Portarlington received its name from Lord Arlington who claimed the land and gave it to General Roubigney. The town was greatly influenced by French Huguenots and German settlers who were given land following the Cromwellian Wars. A French colony was established in Portarlington, with separate schools being built for the English and French speaking pupils. Some of the fine buildings in the town originated from their presence in the town.

Situated 45 miles Southwest of Dublin , the town has buildings similar in design to the Customs House in Dublin. An estate, known as the Emo Court and Gardens, contains the most impressive building and it was the same architect, James Gandon, who designed the buildings. In 1996 the building was handed over to the state. Magnificently restored, the building now boasts a wonderful entrance hall and also a library.

Another impressive building is the Coolbanangher Church, also designed by Gandon. On display inside, are the original plans drawn out by Gandon.

Unfortunately, there is no bus service but the town is on the train route from Dublin to Cork, Limerick, Galway and Tralee.

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