Birr Castle:  A 12th Century Irish Monument Where the Old Meets the New

Situated in Central Ireland, Birr Castle belongs to County Offaly in the Province of Leinster. Although it is a private castle used by royals, Birr is still signposted and hard to miss in the tiny town of Birr.

Birr Castle.

The journey from Dublin Airport  to the castle takes just over 90 minutes, and the route takes you along the M4, the M6 and eventually on the N52 until there is a sign pointing to the castle at the end of William Street.    

Things to Know About Birr Castle

Here are some fun facts about this amazing Irish landmark.  Hopefully they will entice you to pay a visit in person!

But if that is not possible, you can always use them to impress your friends with your knowledge of one of the most-loved attractions in Ireland.

  • This castle, found in the small town of Birr in County Offaly, is one of the few still used as a royal residence.
  • Owned and lived in by the seventh Earl of Rosse, Birr Castle has an impressive pedigree dating back to the 12th century.

  • Although the interior is not open to the public, you can tour the gardens, which were famously landscaped by Sir William Parsons in the 18th century.
  • Spot waterfalls, enormous floral gardens, wrought-iron bridges and a large 19th century telescope while exploring the grounds of Birr Castle.
  • 150 years ago, Birr Castle was a hub for scientists in Ireland. The 3rd Earl of Rosse built the world's largest telescope to keep at his castle.
  • The enormous telescope, known as the Leviathan, was the world's largest for more than 70 years. It is still located at the castle, where visitors can easily see it for themselves.
  • Leviathan, while in use at the Castle, helped facilitate the discovery of the spiral shape of galaxies. While this is common knowledge today, it was a tremendous breakthrough in the 19th century.
  • If you're interested in astronomy or another other sciences, then you'll definitely want to visit the Science Centre. It is packed with astronomy instruments and cameras from the 19th and 20th centuries. 
  • The gardens are a worthy destination in their own right. If you want to learn as much as possible about the property, the audio tour includes 30 points of note throughout the gardens.
  • There are more than five miles of trails that you can explore on foot. The Blue Trail is the best option if you're hoping to spot some of the wildlife on the premises or you want to see where the two rivers meet on the property.
  • Although the is still a private residence, guided tours of the castle are available. These 60-minute tours are available in the summer months and allow you to see inside the main reception rooms.
  • If you're traveling with children, then you're in for a serious treat. There are lots of child-friendly attractions, but nothing can compare to the Tree House Adventure Area.
  • Birr Castle is home to the largest treehouse in all of Ireland, and its shaped like a castle. After climbing the turrets and playing in the sand, there's even a Sweet Shop nearby for a delicious treat or a cold drink.
  • Don't leave until you've seen the famed Tilia cordata greenspire, a spiral of lime trees. These trees were planted in the shape of the M51 Galaxy, which was first spotted through the Leviathan telescope located in the Castle.

For more information visit the official website here.

Want More Irish Castles?

It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish castles!  The Emerald Isle is dotted with hundreds of these incredible structures.  

Sharing pictures and stories about them gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

We have captured the most amazing pictures and descriptions of Irish castles in an e-book we call "An Illustrated Guide to Irish Castles and Abbeys."

This fun, free guide is available to you to download.  Scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email to get instant access!

That Was Fun!  Where Can I See More?

Great question! As you can see, exploring the castles of Ireland offers many opportunities for enjoying an Irish experience and expressing your personal Irish side!

For more information of this kind, you might pay a visit to our section on Ireland Sightseeing here!