Landlocked Laois (pronounced “leash”) not only has no sea coast but is the only county that does not border a coastal county. Predominantly rural, Laois is quiet and idyllic.
Its main town, Portlaoise, is unique in housing its cultural centre in an old prison from its days as a medieval garrison town. The area around the town was occupied even earlier; the Rock of Dunamase is a rugged limestone hill with remnants of ancient forts laid to waste in 845 by Vikings. The most notable building in town is Emo Court, a neo-classical manor built in 1790. Other historic homes in the county are the 15th century Ballaghmore Castle and the Palladian-style Roundwood House.
Laois has a number of industrial parks in Portlaoise, Portarlington and Mountmellick. These provide employment for more than 1,500 county residents. Still, Laois has perhaps the highest unemployment rate in Ireland, and the average income here is much lower than the national average. Many of the residents commute to nearby counties like Kildare and Dublin for work.