Birr, County Offaly, Ireland
Birr Castle is set in the town of Birr in the centre of Ireland, 72 miles from Shannon.
Birr is a gothic style castle set in formal grounds with box hedging which is over 300 years old.
Most of the grounds are accessible to the public but the castle is home to the seventh Earl of Rosse and therefore private.
The main attraction of the castle grounds is Ireland’s Historic Science Centre. On display are the ‘Great Telescope’ which was recorded as the largest telescope on earth until 1917 and also the oldest surviving darkroom in the world.
The gardens themselves are also world famous as they contain the highest hedge in the world, and the oldest wrought Iron bridge in Ireland.
There is a café and gift shop, guided tours are available by appointment only. The grounds are open year round March to October 09:00 – 18:00 and November to February 12:00 – 16:00.
The first recorded castle on the site was 1170.
In the 14th century the Ely O’Carroll family were the residents of the castle and they did not leave until the 17th century. In 1620 Sir Laurence Parson was granted the castle along with 1,277 acres of land and he was responsible for the construction of a new castle on the site of the original gatehouse.
In 1641 Parsons’ son William was the owner of the castle. During the Irish Rebellion William and the castle were surrounded by hostile Catholic forces for over a year, after the war was over William proceeded to totally refurbish the castle.
In the early 1800’s Laurence, 2nd Earl of Rosse gothicised and added more floors to the castle and his son William was responsible for building the ‘Great Telescope’ which was completed in 1845. The telescope was very important to astronomers and the castle had many famous visitors such as Charles Babbage and the Prince Imperial because of it. Following the death of Lawrence Parsons the telescope was dismantled after falling into disrepair. The mirror was sent to the science museum in London in 1914 and the casing melted down during the First World War. After many years the telescope was put back together and totally restored in the late 1990’s.
Other Castles in the Area
Annagh Castle, County Tipperary
Ballycowan Castle, County Offaly
Charleville Castle, County Offaly
Clonony Castle, County Offaly
Kinnitty Castle, County Offaly
Leap Castle, County Offaly
Nenagh Castle, County Tipperary
Portumna Castle, County Galway
Redwood Castle, County Tipperary
Roscrea Castle, County Tipperary