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Birr Castle

Birr Castle

Midlands Ireland | County Offaly

Birr Castle is a large castle located in the town of Birr, in County Offaly. The first structure on this site was the Norman motte and bailey, established in the late 12th century. The castle became a stronghold of the O'Carroll clan, powerful Irish chieftains, and remained in their possession until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers. In 1620, a ruined tower house and 1,277 acres of land was granted to the Parsons family and stays in their hands until today. The new owner, Sir Laurence Parsons enlarged the old castle by building the two flanking towers on either side of the old structure, giving it the shape we know today. In the 17th century, the Birr Castle withstood two serious attacks. The first during the Irish Confederacy Rebellion in 1641and the second during the Williamite Wars in 1689. At the end of the 18th century, Sir William Parsons began to plant many shrubs and trees, dredge the lake and develop the surrounding parkland. He also established the great lawn in front of the castle. In the early 19th century, his son Laurence built a single-storey extension at the end of the castle above the River Camcor and added Gothic motives to the front facade. In 1832, after fire damage to the roof, the central part of the castle was given an extra storey, complete with a battlemented roofline. In the early 1840s, on the grounds of the castle, William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse built the largest telescope in the world at that time (until 1917). Since that time, Birr Castle and the Earls of Rosse became synonymous with science. In 1849, Sir William Parsons was appointed President of Royal Society. In 1853, he was elected a member of the Imperial Academy of St Petersburg. In 1859, his wife, Lady Mary, who was an early pioneer of photography, won the first Silver Medal awarded by the Photographic Society of Ireland. The darkroom, which she installed in Birr Castle is the oldest surviving example of its kind in the world. Their son, Charles Parsons became world-famous as the inventor of the steam turbine. The 4th Earl of Rosse, Laurence Parsons continued the astronomical tradition. He drew the first map of the moon's surface and measured its radiant heat. The following members of the Parsons family were devoted to developing the 120 acres of Birr Castle's gardens. The fifth Earl planted fine shrubs and trees along the banks of River Camcor. Sixth Earl gathered many rare plants from Himalaya and the Far East and established the great collection of magnolias. His wife planted hornbeam cloister walk, with the world's tallest box hedges. The present, the 7th Earl of Rosse, Brendan Parsons and his wife Alison continue the garden development and expand the exotic collection of plants from all over the world. Today, the gardens of Birr Castle are amongst the most famous in Ireland.

    • Open all year round
      • Daily:10:30am-4pm
      • Last entry: 3pm
    • Tickets
      • Adults: €9
      • Children: €5
      • Senior/Student: €7.50
      • Family: €25
    • 29th June - 29th August
      • Monday - Saturday:
      • 10:00, 11:30 & 13:00
      • Pre-booking essential
    • Tickets
      • Adults: €20
    • 53.096746
    • -7.914328
  • CAR PARK :
    • Town car park

Photos from Birr Castle