The Birr castle that we know today is a study in lush, green magnificence with its sprawling gardens and unique foliage. It is 400 years old and its romance is still just as lovely and sparkling as it ever was. Today, it belongs to the Earl of Rosse, who is the seventh one of his lineage to be living there. Below, let’s take a look at everything that you need to know about it:
Table of Contents
- 1 Frequently Asked Questions
- 2 Early History
- 3 Current Times
- 4 Interesting Birr Castle Facts
- 5 Visiting Birr Castle – Tips and Tricks
Birr Castle hosts the Game and County fair every year, it’s during this time that the owners make a turn of the castle grounds in their beautiful carriage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Birr Castle Located?
Located in the town eponymous to its name, the Birr Castle resides in the county of Offaly, in the stunning country of Ireland.
When was Birr Castle Built? Who Build It?
The origins of the Birr Castle date back to the Anglo-Norman era when the original structure was erected in 1170. The castle as we know it today is actually the result of remodeling efforts on the Norman gatehouse.
When is The Best Time to Visit the Castle?
Spring is definitely the best time to visit the Birr castle, as its gardens are in full bloom and ready for exploring.
What Other Monuments are Located Nearby?
If open, you can always catch a show at the Birr Theatre and Arts Center or do a nature trek at the Portumna Nature Park.
FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS
Norman Origins (1170)
The Birr castle upholds its historical significance by boasting an authentic Norman buildership. Its original structure dates back to circa 1170, but the tides of time have resulted in significant changes to its appearance over time.
Under the O’Carrolls (14th Century – 16th Century)
This castle became the stronghold of the O’Carrolls in the 14th century. They ruled the land and its surroundings (which went by the name Ely O’Carroll back in the day). They resided at the tower house and held on to their ownership until the 1580s, when the property passed to the Ormond Butlers.
Property of the Parsons (17th Century Onwards)
It wasn’t until the 1620s when the Birr Castle was finally allocated to the Parsons family – also known as the Earls of Rosse – by James l. While the O’Carrolls used the tower as their residential wing, the Parsons turned a new leaf and converted the Norman Gate Tower into a quaint and sophisticated English House.
They also made many architectural changes to the dilapidated structure of the gate tower, which include the revamping and refurbishment of the flanking towers by Laurence Parsons in 1628.
From Ruin to Revival
The Birr Castle went through two major sieges in the 17th and 18th centuries. This left the dwelling in a dilapidated condition again. However, it all came to an end in the 19th century, when Birr was given an elevation revamp in the Gothic style. The towers and walls that stood on the moat and were built by the O’Carrolls were swept away. In the late nineteenth century, an octagonal salon was also added to the construction by architect John Johnson. The entire refurbishment plan was to give the Birr Castle a more inviting outlook as a whole.
However, that’s not where it ends. Castle Birr succumbed to a fire in 1836, which led to the rebuilding of the central structure as well. This is the time when a 3rd story and a dining room were added.
After the 1840s, Ireland was hit by a famine and that was the time when the Parsons (under the leadership of the Countess of Rosse) flattened the original Norman moat in favor of a star-shaped new one.
Revisit More Historic Places Below or Read Further
Today, Birr Castle is one of Ireland’s most attractive tourist destinations. Still in the ownership of the Parsons, it now has some truly great attractions to offer in Birr County. The Parsons have a long history of interest in scientific discoveries, so it makes sense that the Birr Castle has its very own Gardens & Science Center now.
With around 80 rooms – including a music room with a grand piano and a harp – it’s a castle that brims with history and culture. With innumerable family artifacts and a liveable atmosphere, Lady Rosse successfully kept the castle going so that it could be inhabited by the next generation.
Interesting Birr Castle Facts
- Birr Castle occupies almost 1200 acres of land and is one of the most gorgeous walled estates of the world.
- The castle is surrounded by stunning parklands at its base that were planted in the 17th century. There’s a 500 year old oak in the center of this meadow, which hasn’t been touched for almost 400 years to date.
- Birr Castle hosts the Game and County fair every year, it’s during this time that the owners make a turn of the castle grounds in their beautiful carriage.
- With so many scientific discoveries carried out by the Parsons clan, it’s no surprise that the castle stables were converted into a beautiful Gardens & Science Center.
- Birr Castle is also home to one of the oldest wrought-iron bridges in Ireland. It dates back to the 1820s.
Visiting Birr Castle – Tips and Tricks
Birr Castle is one of Ireland’s most magnificent jewels – especially if you’re a horticultural or science aficionado. So, if you’re planning a visit, here’s some great information that can make you plan the perfect trip:
How to get to Birr Castle?
There are many ways for you to get to Birr Castle. You can take the 845 bus from Dublin, which will take you around 2 hours and twenty minutes. Alternatively, you can also take the train to Galway station, from where you can take a bus to Birr. It will take 53 minutes and 38 minutes respectively, with an average cost between €13-€18 ($15-21 USD). Lastly, you can also just drive there and it will cost you anywhere between €16-17 ($19-20 USD).
Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips
Information was checked & updated on October 5, 2023.
The official website of Birr Castle suggests that you need to pre-order your tickets before arrival. So, whether you’re opting for a general tour, a guided tour, or even just visiting with a friend, you simply need to buy your ticket online prior to the visit.
General admissions cover a family of 2 children and 2 adults. It costs €26.00 ($31 USD). Admission ticket for a single adult is €11 ($12 USD) and €6 ($6 USD) for a kid (aged 4-16). Students need to pay €7.50 ($9 USD) and senior tickets are for €8 ($10 USD). Family (2 adults & 2 kids U17) €30.00 ($ 32 usd).
Guided tours cost €12 ($14 USD) per person and visitors are encouraged to arrive half an hour before it starts. It’s 60 minutes long and spans the entire history of Birr Castle, including the scientific and horticultural achievements of the Parsons.
How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?
It takes about 45 minutes to tour Birr Castle, so you can spend the rest of your time picnicking in the gardens or exploring the rest of the city.
Some words of advice and tips:
- Don’t forget to visit the nurseries on the top floor if you want a gorgeous view of the town at the foot of the castle.
- You’ll love the cozy little cafe that’s tucked in the courtyard of the Garden & Science Center.
- There’s no parking area within the castle grounds, so keep that in mind before renting a car.