Birr Castle, County Offaly

Birr Castle, County Offaly

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The Birr Castle Demense offers something for everyone to enjoy and is especially interesting and educational for families. Starting with Ireland’s Historic Science Centre in the old stable block, with its café and shop you can then explore 124 acres (50 hectares) of park land, visit the magnificent Formal Gardens and terraces and discover Birr’s world famous engineering and astronomical wonder - the Great Telescope.

The castle and estate at Birr, have been owned by the Parsons family for almost 400 years. In this time, Birr Castle Demesne has seen a host of scientific and technological achievement, much of which has changed the world. To help preserve this heritage for future generations, the Birr Scientific and Heritage Foundation was formed.

The Gardens

Birr Castle Demesne has become world famous for its exotic tree and plant collections, rivers and lake, formal gardens, terraces and wildflower meadows. The small kitchen garden and orchard originally developed at Birr is completely different from the garden today enjoyed by thousands of visitors to the demesne every year. Fourteen successive generations of the Parsons family have left their mark on the demesne through continuous planting, building, arrangement and creation of features ranging from the practical to the romantic.

Ireland's Historic Science Centre

Ireland's Historic Science Centre contains astronomical instruments, cameras, photographs and photographic equipment used by the third and fourth Earls and Mary Countess of Rosse in the middle and late 1800s. Also on display is electrical and engineering equipment originally belonging to Charles Parsons and used in his experiments as well as a large area devoted to the botanical work carried out in the Demesne. The whole collection is housed in the restored stables of the castle.

The Great Telescope

During the 1840's and starting from virtually first principles, the third Earl of Rosse designed and had built the mirrors, tube and mountings for a 183 cm (72 inch) reflecting telescope which was the largest in the world at that time and remained so for three quarters of a century. With this instrument, situated near the middle of Ireland, Lord Rosse was able to study and record details of immensely distant stellar objects and to provide evidence that many of these mysterious nebulae were actually galaxies located far outside our own.

Eating and Shopping

The Discovery Gift Shop at Birr Castle Demesne offers gifts for every taste and the Courtyard Cafe provides snacks and beverages.

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