County Councils generally come in for some easy criticism but they certainly deserve credit in Laois for the number and quality of the local playgrounds.
There are top-class facilities dotted across the county in both urban and rural areas – and the one in Coolrain, at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains, is one such example.
The quaint village – home of Hogan’s Bar (formerly Sheeran’s), one of only three thatched pubs in Laois – is in the parish of Camross and accessed simply enough from the old N7 main road on the Roscrea side of Mountrath.
Heading out of Mountrath you can turn right before Castletown and follow the signs for a couple of miles until you get to the village. Alternatively you can turn at the Pike of Rushall and approach Coolrain from the other side.
The playground fits in perfectly with the tone of the village. Set on mostly on wood chippings and surrounded by a lovely stone wall, the jewel in the crown is a large timber slide tower complete with a climbing wall on one side and climbing and high ropes on the other.
There is also a similar smaller slide tower as well as a zip line and all your other main entertainments.
Currently there is a new tunnel being constructed as well as an additional walking path around the site.
There is a picnic table, a couple of benches and the perimeter wall on the side you enter the playground is also an ideal spot for parents to keep an eye on what’s going on.
Crucially, unlike most other playgrounds, there is also a new toilet facility in use.
Because of its rural location, it’s generally quiet but a word of warning: the gate is right on the road, parking is limited and there will be plenty of tractors and lorries passing by.
For families seeking to make a day of it, the Monicknew woods are a glorious spot for a walk and are relatively close by while if you’re really adventurous the new mountain bike trails can be accessed at nearby Baunreagh.
The play equipment includes:
- 30-metre cable run
- Rope climb
- Large slide tower
- Small slide tower
- Climbing walls
- Balance beam
- Sand pit area with baby swing
- Basket swing
- Picnic tables