Portlaoise or Port Laoise (pronounced “leesh”) is the county town of County Laois, in the south midlands of Ireland. It’s a large town that acts as a transport hub for the region and is within an hour’s travel of Dublin.
The town grew up from the 16th century as Maryborough, named for Queen Mary, when the Tudors established a fort, ousted the Irish rulers the O’Mores, and colonised the area with “Plantations” of loyal English settlers. Growth was slow because of Irish counter-attacks, but the town developed industry and was a stop along the Dublin – Limerick highway. The railway arrived in the 19th century to put it within an hour or so of Dublin. At independence it was renamed Portlaoise and became a hub for several state agencies, eg the Post, and there’s a large maximum security prison. This means that there’s plenty of accommodation and similar amenities aimed at business and commercial travel rather than tourism. The town itself has limited attractions but is close to sights such as Rock of Dunamase and the Slieve Bloom mountains. In the 21st century Portlaoise grew rapidly as a commuter town for Dublin, and in 2016 the population was 22,050.
The Tourist Office is at Lyster Square, just off Main Street facing the shopping centre and bus stop. It’s open M-F 10:00-17:00.
Trains from Dublin Heuston run hourly from 06:30 to 22:00. Commuter trains take 70 min, with stops at Dublin Park West & Cherry Orchard, Clondalkin, Adamstown, Hazelhatch & Celbridge, Sallins (for Naas), Newbridge, Kildare Town, Monasterevin and Portarlington to terminate at Portlaoise. Inter-city trains take 45 min, stopping only at Portarlington; they continue south to Ballybrophy (for the branch line to Roscrea and Nenagh), Thurles, Limerick or Cork, or west to Tullamore, Clara and Athlone, where they branch either for Galway or for Roscommon and County Mayo. See Irish Rail for timetables, fares and online tickets. To and from Dublin, have your ticket made out for city centre not Heuston, as this saves a couple of euros on the connecting tram fare.
1 Portlaoise station is north side of town centre.