City Guide to Portlaoise

Once an ancient Irish settlement, Portlaoise is now one of Ireland’s fastest growing modern towns, with a young and vibrant population. Located in the stunning Irish midlands in County Laois, Portlaoise is a bustling town with an international community, a unique culture and a stunning history that will ensure your visit here is unforgettable.

Portlaoise has a fascinating past and its location at the foot of the colourful Slieve Bloom means it’s a nature lover’s paradise. However, the town also boasts a variety of lively cultural activities and attractions: there is theatre and performance art at the Dunamaise Arts Centre and an eclectic range of annual festivals and shopping.

Shopping in Portlaoise

Portlaoise offers some of the best shopping in County Laois. For high street shops with a charming touch of small-town twee – complete with hanging baskets – you could visit the historic shops on Main Street. If you’re looking for something a bit more exhaustive, then Laois Shopping Centre is close by as well as numerous other shopping malls and a retail park on the Timahoe Road.

Visual Arts in Portlaoise

Dunamaise Art Centre, located on Church Street in the centre of Portlaoise, is a great place to immerse yourself in some local culture. Opened in the 1990s to host the town’s emerging cultural scene, Dunamaise Art Centre contains a 240 seat theatre, a top-notch gallery space and a state of the art cinema, as well as a rather fine restaurant. It offers a diversity of local and international performances, such as opera, contemporary dance and live music.

Festivals in Portlaoise

The Halloween Howls Comedy Festival takes place annually in October at a lively comedy venue on Main Street, promising some of the biggest names in comedy. The regional finals for the wonderfully traditional ‘Rose of Tralee’ beauty contest also takes place here. Last but not least, the Electric Picnic, dubbed ‘Ireland’s Glastonbury’, is a fantastic festival for alternative music lovers. Hosted annually in September and located in the striking grounds of the nearby Stradbally Hall, this award-winning festival has met with international acclaim.

Historic Ruins in Portlaoise

No visit to Ireland would be complete without some local history. The remains of the 16th century fort around which Portlaoise began life now stand at its centre, serving as a vivid reminder of this town’s humble beginnings. Other heritage attractions nearby include Sheffield House, a striking Queen Anne mansion about two miles outside of Portlaoise, and Dunamaise Castle, an Anglo-Norman ruin with fantastic views over the nearby mountains.

Nature in Portlaoise

Nature lovers should pay a visit to the Slieve Bloom. The mountains are some of the oldest in Europe and offer some impressive views. On a clear day, you can even spot the four high points of the ancient provinces of Ireland. For the birdwatchers and wildlife lovers out there, the natural heritage area of Clonreher Bog is also nearby – but don’t forget your wellies!

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