Birr Castle

School visits or programmes Park or garden open Museum and/or art gallery Holiday cottages for rent Cultural activities or events Available for functions or corporate events Available as a film location

Birr Castle, Birr, Offaly, Ireland

t: +353 57 9120336
e: reception@birrcastle.com
w: http://www.birrcastle.com

The House

Birr Castle dates back to medieval times when it was part of a fortress of the O’Carroll family on the border of Leinster and Munster.

In the seventeenth century Sir Laurence Parsons acquired the estate and rebuilt the gatehouse as his residence, turning its axis to face into the park and adding two flanking towers which were attached to the building by canted wings to form a symmetrical façade. One tower, which today houses the family muniments room, contains an interesting frieze of early decorative plasterwork.

Further alterations took place during the eighteenth century and, shortly after 1800, Sir Lawrence Parsons, who succeeded as the 2nd Earl of Rosse, remodeled the castle in the fashionable Georgian Gothick style.

The earl acted largely as his own architect with the help of a little-known local man, John Johnson, who also designed both the principal churches in the town. The result is a splendid fantasy castle, which appears as a single composition despite being constructed in different phases. The entrance is approached by a tall flight of wide steps overshadowed by a massive arch, which gives the impression of passing beneath a mediaeval portcullis.

The interior is another combination of dates and styles, forming a remarkably harmonious whole for which Anne Rosse, chatelaine of Birr from the 1930s to the 70s, is chiefly responsible. She was the sister of Oliver Messel, the artist and stage-designer, and the mother of Lord Snowden. A talented designer, decorator and gardener in her own right, her arrangement of the family collections is masterly.

Birr contains some fine early 18th century interiors while others, most notably the delicately vaulted Gothic saloon overlooking the river, date from the 2nd earl’s reconstructions. The principal staircase is from the 17th century house, with turned balusters and a luxuriously swooping handrail, built of native yew and described in 1681 by Thomas Dinely as “the fairest in all Ireland”.

The park was originally laid out in the 18th century, though the 3rd earl and his countess built the two gothic gatehouses in the mid 19th century. They also created an impressive series of fortified outworks, which separate the castle from the park without loosing any of the views. The gardens are extensive and varied, with fine collections of plants and specimen trees and a formal garden of pleached hornbeam allées.

In the park opposite the castle, between two embattled walls, is the Leviathan of Birr, the world’s largest telescope for over fifty years. Its designer and builder, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, was one of the leading scientists and engineers of his day while his wife was an important pioneer photographer. The telescope allowed the earl and his son, later the 4th earl, to make a number of major discoveries about the solar system. A younger son, Charles Parsons, was a groundbreaking engineering pioneer and the inventor of the steam turbine.

Today Birr Castle is the home of the 7th Earl of Rosse and his wife and family. 

Information

School visits or programmes

Park or garden open

Museum and/or art gallery

Holiday cottages for rent

Cultural activities or events

Available for functions or corporate events

Available as a film location

Opening Hours

17th March to 31st October 9.00 am to 6.00 pm

1st November to 16th March 10.00 am to 4.00 pm

Adults €9.00  Concessions 7.50  Children €5.00 Families €25.00

Guided Tours  €25.00

Birr Castle is only open to cultural groups and by prior arrangement

Courtyard Cafe open 3rd March to 31st October

Events

22nd September 2017 - Culture Night 2017