Ballycolla & Clough (Co. Laois / West)
Ballycolla / Ballacolla is an attractive late C18th crossroads village surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Farren House Traditional Farm Hostel, a a converted farmyard with reasonably priced bedrooms set around a large flagged space, features curious sculpures made from agricultural implements.
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Clough is a picturesque late C18th estate / mining village with an interesting church.
The Foxrock Inn is an atmospheric pub serving good food, and also has highly recommended accommodation facilities.
Mary’s Bar is another great pub for a couple of pints.
Granstown Lake and its surrounding woodlands is a wildlife reserve owned by the OPW, much appreciated by anglers, nature enthusiasts, walkers and historians. It has three loop walks that pass several interesting heritage sites, including a deserted village pump in the woods. The lake is said to provide some of the best coarse fishing in Europe. (Photo by dzc80)
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Aghaboe (Co. Laois / West)
Aghaboe (Achadh Bhó – “Field of the Cow”) is a small well-kept village.
Aghaboe Monastery was founded in the C6th by Saint Canice, who died here. According to legend, the saint’s body was claimed by both Aghaboe and Kilkenny; two sealed coffins mysteriously appeared, and the disputants settled for one each, on the understanding that the place possessing the real corpse would prosper, while the other would decline.
Another famous monk from Aghaboe was Saint Virgilius (Feargal / Farrell), known as “the Geometer”, who is credited with the construction of Salzburg Cathedral in 774 AD, ten years before his death in the Alps.
Although Aghaboe was once the principal monastic church in Ossory, frequent attacks by Vikings and native Irish raiders left it in ruins. Rebuilt in 1234 as an Augustinian Abbey, it was again assaulted on several occasions. It is recorded that In 1346 “The one eyed Diarmaid Mac Giollaphádraig … aided by the Uí Céarbhail … burned the town of Aghaboe and the cemetery and church and … like a degenerate son to his father, burnt and completely destroyed with the crullest fire, the saint’s shrine with his bones and relics.”
This partly restored edifice dates from 1382.
The only remnants of the original structure are the tower and an arcade of the current CoI parish church.
Aghaboe House, an impressive C18th Georgian mansion, has pleasant grounds and lovely views.
Nearby is a Norman motte raised by Adam de Hereford and the remains of a Dominican Friary established in 1382 by the MacGiollaphadraig /MacGillapatrick (Fitzpatrick) clan.
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Borris-in-Ossory (Co. Laois / Southwest)
Borris-in-Ossory (Buiríos Mór Osraí) is best known as a stopping-off point for road travellers heading to or from the south-west of Ireland.
Ballaghmore Castle was built in 1480 by the MacGiollaphadraig / MacGillapatrick (Fitzpatrick) clan, Lords of Upper Ossory, to guard the ancient Bealach Mór, the Great Way linking Dublin and Munster that also gave its name to the nearby village of Ballaghmore.
The imposing edifice has an unusual devilish Sheela-na-Gig carved on the front wall to ward off evil. This was evidently ineffective, as the castle was partially destroyed by Cromwellian forces in 1647. The castle passed to the Coote family, who later leased it to the Elys. Richard Ely discovered a gold treasure, enabling him to fund restoration in 1836. Unfortunately, he was shot by an angry tenant before he could take residence in the renovated castle, which then languished for many years as a granary.
Fully refurbished in 1990, the castle has outstanding views from the battlements. Visitors are welcome, and guided tours are provided. The castle is available for short-term holiday rentals, and also has B&B accommodation in an attractive C16th Manor House next door and self-catering facilities in a large cottage within its 30-acre grounds.
Nearby stands an old school house converted into a very small church with tiny galleries, beautifully kept and open to the public all year. The sexton’s house is at the back.
North of the village is Kyle (Cluain Ferta Molua), where Saint Molua / Lugaid founded a monastery before his death in 609 AD. It became an important centre of learning, and it was here that Laidcend mac Baith-Bannaig wrote his works on biblical commentaries, manuscripts of which survive all over Europe.
Kyle Hill is the site of the legendary Brehon’s Chair, aka St Thomas’ Seat, which Edward Ledwich in his Antiquities of Ireland (1790) says was locally called the Fairy Chair. It is an indentation in a sandstone outcrop, used as a judicial bench in ancient times, made famous by William Beauford‘s romantic illustration for Ledwich’s book, complete with assembled breitheamhna.
Borris-in-Ossory is not far from Rathdowney and Errill on ByRoute 8.