Latest Laois News: Heywood Gardens & Emo Court & Gardens see 350,000 visitors in 2022

Latest Laois News: Heywood Gardens & Emo Court & Gardens see 350,000 visitors in 2022

Visitors to OPW Gardens and Heritage Sites in Co. Laois reached over 350,000 in 2022 as public connects with nature 

The Office of Public Works has launched a new Visitor Guide to Ireland’s Historic Gardens which the OPW holds in trust for the Nation. 

This comprehensive guide to each of the OPW’s 32 stunning gardens features Heywood Gardens and Emo Court and Gardens in Co. Laois, which the OPW take pride in recording and preserving for future generations.

Launching the guide at the Bord Bia Bloom festival in the OPW’s Phoenix Park, the Minister for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan T.D., applauded the work of OPW gardeners across the country, saying:

“We are so fortunate to have such a dedicated team of horticulture specialists, skilled botanists, craft gardeners and grounds staff working across OPW’s 32 Historic Gardens. I want to recognise their role as custodians of Ireland’s finest gardens and landscapes for future generations. Their work today requires constant innovation and response to changes in climate, emerging plant diseases and other challenges in the natural world. I would encourage people at home to come out and share in the pleasure of visiting these historic gardens, and I know that the new guide will be a source of inspiration to many this summer.”

Each historic garden offers a unique experience of the OPW and showcases the year-round work of its professional gardeners and dedicated grounds people. Discover the 20th century creation of Sir Edwin Lutyens at Heywood Gardens, representing two chapters of garden history and offering visitors a panorama of seven counties and an enchanting Georgian landscape comprised of walks, woodland, and lakes.

All the latest news from Durrow, Ballinakill, Spink and Cullohill Credit: Laois Tourism
Heywood Gardens feature in OPW’s New Visitor Guide Credit: Laois Tourism

The classical 18th century gardens at Emo Court, set amidst the ancient Slieve Bloom Mountains, comprise an intricately designed historic landscape in which visitors can stroll along one of the walking routes, taking in the mature, picturesque grounds.

The OPW’s Historic Sites and Gardens attracted over 15 million visitors last year, building on strong visitor footfall since the pandemic as people began to explore their local environs and amenities, and holidayed in other parts of the country – many for the first time.

OPW’s Guide to Ireland’s Historic Gardens is intended to further open the door to its full estate of stunning grounds and spectacular displays of flora and fauna for visitors and enthusiasts alike, while providing an additional resource to those working across the Irish tourism, wellness and horticultural sectors. 

Eoin Long, Head Gardener at Heywood Gardens said:

“The gardens at Emo Court and Heywood represent the best that Laois has to offer in a beautiful sprawl of magnificently designed landscapes. The 150-acre landscape at Emo Court is the perfect place for a summer stroll, taking in the many fine specimen trees, including the mile-long Wellingtonia Avenue at the front of the house, which were planted following the introduction of giant redwood to Ireland, in 1853.

“The centrepiece of Heywood Gardens is the early-twentieth-century architectural garden which sees circular terraces of planting overlook a sunken pool garden with a grand fountain. We in the OPW work hard to maintain, preserve and articulate the history and function of these gardens and will continue to do so to ensure their continued access for future generations.”

Mystery of disappearing lake lingers as progress on Emo Court gathers pace. Credit: Forest Wolf Photography
Emo Court & Gardens Feature in OPW’s New Visitor Guide Credit: Forest Wolf Photography

The OPW has a major role to play in preserving the Nation’s biodiversity, with responsibility for 5,700 acres of historic parks, botanic gardens and designed landscapes. There is a range of initiatives in place across OPW sites to promote biodiversity, such as the semi-natural grasslands planted at Castletown, tree-planting programmes ensure that collections of native and exotic tress grow year on year and the OPW Swift Initiative aims to ensure the long-term conservation of a bird closely associated with many of its sites.

The guide is now available online for the public to download at