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After the original monastery burned in 1234, it was rebuilt as an Augustinian priory. Today a Church of Ireland, which dates from the 1700s, stands where that priory once stood. This church appears to contain some fragments of the Augustinians’ buildings. On the east side of the doorway, visitors can see a carved limestone head that dates from the Middle Ages. The small belltower at the northwest corner of the church has the same proportions as one from the 1200s. The fine ruins on this site belong to a Dominican friary founded in 1382 by
Finghan MacGillapatrick, Lord of Ossory. The church, which was conserved by the local community, contains a beautifully carved three-light window in the east wall. Monks would have entered through the doorway in the north wall, which led from the cloister. The doorway in the west wall, through which the public would have entered the church, dates from the Middle Ages. Near Aghaboe Abbey the tree-covered remains of a Norman motte can be seen. The Normans would have built a wooden tower on top of this steepsided mound of earth, where they could store their arms and from which they could keep a lookout for potential attackers.
Emo Court is a country villa designed by architect James Gandon (1743-1823), best known for his great public buildings, including the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin. The house is a magnificent example of the neo-Classical style, reflecting the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland which were first laid out in the 18th century and contain formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks with many very fine trees and shrubs.
Heywood Gardens is the site of two garden types: the great park created by Frederick Trench in the late 1700s and the small interlocked formal gardens created by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll in the early 1900s.
Laois Heritage Trail
Laois, one of Ireland’s most interesting counties, is also one of its least
discovered. To help visitors and long-time residents explore Laois, this guide
offers information on the sites that make up the Heritage Trail.
If you are interested in castles, the Rock of Dunamase is the place to
begin. Wildlife lovers and sportsmen should visit the Fly Fishing and Game
Shooting Museum. Architecture buffs might want to start at Emo Court,
while those who love fine handwork should head straight for the museum
At several of these sites, works from the county’s Sculpture Trail prove that
the creative energy that shaped Laois is as vibrant as ever.
This Heritage Trail is only the beginning. More than 1,000 monuments and
places of historical interest have been identified in Laois. All through the
county, the people at the sites, museums and tourist offices are there to
help you pursue your interests. So set off down one of the county’s winding
roads. The more you explore Laois, the more you will find.
This replica thatched cottage gives visitors a sense of what daily life must have been like for most people in rural Ireland in the 1800s.
Stunning views of the surrounding countryside make the towering Rock of Dunamase a strategic place to build a fortress. Through the centuries, warriors have fought to control this limestone outcrop. The first known settlement on the rock was Dun Masc, an early Christian settlement that was pillaged in 842 by the Vikings. When the Normans arrived in Ireland in the late 1100s, Dunamase became the most important Anglo-Norman fortification in Laois.
An extraordinary carved doorway makes this the most elegant round tower in Ireland. Carvings of human heads, with flowing beards and moustaches, decorate the main entrance, about five metres from the ground. Smaller carvings decorate a second storey window. No one knows why the monks at Timahoe carved such a beautiful doorway. They may have used it to display a sacred relic to pilgrims, or the elegant decoration could reflect the monastery buildings that have disappeared from this site.