Abbeyleix (pronounced "Abbi-leesh") is a town in County Laois in the midlands of Ireland, with a population of 1770 in 2016. The abbey was Cistercian, founded in 1183 in the valley of the River Nore, and the original settlement grew up around it. Nothing remains of these, as the valley was flood-prone, and around 1790 the landowner Viscount de Vesci moved Abbeyleix onto higher ground 2 km east; it was thus one of the earliest examples of a "planned village". The de Vescis also established local industries such as carpet weaving.
The new Abbeyleix, 14 km south of Portlaoise, came to lie on the main Dublin to Cork road, and was an infamous bottleneck until 2010 when it was bypassed by M7 / M8.
Slieve Bloom Coach 825 runs from Portlaoise to Abbeyleix, Ballinakill, Durrow, Rathdowney and Borris-in-Ossory, with three M-F.
1 Market Square is the main bus stop in Abbeyleix.
By road from Dublin follow N7 / M7 to Portlaoise then N77 south.
The bog is in walking distance and the bus runs to Durrow. You need wheels to reach Heywood Gardens, a bike would do.
- Heritage House, Main St R32 H244, ☏ . M-F 09:00-17:00. This is the former North Boys School, converted into a local history museum in 1997. Adult €5.
- Market House has also been a fire station but is now the village library.
- Church of the Most Holy Rosary (RC) was built in 1893, richly decorated thanks to de Vesci money.
- Abbeyleix House or Castle, 2 km southwest, was built in 1773 for the de Vesci family. It was the second Earl who removed Abbeyleix village away from the river to its present site. House and gardens are only occasionally open for special events. In 2020 the property was for sale, 9 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and 1120 acres of estate, a snip at €20,000,000.
- Abbeyleix Bog can be visited by the 3.5 km boardwalk starting just south of Manor Hotel (see Sleep). Like others across Ireland it's a raised bog created when "eskers" - ridges of glacial debris - blocked the rivers so lakes backed up, then infilled into wetland. The sphagnum moss heaped up on itself to create an enormous sponge, with the lower layers compressed into peat. But field drainage, commercial peat-cutting and road building allowed the water to escape, collapsing the bog dome and degrading the habitat. The Bog Project seeks to staunch the flow and stabilise then re-build the habitat. It's free, 24 hours.
- 1 Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill R32 K4R6 (5 km southeast of town), ☏ . Daily Oct-Mar 08:30-17:00, Apr Sept 08:30-19:00, May-Aug 08:30-21:00. Elegant landscaped gardens by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. Free.
- Durrow is an attractive small village 10 km south of Abbeyleix on N77, but its main sight the castle is now a plush hotel, see Sleep. Durrow Abbey isn't here, but north of Tullamore - Durrow or Derry means "oak grove", doire, so it's a common placename.
- 2 Cullahill Castle is the crumbling ruin of a five-storey tower house built in 1425 and wrecked by Cromwell in 1650. It's just off the road south to Thurles and Cashel.
- 3 Gortnaclea Castle is a similar five-storey ruin along a back lane near Liscolman. It's in a private field but you see enough from the lane looping round it.
- 4 Donaghmore Workhouse, Dunacleggan R32 PC58, ☏ . M-F 11:00-17:00. This is the grim place opened in 1853 where the destitute were housed in the famine years. Adult €5, conc €3.
- Golf: Abbeyleix Golf Club is north side of the village, purple tees 6236 yards, par 72.
- Durrow Scarecrow Festival is in late July, with six categories for scarecrows to try out for, and a side competition for dressing up round bales of hay. The next event is 24 July - 1 Aug 2022.
- Power of Words is a poetry and creative writing festival in Abbeyleix in late August. The next is probably 19-21 Aug 2022 but tbc.
- Breslin's SuperValu is in village centre, open M-Sa 07:00-21:00, Su 08:30-21:00.
- Gallic Kitchen, 10 Main St R32 D8C0, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:30-17:00. Good central spot for breakfast or lunch.
- Others in Abbeyleix are Jade Palace, Tasty Spice, Capri Grill, Mueller and O'Connell Bakery, Papa Noni and McEvoy's Steak & Wine Bar.
- Durrow has Kim's and Bowe's Cafe, but the tops are Ashbrook Arms and Durrow Castle, see Sleep.
- Morrissey's Pub, Main St, Abbeyleix, ☏ . M-Th 10:30-23:30, F Sa 10:30-00:30, Su 12:00-23:00. Atmospheric old pub, it took on its present form in 1880 and is little changed since. It's sometimes made out to be the oldest pub in Ireland but it's almost one thousand years younger than Sean's in Athlone, reliably dated to circa 900 AD.
- Abbeyleix also has Benny's pub.
- Durrow pubs are Durrow Inn, Dec's and Bob's Bar.
- First Ireland Spirits produce liqueurs and pre-mixed cocktails on the industrial estate northwest of Abbeyleix. No tours.
- B&Bs in Abbeyleix didn't open in 2021. They include Hillview House on Ballinakill Rd, and Sandymount House west at Tullyroe; Fountain House has closed.
- 1 Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, Cork Rd R32 VE24, ☏ . Modern mid-range hotel with 46 bedrooms and conference suite. The rooms at the back are quieter. B&B double €80.
- 2 Castle Arms Hotel, The Square, Durrow R32 NW25, ☏ . Comfy mid-price place in Durrow village centre with 15 rooms en suite.
- Ashbrook Arms is also on The Square in Durrow.
- 3 Castle Durrow Hotel, Castle View, Durrow R32 EA02, ☏ . Grand pre-Palladian mansion built from 1712. In the 20th century it was a school, but re-developed as a plush hotel in 1998. Great reviews for comfort and service, often caters for weddings.
As of June 2021, Abbeyleix has 4G from all Irish carriers. 5G has not reached this area.
- Kilkenny is an attractive small city with a castle and other medieval heritage.
- Mountrath is the access point for trails on the south slopes of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
- Portlaoise the county town is a transport hub and its sights (such as Rock of Dunamase) are some way out. Continue north to Mountmellick to access the north slopes of the mountains.