Towns & Villages



One of Ireland’s finest heritage towns, Abbeyleix is a planned estate town where visitors can admire the fine period buildings. The original town of Abbeyleix grew up near the River Nore, on the site of an early Christian abbey. The town developed under the protection of a twelfth century Cistercian monastery. When the de Vesci family acquired Abbeyleix in 1750, they decided that the town would have to move . The de Vescis levelled the old twon of Abbeyleix and moved its people to a new planned town. Abbeyleix prospered in its new location and by 1837, had grown to 140 houses. Over the next century the main industriesincluded four mills, a brewery and a factory that made carpets all over the world, including on the luxury liner, Titanic.

Today, visitors can admire the fine period buildings that remain in Abbeyleix, including the Church of Ireland, Baptist meeting house, Wesleyan Meeting house, and Catholic Church. Those wanting to learn more about life in the mid 1800s can visit the restored Sexton’s House. For the full story of the town, go to the Abbeyleix Heritage House in the old Patrician North School.



Castletown is known as “The Tidiest Village in Laois”.

In 1182 Hugh de Lacy built a castle here for Robert de Bigarz, and it became the center of an important Norman borough. Only fragments of the castle remain. The village itself is built around a triangular fair green. Castletown has preformed very well each year in the Tidy Towns competition, achieving the 2000 gold medal in its category. South of the village in Churchtown are the ruins of a medieval church.


DurrowThe planned estate town of Durrow features fine Georgian and Victorian buildings including Castle Durrow, one of the last Pre-Palladian houses built in Ireland. The way Durrow looks today is largely due to the Flower Family, Viscounts Ashbrook, who gained ownership of the town in the early 1700s. They built Castle Durrow and granted permits for many of the fine Georgian and Victorian houses that still line Durrow’s streets.

Today, visitors can enjoy woodland walks as well as strolls down Durrow’s fine streets. The Leafy Loop is a 14 mile series of way-marked walking routes around the town.


Mountmellick’s fine buildings and historical sites are identified on its Heritage Trail. Once known as the Manchester of Ireland, Mountmellick is a town of fine buildings and the home of a uniquely Irish textile art, Mountmellick Work. The foundation of the town was laid by the members of the Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. By the mid 1700s, Mountmellick was a leading centre of textile production in Ireland. Mountmellick experienced a boom in 1836, when a branch of the Grand Canal opened, linking the town with markets throughout Ireland and beyond.

Click here for more information on the Mountmellick Museum.


In the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, Portarlington was the Paris of the midlands, a place where French, rather than Irish or English was spoken on the streets. French Huguenots, escaping persecution in their native land, shaped the culture and the architecture of this bustling Midlands Town.

Portarlington was founded in 1666 by Henry Bennett, Lord Arlington, on land located in a bend of the River Barrow.

Today, visitors can view houses built in the Huguenot style on French street and Patrick street. Not far from Portarlington are the ruins of Lea Castle, a Norman fortress that was seized and held by the O’ Dempseys until the mid 1600s when Cromwell’s troops destroyed it.


This picturesque town is home to Stradbally Hall Estate and showcases a number of activities including point-to-point racing, paintball, and the annual Stradbally Steam Rally and Electric Picnic Festival. Stradbally is home to the narrow gauge railway and Steam Museum Tel 057 86 25154. Stradbally Lake and picnic amenity is popular with families, anglers and general visitors.

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