Local Landmarks

The Rock of Dunamaise:

This hill of hard limestone rock, about 60 metres above ground level, was marked on a map by Ptolemy in the 2nd centaury. It was called ‘Dunum’. In Celtic Ireland it was known as Dun Masc, the forst of Masc. Masc was a grandson of the King of Leinster. In 843 AD, Dunamaise was plundered by the Danes. In the 12th century it belonged to Dermot Mac Murrough, King of Leinster. After the Norman invasion, Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke (Strongbow) married Dermots daughter, Aoife, and inherited the castle.

In the 14th centaury it was taken over by the O’Moore’s and for the next two hundred years the Irish & English fought over it. In 1650, the castle was destroyed by Cromwells colonels Hewson & Reynolds. Towards the end of the 18th century, Sir John Parnell decided to restore Dunamaise as his residence. He built a banqueting hall and other buildings but when he died, his son let the castle fall into disrepair. Today, Dunamaise is in ruins. It is owned by the Office of Public Works.

The Heath House:

It is believed that this big house was built by Warner Westenra whose family originally came from Holland in the 18th centaury. Since then, the house has had at least a dozen different owners. In 1880, it was bought by Charles Blake from Co. Mayo and his family made the house famous for its racing stables. Many horses trained there and won important races in Ireland and England. The Blakes left The Heath House in the 1960’s. The house is now privately owned and undergoing extensive restoration.

Morette:

This place name comes from the Irish Magh Riada or Moy Reta which means ‘The Plain of Riada’. This was the old name for an extensive plain which included The Heath. Some historians believe that there used to be a stone here called Leac Riada. This stone marked the spot where the borders of the lands belonging to the Seven Septs of Laois met. The Seven Septs (tribes or families) of Laois were the O’Moores, O’Kellys, O’Lalors, O’Devoys, McEvoys, O’Dorans and O’Dowlings. Morette Castle, which once belonged to the O’Dempsey and Fitzgearld families, is now in ruins. It is on private property and not open to the public. Nearby are the remains of a well dedicated to St. Brigid.