County Laois

County Laois
Contae Laoise
Coat of arms of County Laois
The O'Moore County
I bpáirt leis an bpobal  (Irish)
"In partnership with the community"
Location of County Laois
Dáil ÉireannLaois–Offaly
EU ParliamentSouth
Established1557 (as Queen's County)[1]
County townPortlaoise
 • TypeCounty Council
 • Total1,720 km2 (660 sq mi)
Area rank23rd
Highest elevation527 m (1,729 ft)
 • Total84,697
 • Rank23rd
 • Density49/km2 (130/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing keys
R32 (primarily)
Telephone area codes057 (primarily)
Vehicle index
mark code

County Laois (/lʃ/ LEESH; Irish: Contae Laoise) is a county in Ireland. It is located in the south of the Midlands Region and in the province of Leinster. It was known as Queen's County from 1556 to 1922.[3] The modern county takes its name from Loígis, a medieval kingdom. Historically, it has also been known as County Leix.

Laois County Council is the local authority for the county. At the 2016 census, the population of the county was 84,697,[2] an increase of 26% since the 2006 census.



The first people in Laois were bands of hunters and gatherers who passed through the county about 8,500 years ago. They hunted in the forests that covered Laois and fished in its rivers, gathering nuts and berries to supplement their diets.

Next came Ireland's first farmers. These people of the Neolithic period (4000 to 2500 BC) cleared forests and planted crops. Their burial mounds remain in Clonaslee and Cuffsborough.

Starting around 2500 BC, the people of the Bronze Age lived in Laois. They produced weapons, tools and golden objects. Visitors to the county can see a stone circle they left behind at Monamonry, as well as the remains of their hill forts at Clopook and Monelly. Skirk, near Borris-in-Ossory, has a Bronze Age standing stone and ring fort. The body of Cashel Man indicates that ritual killing took place around 2000 BC.

The next stage is known as the pre-Christian Celtic Iron Age. For the first time, iron appeared in Ireland, showing up in the weapons used by factions who fought bloody battles for control of the land. At Ballydavis, archaeologists have discovered ring barrows that date from this time period.

The county name derives from Loígis, of which the modern county is only a part. In the 11th century, its dynastic rulers adopted the surname Ua/Ó Mórdha. They claimed descent from a member of the Red Branch Knights.

By the first century AD, the western third of Laois was part of the Kingdom of Ossory. The eastern part was divided roughly into seven parts, which were ruled by the Seven Septs of Loígis: O’More (O’Moore), O’Lalor, O’Doran, O’Dowling, O’Devoy (O’Deevy), O’Kelly and McEvoy.

Map of Ireland around 900 AD. The western third of Laois was part of the Kingdom of Osraige.

Introduction of Christianity

When Ireland was Christianised, holy men and women founded religious communities in Loígis. St. Ciarán of Saighir (called "The Elder" to distinguish him from the younger St. Ciarán of Clonmacnoise) founded his monastic habitation in the western Slieve Bloom Mountains as the first bishop of Ossory, reputedly before St. Patrick. His mother Liadán had an early convent nearby at what is now Killyon. Between 550 and 600, St. Canice founded Aghaboe Abbey and St. Mochua founded a religious community at Timahoe. An early Christian community lived at Dun Masc or Masc's fort, on the Rock of Dunamase.

The Synod of Rathbreasail that established the Irish dioceses was held near Mountrath in 1111, moving the Church away from its monastic base. As religious orders with strong ties to Rome replaced older religious communities, the wooden buildings of the early Christian churches in Laois gave way to stone monasteries. The Augustinians and Dominicans established themselves at Aghaboe Abbey, while the Cistercians took over an older religious community at Abbeyleix.

Norman invasion

The Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169–71 affected Laois as it was a part of the Kingdom of Leinster. In Laois, the fortress on the Rock of Dunamase was part of the dowry of the Irish princess Aoife, who was given in marriage in 1170 to the Norman warrior Strongbow. Advancing Normans surveyed the county from wooden towers built on top of earthen mounds, known as mottes. They also built stone fortresses, such as Lea Castle, just outside Portarlington. Several of the county's towns were first established as Norman boroughs, including Castletown, Durrow and Timahoe.

From 1175 until about 1325, Normans controlled the best land in the county, while Gaelic society retreated to the bogs, forests and the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The early 14th century saw a Gaelic revival, as the chieftains of Loígis caused the Normans to withdraw. The Dempseys seized Lea Castle, while Dunamase came into the ownership of the O’Mores. Examples of tower houses built by the Irish Mac Giolla Phádraig chieftains are found at Ballaghmore and Cullahill Castle, both decorated with Sheela na gigs.

In 1548, the English confiscated the lands of the O’Mores, and built "Campa", known as the Fort of Leix, today's Portlaoise.

16th century colony and County status

(c) sarah777, CC BY-SA 2.0
A church in Emo

It was shired in 1556 by Queen Mary as Queen's County, covering the countries of Leix (Loígis), Slewmarge, Irry, and that part of Glimnaliry on the southwest side of the River Barrow.[10] Laois received its present Irish language name following the Irish War of Independence. Laois was also sometimes spelt "Leix". Portlaoise (previously Maryborough) is the main town of the county.

In 1659, a group of Quakers led by William Edmundson, settled in Mountmellick, while a group of Huguenots were given refuge in Portarlington in 1666 after their service to William of Orange in the Williamite War in Ireland.

What followed was a period of relative calm. Anglo-Irish landowners enclosed the land and built fine houses, including Durrow Castle, Heywood House and Emo Court. In 1836, a branch of the Grand Canal stretched to Mountmellick, further stimulating industry in that town.

The Great Famine of 1845–49 devastated the county. The county's workhouses could not cope with the number of destitute people seeking shelter. By the time the workhouse opened at Donaghmore in 1853, many of the poorest had emigrated or died.

The county was known as Queen's County (Irish: Contae na Banríona) from 1556 until its name was informally changed on establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. The county's name was formerly spelt as Laoighis and Leix. Despite the name being upheld as Laois through the 2001 Local Government Act, no legislation was ever enacted after independence explicitly changing the name from Queen's County, the name formally established under the 1898 Local Government Act which continued to have legal effect. When land is sold in the county the relevant title deeds are still updated as being in Queen's County.

Geography and political subdivisions

(c) Sarah777, CC BY-SA 2.0
The M7 near Portlaoise

Laois is the 23rd largest of Ireland's 32 counties in area and also has the 23rd largest population.[11] It is the seventh largest of Leinster's 12 counties in size and tenth largest in population. The county is landlocked and, uniquely, does not border any other county which touches the coast. This is known as being doubly landlocked. It is therefore considered to be "the most landlocked county in Ireland".


The county was formerly divided into nine baronies:

  • Ballyadams
  • Cullenagh
  • Maryborough East
  • Maryborough West
  • Portnehinch
  • Slievemargue
  • Stradbally
  • Tinnehinch
  • Upper Ossory (later divided into Upper Woods, Clarmallagh and Clandonagh)

Towns and villages

Countryside south of Portlaoise.


For climatological information please visit:[12] for averages and extremes.

The weather station at east Durrow was set up in May 2008. The equipment used is a Davis Vantage Pro II that measures temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall and barometric pressure. This data is transmitted every 2 seconds to a website where the data can be freely accessed. The station also reports to the Irish Weather Network which displays live weather data from similar stations all around Ireland.

In addition, a Met Éireann climatological station (Number: 472) was installed in September 2010 and the data collected is sent to headquarters in Glasnevin, Dublin on a monthly basis. The climatological station measures rainfall in a manual gauge, soil temperatures at 5 cm, 10 cm and 20 cm depths, air temperature including wet-bulb, daily maximum and daily minimum temperatures. The climatological station is a project that is envisaged to last thirty years and collect a climate profile for Durrow and Laois in general.


National parliament

In the Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann, Laois is traditionally included in the Laois–Offaly constituency. However, for one election, in 2016, Laois had its own 3 seat constituency (which included six electoral divisions from Kildare South). Since 2020, Laois–Offaly became a 5-seat constituency again.[13]

Local government

County Hall, Portlaoise

Local matters are dealt with by Laois County Council which elects 19 members. For the purpose of elections it is divided into three local electoral areas: Borris-in-Ossory-Mountmellick (6), Portlaoise (7), Graiguecullen-Portarlington (6). Due to major local government reform implemented by Minister Phil Hogan town councils in Mountmellick and Portlaoise were abolished in 2014.

Places of interest

Rock of Dunamase
  • Slieve Bloom Mountains
  • Rock of Dunamase
  • Emo Court
  • Castle Durrow
  • Timahoe Round Tower
  • Stradbally Hall
  • Mountmellick Quaker Museum
  • Ballyfin House
  • Roundwood House
  • Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise
  • Portlaoise Leisure Centre
  • Tinnakill Castle
  • 18-hole golf courses include: Abbeyleix Road in Portlaoise; The Heritage in Killenard; The Heath; Abbeyleix, Mountrath and Rathdowney.

Also County Laois has a mixture of castles, mansions, forts and old structures that are now in ruins but are still worth visiting.[14]


The population of County Laois is expanding, given its easy commute to the employment centres of Kildare and Dublin. Laois's population growth during the period 2002–2006 (14%) was stronger than the national average (8.2%),[15] as follows:[16]

  • 2002 ... 58,774
  • 2006 ... 67,012 ... +14.01%
  • 2011 ... 80,559
  • 2016 ... 84,697

As of the 2016 census, ethnically Laois was 84% white Irish, 8% other white, 2% black, 1% Asian, 1% 'other', with 3% not stated.[2]


Industrial parks are located in Portlaoise, Portarlington and Mountmellick. The county receives EU funding as it is part of the cluster of three regions (Border, Midland and West), colloquially known as "BMW", that qualifies for special funding aid.

Agricultural activities occupy approximately 70% of the land area of the county (1,200 km2 or 460 sq mi). However agriculture's share of income in the "BMW" region has declined sharply in the past decade, and represented only approximately 3.9% of annual income (GVA) in 2005 Central Statistics Office.[17] The remaining area includes considerable stretches of raised bog and the Slieve Bloom mountains, which are partially covered by coniferous forest.


Performing arts

The county's largest theatre is the Dunamaise Theatre in Portlaoise which opened in 1999. There are many festivals held in Laois each year including:

  • Durrow Die-Cast Model and Toy Show
  • Halloween Howls
  • Laois Bealtaine Festival
  • Half Door Club Music & Set Dance Festival
  • Rose of Tralee Regional Finals
  • Laois Fleadh
  • Heartlands Rally
  • Gordon Bennett Classic Car Run
  • Laois Walks Festival
  • Festival Francais Portarlington
  • Durrow Scarecrow Festival
  • Stradbally National Steam Rally
  • National Ploughing Championships
  • Electric Picnic
  • Maureen Culleton Festival of Dance
  • B.A.R.E in the Woods
  • Fisherstown Trad Festival
  • Ossory Agricultural Show
  • William Edmundson & Friends Gathering
  • Mountmellick Drama Festival
  • Laois International Golf Challenge


Iarnród Éireann train services along the Dublin-Cork line connects the county between Heuston station and Cork, Limerick, travel through the county, with railway stations at Portarlington, Portlaoise and Ballybrophy. From Portarlington trains run on the Dublin-Galway/Westport/Ballina line to Athlone as well as Galway, Westport and Ballina. From Ballybrophy trains run on the Ballybrophy line to Nenagh and Limerick direct.

Road transport

The M7 road runs through County Laois. This is one of the busiest roadways in Ireland connecting Dublin and Limerick and acts as a trunk route for the M8 which connects Cork to Dublin. The M8 joins the M7 to the south of Portlaoise. Road infrastructure has improved greatly in the county over the past decade. Most major interurban routes through Laois have now been upgraded to motorway standard. All major traffic bottlenecks in Laois such as Abbeyleix and Mountrath have been bypassed following the opening of the M7/M8 tolled motorway project in May 2010. Both towns were major intercity bottlenecks for motorists especially Abbeyleix where delays of up to 30 minutes or more were common.

Bus Éireann provides regular intercity bus services in the county. The Dublin to Limerick service runs every hour through towns and villages on the old N7 road (now R445) while the Dublin to Cork inter city bus service runs every two hours through towns in the county.


  • John George Adair (1823–1885), builder of Glenveagh Castle and financier of JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle.
  • Darina Allen (1953– ), TV chef.
  • John Barrett (1753–1821), Vice Provost, Trinity College, 1807–1821.
  • Sir Jonah Barrington (1760–1834).
  • Elizabeth Barton of the Barton Family, Straffan and Lisduff
  • Claire Byrne (1976– ), TV presenter/newscaster, best known for co-presenting RTÉ's The Daily Show
  • Tony Byrne, former professional footballer who played for Ireland.
  • William Cosby, governor of New York from 1732 to 1736.
  • Evelyn Cusack, Met Éireann meteorologist
  • William Dargan (1799–1867), responsible for the Industrial Exhibition, 1853.
  • Cecil Day-Lewis (1904–1972), British Poet-Laureate, 1967–1972.
  • Dr. Daniel Delany (1747–1814), Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
  • Eileen Dunne (1958– ), TV newscaster.
  • Denis Dynon, recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Oliver J. Flanagan (1920–1987), Minister for Defence, 1976–1977.
  • Charles Flanagan
  • Seán Fleming
  • Ger Connolly
  • Stephen Hunt (1981–), professional footballer playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Ireland.
  • Liam Hyland
  • James Fintan Lalor (1807–1849), Young Irelander.
  • Peter Lalor (1827–1889), leader of the Eureka Stockade miners revolt, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
  • Patrick Lalor
  • Charles McDonald
  • James Macauley (1889–1945), former Ireland soccer international player.
  • Dr. Bartholomew Mosse (1712–1759), founder, Rotunda Maternity Hospital, Dublin.
  • Valentine O'Hara (1875–1945), author and authority on Russia and the Baltic states.
  • Kevin O'Higgins (1892–1927), TD and Minister for Justice.
  • Sean O'Rourke, broadcaster and journalist with RTÉ.
  • Bernard O'Shea, comedian, best known for his roles on RTÉ's Republic of Telly.
  • Brian Rigney, former Ireland rugby international.
  • Robin Roe (1928–2010), 19 times capped Irish rugby international who also played for the British and Irish Lions.
  • Hon. William Russell Grace (1832–1904), mayor of New York, 1880–1885.
  • John Shaw (1773–1823), U.S. Naval Officer.
  • Robert Sheehan (1988– ), actor best known for playing Nathan Young on E4's comedy drama, Misfits.
  • Brian Stanley
  • Kivas Tully (1820–1905), architect, Trinity College, Toronto, the Custom House and the Bank of Montreal.
  • Zach Tuohy (1989–), professional Australian rules footballer, currently playing for Geelong Football Club.
  • Colm Begley (1986–), Gaelic football player. He played Australian rules football for the Brisbane Lions in the AFL.
  • Professor Noel Fitzpatrick (1967–), Veterinary Surgeon for Channel 4 television series The Supervet.
  • Fionn mac Cumhaill, mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology
  • Damien Bowe, singer and former member of Irish boyband D-Side.
  • Anne Keenan-Buckley (1962–), middle-distance runner who was on the Irish 1988 Summer Olympic team.
  • John Whelan (Irish politician)


Laois has a strong tradition of Gaelic games, enjoying success at both Gaelic football and hurling. Laois are one of few counties to contest an All-Ireland final in both Gaelic football and hurling. In recent times Laois have been more successful footballers than hurlers. Laois minors have had considerable success over the past two decades, and the Laois senior footballers reached the Leinster final in 2003 (victorious), 2004, and 2005. Laois hurlers currently compete in the Liam MacCarthy Cup, a competition reserved for the premiere hurling counties while the footballers compete in the Sam Maguire Cup. Laois play home games at O'Moore Park, the county's largest sporting venue, which is often used for hurling Championship games because of its central location.

In Rugby football, Portlaoise RFC and Portarlington RFC compete in Division 2A of the Leinster League.

Twin towns

County Laois is a participant in the Twin Towns program and has a relationship with the following municipalities:

United States Arlington, Massachusetts, United States
Canada Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada (2008)[18]
France Coulounieix-Chamiers, France (1996)
United States Franklin, Tennessee, United States (2008)[18]

See also


  1. ^ "'Geographical loyalty'? Counties, palatinates, boroughs and ridings". 6 March 2013. Archived from the original on 23 June 2019. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: County Laois". Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Archived from the original on 5 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  3. ^ Laois County Council site: History of Laois Archived 7 September 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ For 1653 and 1659 figures from Civil Survey Census of those years, Paper of Mr Hardinge to Royal Irish Academy 14 March 1865.
  5. ^ "Server Error 404 – CSO – Central Statistics Office". Archived from the original on 21 March 2019. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  6. ^ Archived 7 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Archived 17 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Lee, J. J. (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A. (eds.). Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
  9. ^ Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November 1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700–1850". The Economic History Review. Volume. 37 (4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x. hdl:10197/1406. Archived from the original on 4 December 2012.
  10. ^ "An Act whereby the King and Queen's Majesties, and the Heires and Successors of the Queen, be entituled to the Countries of Leix, Slewmarge, Irry, Glimnaliry, and Offaily, and for making the same Countries Shire Grounds."; Phil. & Mar., 1556 c.2
  11. ^ Corry, Eoghan (2005). The GAA Book of Lists. Hodder Headline Ireland. pp. 186–191.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Laois Offaly constituency return for next general election". Archived from the original on 5 September 2018. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Castles in Laois, Ireland – Complete Travel Guide and The Map". Archived from the original on 16 June 2019. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Demographic context" (PDF). Offaly County Council Development Plan 2009 – 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
  16. ^ "Draft Stradbally Town Plan" (PDF). Laois County Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  17. ^ "Home – CSO – Central Statistics Office". Archived from the original on 20 September 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Sister Cities of Franklin". Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2014.

External links

Coordinates:53°00′N 7°24′W / 53.000°N 7.400°W / 53.000; -7.400

Media files used on this page

Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg
Flag of Canada introduced in 1965, using Pantone colors. This design replaced the Canadian Red Ensign design.
Flag of France.svg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: PD
Offaly crest.svg
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Vectorized crest of County Offaly, Ireland.
Coat of arms of Connacht.svg
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Coat of arms of Connacht
Island of Ireland location map Laois.svg
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The island of Ireland, showing international border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, traditional provinces, traditional counties, and local authority areas in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
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Coat of arms of Ulster
Coat of arms of Munster.svg
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Coat of arms of Munster
Laois Coat of Arms.png
Author/Creator: CeltBrowne, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
The coat of arms of County Laois in the Republic of Ireland, as derived from the official blazon: Or on a chevron gules between in chief two fountains and in base a lion rampant sable seven ermine spots argent, with the motto: I bpáirt leis an bpobal (In partnership with the community).
Portlaoise, County Laois - - 1805202.jpg
(c) Sarah777, CC BY-SA 2.0
Portlaoise, County Laois M7 bypass.
Ireland trad counties named.svg
Author/Creator: , Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Map of Ireland's counties with names, Northern Ireland counties colored tan
Emo, County Laois - - 1811906.jpg
(c) sarah777, CC BY-SA 2.0
Emo, County Laois, near to Emo, Kennel Cross Roads, New Inn Cross Roads, The Togher and Carn Bridge, Laois, Ireland. Excellent topiary.
The Rock of Dunamase, County Laois, Ireland. Time tumbling the fortress.
Map of Ireland, circa 900, with overkingdoms and principal (Viking) towns indicated.
Carlow County Crest.svg
Author/Creator: No machine-readable author provided. Kanchelskis assumed (based on copyright claims)., Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
County Carlow coat of arms, Ireland
County Kilkenny arms.svg
Author/Creator: Wikimandia, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Arms of County Kilkenny, Ireland: Ermine, a fess party per pale, dexter sable three garbs argent, sinister quarterly 1st and 4th: argent, 2nd and 3rd: gules a fret or. Text per[1]: The fess contains the arms of two families, one Gaelic, the other Norman, thereby signifying the historic and harmonious fusion of these two great Irish traditions within the County. The silver garbs or sheaves on a black field represent Dermot MacMorrough, King of Leinster (Burke, Sir Bernard, The General Armory, London, 1884, p.645, gives the arms of "Mac Morogh, King of Leinster ... who surrendered his sovereignty to King Henry II of England in 1172" as Sable, three garbs or) while the gold fret on red is associated with the family of Den or de la Denn who, according to Samuel Lewis, were possessed of the Castle of Grenan near Thomastown. (See: Carrigan's History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory and entitled "The Dens of Grenan"[2])
Coat of arms of Leinster.svg
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Coat of arms of Leinster
Laois County Council, 2021-07-21, 02.jpg
Author/Creator: 瑞丽江的河水, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Laois County Council, 2021-07-21
Looking south from the Rock of Dunmase, County Laois, Ireland.