Emo Court

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Name Emo Court County Laois Nearest Town Mountrath Access Road N7 More Virtual Tours Click for more About Emo Court, located near the village of Emo in County Laois, is a large neo-Classical mansion, formal and symmetrical in its design and with beautifully proportioned rooms inside.

It was designed by the architect James Gandon in 1790 for John Dawson, the first Earl of Portarlinton.

It is the only house to have been designed by Gandon.

Other buildings by him include the Custom House and King Inns, both in Dublin.

Gandon was so busy with his work in Dublin that he found little time to work on Emo Court.

This may be one of the reasons that it took so many years for Emo Court to be made habitable, let alone finished.

The late 18th century village of Emo originally sprang up around the gates of Emo Court.

The recently renovated New Inn dates from the villages foundation, as does the Gothic Catholic Church, which contains the tomb of Lady Portarlington with its recumbent effigy by Boehm.

Today, the approach to Emo Court today begins in a rather understated way through a rather unobtrusive gateway.

Within the grounds, a road runs for some distance through a beech wood which opens suddenly to give a view to the right of the house and the Giant Sequoias which now line an abandoned avenue.

Visitors are directed to a car park at the side, so that the house and its trees are preserved free from cars and from a goodly share of the 21st century.

To the left are coach houses and servants quarters, to the right beautiful mature trees and in the centre the entrance front, dominated by a pediment supported by four graceful Ionic pillars.

The Earls coat of arms fills the pediment and, to left and right, are 18th century friezes depicting agriculture and the arts.


Heraldic tigers guard the steps. Inside the house, an octagonal entrance hall has doors in each of its four angles. Two of them really are entrances to other rooms. The others are simply there to give a balanced effect.


A larger doorway leads to the Rotunda, the most splendid feature of the mansion and also the way into two of the major rooms and out to the garden.

Completed about 1860 by the Dublin architect William Caldbeck, it is two storeys high, surmounted by a dome which extends above the roof line of the rest of the house.

Pilaster of Siena marble supports the ornate ceiling.

The gardens at Emo are magnificent and they too have been brought back to the splendour of their past, with formal areas, woodland walks, abundant statuary and a lake.

Indeed many of the original statues were found in the waters of the lake and it is suspected they found their way there during the time the Jesuits were living in the property, where they survived until their eventual discovery and restoration.

The gardens are divided into two main areas.

The first is the Clucker, which contains some fine and rare specimen trees and a vast range of azaleas and rhododendrons and other shrubs.

This part of the garden is at its magnificent best in late spring.

The Grapery is an arboretum though which wind a series of pathway, each opening to vistas across the surrounding Slieve Bloom Mountains or towards the house.

This is a marvelous place to visit in autumn especially when it is a blaze of dramatic colours.

Emo Court is open to the public all year round.

Please check for visiting times as they vary seasonally.