Birr Castle Demesne
Birr Castle Demesne, and the historic town of Birr, are located in County Offaly, in the centre of Ireland. Birr can be reached by car in 2 hours from Dublin or about 1 hour and a half from Shannon Airport and Galway city. It is home of the seventh Earl and Countess of Rosse; as such the castle is not open the public, though the famous gardens of the demesne are open every day. The demesne includes Ireland's Historic Science Centre whose galleries show what Ireland's leading historic scientists have contributed to astronomy photography, engineering and the art of gardening. www.birrcastle.com
- Birr Castle’s most spectacular high ceilinged rooms are its tapestried hall, its great gothic music saloon overlooking the river, its yellow drawing room and long red dining room.
- Other features inside include a unique staircase of the 1660’s, an early panelled bedroom and dungeons.
- Surrounding the castle is Ireland’s largest heritage garden with rivers, waterfalls, a fountain and lake with a Canadian log cabin, cloisters with urns and statues;
- Beyond that a riverbank wilderness and native woods; a Georgian country house in its own park; even a romantic ruined manor court.
Birr Castle was built on medieval foundations in the 1620’s. It has been redeveloped many times over the years with more recent parts of the castle dating to the 19th century. As such the castle has many stylistic perspectives. The façade of the castle is gothic. The reception rooms are high ceilinged and date mainly from the early 19th century with a spectacular gothic ‘saloon’ or drawing room overlooking the River Camcor. There is a medieval basement and dungeons beneath the Castle as well as battlements along the roof.
The 100 acre demesne has a huge variety of rare and beautiful trees and plants from all over the world. Some highlights include: The Camcor and Little Brosna Rivers and the Lake. The Fernery with a waterfall, streams and fountain. The formal gardens feature the hornbeam cloisters, Bavarian urns and decorative seats. The walled gardens feature Box Hedges that are over 350 years old. They are also, according to The Guinness Book of Records, the tallest hedges in the world. Other features include: Orchards, bridges, arboretum, outdoor grass stage (teatre verde), herbatious borders, lakeside log cabin, Georgian mansion and derelict manor court and stable muse, bog land, country cottages, moat, drawbridge
A main feature of the demesne is the "Great Telescope" of the third Earl of Rosse, an astronomical telescope with a 183-cm (72 in) reflector. When completed in 1845, it was the largest telescope on earth, and capable of capturing more light and seeing further into space than any telescope had done before. It was dismantled in 1914, but was restored by the state in the 1990s as an Irish scientific icon.
There is a long history of photography at the castle. Mary Rosse (1813-1885) was the earliest acclaimed female photographer in world. Her dark room, in which she developed her own photos, is still preserved in the castle exactly as she left it in the 1890’s. (Lord) Snowdon, who was, as Antony Armstrong-Jones, partly brought up at Birr returned to it as a setting for Viyella, and other catalogues in the 1980’s. The gardens are host to wedding photography most weekends in the summer.
Georgian Country House: Tullynisk
Built in the 1820’s Tullynisk is a Georgian style manor house. It features a genuine period interior that has been kept as is, without refurbishment or additional lighting fixtures up to the present day. The area around the house includes a meadow with a ha-ha and 200acre wood. The adjacent old stable muse is now derelict but still retains a quiet charm and features a group of stables, barns and offices around a central court yard.
Photographic events in Birr Castle: Fashion Show: The Peruvian Connection 1999
Films at Birr Castle Demesne: Cooks & Coronets 1981, All things bright and beautiful 1994, Loving 1995.
Fairs and Festivals in Birr Castle Demesne: Craic Mor 1995; Ireland’s Country Fair 2004-5,2007-9; Chamber Music 2 twice a year