Almost at the same time as it was literally taken off the map with the bypassing of the M8, Durrow in south county Laois has developed a popular reputation with the inauguration of the Annual Scarecrow Championships, Castle Durrow winning Trip Advisor over and for Sheppard’s Antiques selling small vases at big prices despite being made in China!
The community spirit among locals led to the development of the Leafy Loop walk more than 10 years ago. A 23km-hiking trail, the beauty of this trail is that not only can it be completed in stages; it covers a variety of terrain to show off the best of our Laois countryside!
At the heart of the village is The Square, which you will arrive into as you approach from Cork, Dublin or Kilkenny. Here you can park and begin the loop by walking towards the stunning Blue Book listed property, Castle Durrow.
If you cannot complete the entire loop there are alternatives; For instance, at the very start of the walk when you enter the grounds of Castle Durrow, you could divert through the beautiful gardens and treat yourself to afternoon tea in the house itself, which was a former Presentation Convent and school (in a not too distant life).
If you have young children or dogs, a spin out to Dunmore Woods (approx. 1.5km in the direction of Abbeyleix & part of the Loop) has some of the prettiest woodlands walks you will find. In April/ May, carpets of Bluebells and Wild Garlic among the giant beech trees will create lots of very pretty photo opportunities.
For the most scenic views, the Capponellan/Bishopswood section elevates to approx. 250m, (that is a hill by Laois standards – no sniggering Kerry folks!) looking out across the rich landscape as far as the Slieve Blooms and the Devils Bit in Tipperary.
After all that exploring you may build up an appetite and Durrow has some lovely places to unwind after such excursions.
If the sun is shining and you fancy a drink to cool off, Bob’s Bar at the bridge will be delighted to welcome you in and tell you even more about the area that you have just discovered. With your walk completed, sitting outside on their lawn, the river flowing by and (hopefully!) sun beating down really is a treat!
For great coffee and wholesome café food, Bowes on the Square is a busy spot with locals and has a lovely choice of seating either taking in the comings & goings of The Square or enjoying their walled garden at the back.
The Murphy family have been taking care of guests at the Castle Arms Hotel for years and in their bar, you can avail of a full carvery along with the old reliables – soup and toasted sandwiches, which are sure to hit the spot if the weather has been a little on the chilly side!
Another super walk that begins/ends in Durrow is the linear (start at one village & end in another) MacGiollaPadraig walk that connects through to Gathabawn in Kilkenny. As this is on my home turf, of course I am biased…but here it is if you are tempted: