Laois Accommodation:
Portlaoise

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County Town: Portlaoise
Population: 69,012
Area: 1,719 sq km
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An agricultural region in the Irish midlands, County Laois is notable for the wonderful forests and waterfalls of the Slieve Bloom mountains, large expanses of peat bogland and first-rate opportunities for golf, fishing and riding. The county is filled with fascinating attractions, from historic sites and museums to grand houses and gardens. Visitors wishing to roam the countryside in style can always take a horse-drawn tour in a gypsy caravan, while drivers in more conventional vehicles can follow miles of scenic and heritage routes through the county. The most spectacular sights are to be found in the peaks and valleys of the mountains, which also border County Offaly, in the north west. Home to many different birds and animals, these are among Europe's oldest mountains. Drivers can follow the highland road from Mountrath to reach the little village of Clonaslee. Just a few miles further on are the fabulous Glenbarrow waterfall, a picnic area, and some beautiful forest and riverside walks. Equally unforgettable is the Rock of Dunamase and its 12th Century castle ruins, near the town of Portlaois. Another popular attraction is the 18th Century neo-classical mansion of Emo Court, set in marvellous grounds that include formal gardens, a lake and woodlands with walking trails. The fine country house of Castle Durrow, dating back to the early 1700s, is now open as a hotel. Many of the settlements in Laois are well worth exploring, not least the heritage town of Abbeyleix, the 17th Century market town of Ballinakill (location of the delightful Heywood Gardens), the mountain-valley village of Timahoe, where a 12th Century round tower stands 96 feet tall, the historic town of Mountmellick and the charming Camross village, nearby. Families staying in Laois will find something to suit every interest, from shopping to paintballing, and festivals to arts and theatre.

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On this day:
Normans Invade Ireland - 1169, Great Exhibition opens - 1851, TUC meets to agree on a General Strike - 1926, Sutton Hoo Dig Begins - 1939, Betting Shops Legal - 1961, Last UK Concert by Beatles - 1966, Tony Blairs 'New Labour' sweeps to power - 1997, Millennium May Day Protests - 2000
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