Co Laois: one walk, one run, one hike, one swim, one cycle, one park and one outdoor gym

Your essential, outdoor, family-friendly guide to Co Laois

When the weather is good, there is so much to do outdoors in Ireland – solo, or with family or friends. Here are seven activities - with locations, descriptions, tips and some maps for a general guide.

Below you can read John O'Dwyer's pick for a great walking path, Conor O'Keeffe on a running route, Rozanna Purcell recommends a hiking trail, Mary McCarthy on an outdoor swimming location, Ian O'Riordan picks a cycle trip, Sylvia Thompson on a family-friendly park and Fiona Alston selects a popular outdoor gym.

And remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, please be safe. And enjoy.

Name Abbeyleix Bog Loop
Distance 8km
Approximate duration 2 hours
Difficulty Easy
Starting point Google Maps Abbeyleix Manor Hotel (grid reference S 437 841)
Amenities Parking and restaurant
Tag the purple arrows on an undemanding walk along a well-marked path. It traverses forestry and bogland that has been restored by volunteer effort. Can be wet in places, so waterproof footwear is required.


Name: Leafy Loop Walk Durrow
Length: 21.4 km
Elevation gain: 530m
Route type: Loop
Footwear: Road or Trail Runners

Route Information: The Leafy Loop around Durrow climbs to The Ballagh. It's a glorious run through forests, by rivers, up hills to oversee the valley, and down into the charming village of Durrow itself. The Leafy Loop is a longer version of the Dunmore Loop, which follows the same route until a divergence just before Clonageera House on the other side of the village. If you feel like a shorter run the day, take the Dunmore Loop which is 14.5km in length. You get to see many of the fine sights along the way then climb to see the magnificent valley. It's more than 4 miles (6.4km), but if you're fit, it is well worth it.

This walk is well signposted with a variety of posts along the way. Purple arrows indicate the signs for the Leafy Loop and have been placed with thought and care by people who are keen to keep you on the right path at all times. The trail immediately lived up to its "Leafy Loop" moniker and continued to do so. Durrow means "Plain of the Oak" and this area was reputed to have woods so dense in the 18th century that the outlaw Jeremiah Grant and his gang of ne'er do wells were able to hide out with ease. It wasn't until the early post-independence days that mass felling took place making the current tree cover a precious thing. (Aided by: Laois Tourism)

Hike name Glenbarrow Red Trail
Distance 9.5km
Elevation gain 520m
Approximate duration 2-2.5hours
Difficulty Intermediate
Route type Loop
Starting point See AllTrails Rosenallis Glenbarrow Red Trail
Amenities Parking
Dog-friendly? No
Tips There is a mix of trails here to suit your fitness abilities; if you're a beginner try out the blue trail

Name: Ballinakill pool
Location: Google Map: Ballinakill outdoor swimming pool
Brief description:
Heated and newly refurbished (2019) 35m pool includes a 10m toddler area
Amenities: Changing rooms, toilets, parking
Lifeguard: Yes
Water quality: Chlorine pool
Tips: Can get busy with lessons but slots for hourly sessions for adults and children always available. Near the free to visit Heywood Gardens for a walk after the swim

Name: Emo Court Loop
Start location: Emo/Emo Court.
Route: Starting from either the village or Emo Court Demesne, designed in 1790 by James Gandon for the first Earl of Portarlington, head for Fishertown, the Vicarstown, returning via the Rock of Dunamase and The Heath
Distance: 41km
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Highlights: A beautiful mix of scenery along mostly good terrain.
Look out for: The Heath, a sort of miniature Curragh with freely roaming sheep.
Tips: Plenty of room for variety around here, including a further spin into Athy.

Park name: Emo Court Parklands
Amenities: Lovely walks through the formal gardens, around the artificial lake and outlying forests.
Special features: Beautiful range of specimen trees including giant sequoia, atlas cedar, tulip and handkerchief trees.
Access: Car parking on site. Google Map "Emo Court".
Dogs: Dogs on leads allowed.
Tip: Consider advance booking for a tour of Emo Court, the 18th Century neo-classical villa built by James Gandon.

Name: Fr Breen Park, Abbeyleix
Equipment: Cross trainer, shoulder flexor, leg press, lat pull-down, chest press, stepper, ab curl, dip bars, bicycle, walker, fitness rider.
Location: Google Maps
Information: The outdoor gym is located at the GAA building car park.

Get Active Series
- 32 great walking routes in Ireland - one in each county
- 32 great hikes in Ireland
- 32 great running routes
- 32 great outdoor swim locations
- 32 great cycling routes
- 32 great parks
- 32 great outdoor gyms