You will be able to witness the city’s rich art and culture here. This art center hosts exhibitions and workshops of local artists. This place specializes in all forms of art from paintings, handcrafts, sculpting, to theater and visual arts. Check out their calendar for the latest theatrical performances by popular artists in town. They also conduct events for children and workshops on dance, music, comedy, theater, and cinema. If you are an artist and are looking to exhibit your works in Port Laoise, you can approach the Arts Center board or apply online on their website.
Dunamaise Arts Centre
Address: Church St, Moneyballytyrrell, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland
Website: Dunamaise Arts Centre
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9:30am - 5:30pm (closed on Sun)
The following content is contributed by Trip101 writer, Laarni
6. Dine at O'Gormans Bar & Restaurant
One of the things you have to do when visiting a new place is to try the food. Something as simple as ordering the local delicacy is an adventure on its own. If you happen to find yourself in Portlaoise, whether for business or leisure, be sure to include O'Gormans Bar & Restaurant on your trip. You won’t regret it. This venue first opened its doors in 2002 and rose to fame overnight. When you do visit, you’ll see why. O’Gorman’s makes it a priority to guarantee unparalleled customer service. More than the undeniably top-notch food and drinks, you’ll be treated warmly and like family here.
O'Gormans Bar & Restaurant
Address: 5 Kilminchy Ave, Kilminchy, Portlaoise, Co. Laois
Website: O'Gormans Bar & Restaurant
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 2pm - 11:30pm; Sun: 12pm - 11:30pm
Things to do near Portlaoise
7. Be adventurous at Castlecomer Discovery Park
Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or someone who’s thinking of trying out something new, Castlecomer Discovery Park has many activities in store for you. With around 20 options to choose from, you are sure to find something that you’ll feel comfortable with. The place is wheelchair accessible, which gives you an idea that inclusivity is one of its guiding principles. Children are welcome too, although some of the activities do have minimum age requirements for safety reasons. Other important details to keep in mind are appropriate clothing, closed shoes and more. Lastly, to guarantee a spot for you and your family, remember to finalize your booking ahead of your visit.
Castlecomer Discovery Park
Address: The Estate Yard, Drumgoole, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny
Website: Castlecomer Discovery Park
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 9:30am - 5pm; Sat - Sun: 10am - 5pm
Price: 3.50 USD onwards
8. Explore Irish National Stud & Gardens
There’s just something about nature that causes an instant change in people’s moods. At Irish National Stud & Gardens, not only will you be surrounded by beautiful scenery but you’ll also have the chance to marvel at the majestic horses that call this place home. Japanese Gardens is a top choice among visitors looking for someplace quiet. The gardens were designed by father and son Tassa Eida and Minoru, both talented horticulturists. While here, you’re bound to feel amazed by how various plant species have been used to symbolize the human experience. Furthermore, you can find Japanese Gardens Restaurant on-site, which serves mouthwatering dishes made from mostly local ingredients.
Japanese Gardens and Irish National Stud
Address: Brallistown Little, Tully, Co. Kildare, R51 KX25, Ireland
Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)
Price: 8.44 USD onwards
9. Spend a day at Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park
Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park is one of the best places to bring the whole family if you happen to be in Kildare, perhaps even the whole of Ireland. One of the things that you can expect on your visit is the rich variety of wildlife thriving in the peatland. Covering about 60 acres (24.28 hectares), the park offers a number of exciting activities you can indulge in. The play areas are designed to allow children to have fun safely. You can also join treasure hunts and hop on trains as your tickets don’t have a time limit. Once you feel hungry, head over to the large cafe on-site for some tasty refreshments.
Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park
Address: Lullymore East, Lullymore, Co. Kildare, R51 E036, Ireland
Opening hours: 10am - 6pm (daily)
Price: 8.16 USD onwards
10. Admire the beauty of Heywood Gardens
If you’re a history buff and a nature lover, Heywood Gardens will definitely become one of your favorite places after just one visit. This venue features gardens and lakes that are arranged in the 18th-century style. It used to be maintained by the Salesian Fathers and then became state-owned in 1993. This site’s beautiful centerpiece was the result of designs conceptualized by Sir Edwin Lutyens (an architect) and Gertrude Jekyll (a horticulturist). Note though that because of the aged quality of this spot, differently-abled visitors might encounter challenges while trying to navigate the area.
Address: Haywood Demesne, Ballinakill, Co. Laois
Website: Heywood Gardens
Opening hours: 8:30am - 5pm
11. Go hiking in Slieve Bloom Mountains
Embark on an adventure that you will remember for a lifetime and explore Slieve Bloom Mountains. Whether you’re a veteran hiker or just planning an hour of walking, it doesn’t matter. This place welcomes you with open arms and rewards you with wonderful views simply for showing up. Take your pick from one of the many trails that vary in duration and difficulty. While on the path, keep your eyes peeled for the extensive variety of plant and animal life thriving here. If possible, bring a pair of binoculars along as there are about 65 species of birds that have been sighted in the area. After your excursion, drop by one of the nearby pubs to share your experience with other wanderers.
Slieve Bloom Mountains
Address: Forelacka, Kinnitty, Co. Offaly, Ireland
Website: Slieve Bloom Mountains
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
12. Experience bliss at Gash Gardens
Reconnect with nature at Gash Gardens. This is one of those places that even if you set high expectations prior to visiting, you’re not going to be disappointed. You will especially enjoy your time in this garden if you know a thing or two about plants. You can even make a game out of trying to name all the flowers, shrubs, and trees you will see here. Of course, being a skilled gardener is not at all a requirement to be able to appreciate what this venue has to offer. The beautiful landscape punctuated by serene bodies of still water is bound to bring you to a state of bliss.
Address: Gash, Castletown, Co. Laois, R32 K068, Ireland
Website: Gash Gardens
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 5pm (closed on Sun)
Price: 8.17 USD
13. See the spooky Charleville Castle
Travel back in time by visiting Charleville Castle if you happen to be in County Offaly. Designed in 1798 by Francis Johnston, this grand structure was a project of Charles William Bury, Earl of Charleville. If you’re a fan of Gothic-Revival architecture, you will definitely appreciate the stunning build of this ancient castle. If you must know, it took 14 long years to finish the whole thing. Thus, as you marvel upon its sheer beauty, try to imagine the many people who dreamed and toiled to make it a magnificent reality. If you’re into paranormal activities, perhaps you can join others in trying to glimpse the ghost said to be haunting the place. Scary or exciting? You decide.
Address: Charleville Demesne, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland
Website: Charleville Castle
Opening hours: 11am - 6pm (daily)
14. Learn about the history of Timahoe Round Tower
While exploring the village of Timahoe, don’t forget to check out Timahoe Round Tower. It is 30 meters (98.4 feet) high and 17 meters (55.8 feet) wide, and its walls are almost 2 meters (6.6 feet) thick - definitely hard to miss! This ancient stonework structure dates back to the 12th century, yet it is still standing tall in its original form. In the olden days, travelers used the tower as a landmark when trying to locate the monastery it belonged to. It also used to house bells that were used to signify prayer times and warn of attacks.
Timahoe Round Tower
Address: Timahoe, Co. Laois
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
Check out the unique attractions of Portlaoise
Portlaoise is a land of timeless Irish history and culture. There are many hidden gems and unique sights in this city that you can explore easily on a self-guided tour. There are also many guided tours that will help you get around this stunning city. It has some of the spectacular and scenic views that you cannot miss. This historic city is an amazing pill to soothe your wander lust.
Frequently asked questions about the things to do in Portlaoise, Ireland
1. Which are the top attractions to visit in Portlaoise?
Portlaoise is one of the well-established tourist destinations in Ireland and has plenty of unique attractions. The top attractions to visit in Portlaoise are Rock of Dunamaise, Dunamaise Arts Centre and Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum.
2. Which are the best outdoor activities near Portlaoise?
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy visiting Portlaoise and its surrounding areas. You can enjoy a range of adventurous activities at Castlecomer Discovery Park or go hiking in Slieve Bloom Mountains. For a slightly less strenuous activity, consider visiting Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park.
3. Which are the most popular things to do with kids and family near Portlaoise?
Portlaoise is a very family-friendly destination. Dunamaise Arts Centre is a great place for your children to attend workshops on dance, music, theater, and more. Castlecomer Discovery Park welcomes families with older children to enjoy their outdoor activities. Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park has play areas that kids will surely find very delightful.
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