Mountrath is a town in County Laois, with a population in 2016 of 1774. In the 18th and 19th century it was industrial, with weaving and metal-working from local iron ores. It was also on the main Dublin to Limerick road, a traffic bottleneck until bypassed by M7 in 2010. Its name derives from Maighean Rátha, "the homestead of the ringfort", of which no trace remains.
Get in edit
Local Link Bus 839 runs once M-F in the morning from Borris to Castletown, Mountrath, Portlaoise and Mountmellick, returning late afternoon.
Slieve Bloom Bus 831 runs once M-F early morning from Portlaoise to Mountrath then orbits through Castletown, Borris, Rathdowney, Ballycolla, Durrow, Balnakill, Abbeyleix and back to Portlaoise. The complete return run is late afternoon; two other runs terminate at Borris and don't reach Castletown or Mountrath.
Portlaoise is the nearest transport hub, with trains from Dublin Heuston to Cork, Athlone and Galway, and direct buses from Dublin Airport and city centre.
By road from Dublin follow N7 / M7 to Portlaoise, where you need to take Exit 16 onto R445, otherwise you'll discover why folk say it's a long way to Tipperary. Until 2010 the main Dublin to Limerick road N7 was via Portlaoise, Mountrath and Borris, and horribly congested. Once M7 was extended this was down-classed to R445, becoming the longest regional road in Ireland, almost coast-to-coast. Odd that it hasn't been touted as a "heritage highway", an Irish Route 66 of Harley-Davidsons and TV travelogues.
Get around edit
You need wheels to reach the mountain trailheads, which are the main reason to be here.
- 1 Clonenagh along R445 was once an important abbey founded by St Fintan (526-603). It may have hosted the Synod of Ráth Breasail of 1111 AD, which aligned the early Irish church more closely with Rome, and organised it by parishes instead of monasteries. The main remnant is the series of cross slabs in the old graveyard. There was a holy well, but when it was filled in and closed to curb superstition, folk marvelled that the copious rainfall still collected in the fork of a nearby sycamore, and transferred their venerations and imprecations to that. For the next 200 years pilgrims hammered coins into the "money-tree", to show how wonderfully resistant it was, but it wasn't. However the age of miracles is not gone: in the 21st century the tree re-grew. And much of west Europe adopted the same money as Ireland, calling it the "Eire-oh".
- 2 Gash Gardens, Gash, Castletown R32 K068, ☏ . May-Sept M-Sa 11:00-17:00. Peaceful gardens, a hidden gem. They also have a nursery shop. Adult €7, child €2.
- 3 Poet's Cottage in Camross is named for Patrick Ryan, an 18th / 19th century poet, but it's a modern replica.
- 4 Carroll's Hill at 482 m / 1581 ft and 5 Stillbrook Hill at 514 m / 1686 ft are nearby peaks of the Slieve Bloom Mountains on R440 towards Kinnitty.
- 6 Borris-in-Ossory recalls in its name the ancient kingdom of Osraighe. This formed a narrow strip between Leinster and Munster, with its heyday as a Viking domain in the 9th century. Not much has happened since: St Mark's church with its stubby "Round Tower" is a piece of Victorian whimsy. Don't confuse this place with Borris in County Carlow.
- 7 Ballaghmore Castle: see Roscrea for this medieval turret.
- Centra on Main St is open M-Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 08:00-21:00. There's also a nearby Spar.
- Colgan Sports on Portlaoise Rd has outdoor wear.
- Emo filling station on Portlaoise Rd has self-service pumps 24 hours.
- Brilliant Royal Chinese Restaurant, 6 Shannon St, Mountrath, ☏ . M-Sa 16:00-23:00, Su 12:30-23:00. This gets good reviews for food, service and atmosphere.
- Others in Mountrath are Gabriel's, Phelan's, and three pizza and kebab takeaways.
- Mountrath has Eddie Kirwan's, Fountain House and Tom's Bar.
- Castletown has Castletown Inn.
- Mountrath in 1800 had two distilleries, John Carr's and White Horse, but both disappeared early in the 19th century. Nowadays there's a liqueur distillery in Abbeyleix and a microbrewery across the hills in Kinnitty.
- Mountrath is short of accommodation, there's much more in Portlaoise. For hiking in the mountains, another option is Kinnitty to the west.
As of June 2021, you might manage a call with Three, but most of this area has no mobile coverage.
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- Abbeyleix doesn't have an abbey, but a notable bog and Heywood Gardens.
- Portlaoise is a transport hub with lots of accommodation and eating places. Its sights (such as Rock of Dunamase) are some distance out.
- Kinnitty is a good base for the west slopes of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.