Are you looking for outdoor activities for kids? While one can experience all seasons in one day here in Ireland, we have to grab the opportunities to get outdoors whenever we can. So here are some of the best outdoor places in Laois for families – there’s something for all ages!
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Getting outdoors for plenty of restorative fresh air is crucial when you have kids – not only can you decompress from time spent at home, work or school, but the kids can run around and enjoy all that nature has to offer.
Blow off the cobwebs with some of the best outdoor spots for families in Laois, from woodland walks and stunning views to picnic hotspots and places to play.
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Outdoor Spots in Laois
Oisin House and Park, Killeshin
Oisin Park is a volunteer-run facility which is free to visit and open from 9am-10pm daily. In addition to walks where you can enjoy the views across the Barrow Valley to the Blackstairs Mountains, there is an enclosed children’s playground, deck/viewing area, free parking and picnic area.
Why not try some of the Coillte walks, such as Dunmore Woods between Abbeyleix and Durrow? Part of the walk is along the banks of the river Nore, through forests and over the river Gully.
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The Nore and the Barrow
Laois has two of the three sister rivers, the Nore and the Barrow. Kayaking events take place in Durrow on the Nore and there are classes for all levels on the Barrow in Portarlington.
Emo Court Park and Gardens
Emo Court House and Gardens, owned by the Office of Public Works, is a hidden gem in the midlands. As well as the Gandon-designed historic house, there are beautiful gardens, parkland, wooded walks and a lake with lots of swans and ducks.
Picnic benches are available throughout the park and many visitors bring picnics on fine summer days. Bicycles are not allowed in the gardens, but you can bring them into the park.
Entry to the Park is free and is open throughout the year during daylight hours. There are guided tours of the house during the summer months. The Tea Rooms onsite are child-friendly and open daily from 10am.
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Glen Monicknew Bridge
Enjoy the picnic benches over looking the Glen or the grassy area beside the mountain stream, below the bridge at Glen Monicknew Bridge on the road between Clonaslee and Mountrath. It can be very busy on a fine summer’s day.
Visit the scenic village of Vicarstown and go on a barge cruise with Barrowline Cruisers on the Grand Canal.
You could pack a picnic and have a family lunch while enjoying the lovely views. There are some great walks along the canal too.
Anglers, young and old, can also be found at the Heath Lake, Stradbally Lake, and many other small lakes and the rivers throughout the county.
The 18th century Heywood Gardens is a heritage site with a series of formal gardens designed by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, lakes, woodlands and unique architectural features.
There is free admission and the Gardens are open all the year round.
There is a strong equestrian tradition in the county and equestrian centres provide weekend hacks. Point to Point events take place in the grounds of Stradbally Hall on a regular basis.
Clamp Hole Waterfall
The Clamp Hole Waterfall is a three-tiered waterfall at Glenbarrow, where you’ll find a choice of long and short looped trails and the first trail is buggy-friendly as far as the area known as Flat Rock. The Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop is a 4km loop with mix of forestry paths, woodland trails and tracks. This loop is one of three which start and finish at the Glenbarrow trailhead at Clonaslee – key features include a section of riverbank along the River Barrow, a spectacular 3-tiered waterfall, and natural woodland that in Spring is ablaze with bluebells.
There are shallow pools where children can paddle, and above the three waterfalls, a pool deep enough for adults to dip in. Just be careful on slippy rocks and don’t bathe if the river is in spate. There are picnic tables along the way.
There are some great playgrounds in Laois that cater for under-12s. With classics like swings and slides a guarantee, you’ll also find more exciting apparatus like ziplines, climbing towers and plenty more to keep older children entertained.
There is a good variety of playgrounds in Laois for you to choose from, including those with skate parks, fairy trails, walking paths, picnic areas and additional amenities.
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Two of the best places we have found to fly kites in Laois are The Heath and Emo Park. There is always your local GAA, soccer or rugby pitch, when not in use for a match or training of course.
Portlaoise Leisure Centre
The astro pitches at Portlaoise Leisure Centre are available for hire for groups.
Archery, kayaking and orienteering are also available in Portarlington.
Rock of Dunamase
This is a historic site and the views from the top make the climb very worthwhile.
Experience the lookout views that were used by the O’Moores to defend their territory from marauding armies. Incidentally the O’Moores were eventually defeated and ejected from the site by the ancestors of Stradbally Hall, the home of Electric Picnic.
The site is suitable for young children who are able to run and walk and will love checking out the views through the various parts of the ruin.
Ballinakill Outdoor Swimming Pool
The outdoor swimming pool in Ballinakill has reopened following a massive revamp, thanks to the local community and hours of voluntary work. The newly refurbished 35m pool includes a safe 10m toddler area.
The pool opens Monday to Friday between 5.30pm and 8.30pm and weekends from 2.30-5.30pm and 6.30-8.30pm. Admission is €3 per child and adults are €5. Family memberships are available from opening date until the end of August for as a little as €100.
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Do you have a favourite outdoor place to go with the kids in Laois? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!