Emo Court, Laois

Emo Court

 

Emo Court

Emo Court in Laois is described as a Neoclassical Mansion. The house was designed by James Gandon for the Earl of Portarlington in 1790 and its construction took many decades. 

Gandon also designed the Customs House building in Dublin. It is located near the small village crossroads of Emo not far from Portlaoise.

Emo Court

Emo Court is set in the midst of landscaped gardens which contain a variety of trees and shrubs from around the world, many of which have small plaques that indicate their species and country of origin. Entrance to the gardens is free. 

Entrance to the house is dictated by the seasons and guided tours are available for a small fee. I would highly recommend a short tour inside this stately house to view its beautiful interior.

Emo Court and Gardens

It is now in the care of the state and the OPW, who continue their good work to develop this fantastic location. 
The property was previously owned by Cholmeley Harrison and before him the Jesuit order. 

He spent decades restoring the house and relocating its original furnishings from around the world bringing them back to the house at Emo. 

Mr. Harrison (Major Ret.) gifted Emo Court to the people of Ireland in 1994 and he passed away in 2008.

Emo Court, Laois.

The House and gardens themselves are located within woodlands which contain a variety of trees and wildlife including Pine Martins, Buzzards, and Jays. There are many small lodges dotted around the surrounding woodlands.

Emo Court

The gardens at Emo are extremely well kept and it's an ideal spot for a family picnic in summer or a brisk stroll in other seasons.

There is also a nice Tea Room 
(if a little expensive) beside the house and the complete facility is underused so generally nice and quiet in the off season.
 
Update: As of 2021 Emo Court is now busy and being enjoyed by a larger number of visitors then previously was the case. Coach parking has not been installed yet (May/2021).

Emo Court

I have heard described two reasons for the unusual name of Emo itself. 

The first is that the name Emo is a derivative of the Irish word for a bed and the second that the name was taken from a small village in South Africa.
 
The Irish for a bed is Leaba so the first explanation doesn't seem to add up unless there is another derivative name for a bed.
 
My photographs don't do the site justice. Unfortunately most were taken in bad weather.

Emo Court

The original approach to the house can be walked or cycled but it is unpaved and no longer used as the main entrance. 

It is easily viewed from the house as a long avenue lined with Giant Redwoods (Wellingtonia), Sequoiadendron Giganteum, the largest species of free standing tree on Earth.

Emo Court

There are lots of trails in the surrounding woodland that are enjoyable to navigate by way of Gravel, Cross, or Mountain Bike or simple walking.

Emo Court

Above is an old Folly just off one of the surrounding woodland trails, built in the 1700's.

Emo Court

At one stage in the late 1960's the house was in an almost ruinous condition and Cholmeley Harrison went to see it with a view to purchasing it (£40,000). 

He was advised by a friend that "only a lunatic would buy it".
 
We owe Cholmeley Harrison a debt of gratitude for his foresight and lunacy. Were it not for his actions Emo Court may well have fallen into total disrepair and eventual collapse.

Emo Court

One of Emo Court's attractions must surely be its plants, trees and flowers. I'm not a botanist but there are a wide variety of different species to be found here.

Emo Court

There are large specimens of several tree species which must be close to two centuries old.

Emo Court

Huge Cedar, Monterey Pine, Oak and the venerable Yew 
(Taxus Baccata) are some of the larger trees to be found here.

Emo Court

There are numerous shrubs planted throughout the landscape, apart from the obvious Laurel and colourful Rhododendron which are easily identified.

Emo Court

Some of the smaller trees include several species of decorative Maples (Acer) and the beautiful Dawn Redwoods which really come alive with colour in autumn. Below are some of the larger Oak trees.

Emo Court

The lake at Emo is home to Mute Swans and several duck species along with Coots and Moorhens.

Emo Court

There are a few different signposted walks which are colour coded and signed with wooden posts along the trails in the gardens.

Emo Court
 
A small inlet from the lake is pictured below. There are fish in the lake but I have no idea what species are lurking under the water. 

I presume among others that Perch, Chubb, Rudd and Pike are present in the waters but I don't know for sure.

Emo Court

Below is what appears to be a delightful ornamental species of colourful Acer.

Emo Court

Emo Court

A species of Weeping (Copper) Beech which is called Purple Fountain. Its Latin or scientific name is Fagus Sylvatica Purpurea Pendulata. Purple Fountain sounds easier to my ear.

Emo Court

I think the tree below may be a small Dawn Redwood.

Emo Court

Emo Court

A large specimen tree is looming in the background below. 

I'm guessing it's a Cedar tree by it's shape and outline. Whatever it is, it is very majestic looking.

Emo Court

Emo Court

Below is a large specimen Monterey Pine tree at Emo Court as it reaches for the sky.

Emo Court