Birr Castle Demesne
Birr Castle Demesne offers something for everyone to enjoy, and with a combination of fun, relaxation and discovery to all who visit. Award winning and family friendly, Birr Catle Demesne has also been named by Independent.ie as one of Ireland’s top ten visitor attractions for 2023. It is home to one of the largest and most beautiful gardens in the country, an interactive Science Centre, and a 170 year old telescope which was the largest in the world for over 70 years. With 10 kilometres of scenic walks, rivers, waterfall, a lake, one of Europe’s finest plant collections, Science Galleries with the world’s oldest intact dark room, the world’s tallest box hedge, forest bathing, trails and Ireland’s tallest treehouse.
There are fun and educational trails available for all ages, including ‘The Family Quest’ (suitable for all ages), ‘The X-Trail Solar Trail’ (suitable for ages 9+), and ‘The Red Tree Trail’.
The Great Telescope
In the early 1840’s, the Third Earl of Rosse designed and built the largest telescope in the world. With this telescope, he discovered the spiral nature of some of the galaxies, and from 1845-1917, anyone wishing to witness this phenomenon had to come to Birr. And they came, in their hundreds, from across Europe and beyond, to observe the stars with Lord Rosse or simply to marvel at this feat of engineering in the middle of Ireland.
This Reflecting telescope remained the largest in the world for over 70 years and is arguably the largest historic scientific instrument still working today. This ‘leviathan’ as it is named, remains in the centre of the gardens as Ireland’s greatest scientific wonder and represents a masterpiece of human creative genius.
From now until the first week in July the bloom chasers who visit Birr Castle Demesne will be met with wonder and surprise – a spectacle of blooms changing by the day.
Right now, your feast includes wonderful collections of magnificent magnolia trees in full bloom, camellias from soft to deeper shades of pink, acres of daffodils, bluebells and helleborus.
To follow this and showing early signs of wonder are the rhododendrons, peony and the lilac all leading towards the awe inspiring wisteria which can be found in the formal gardens. For those looking for the more native ground-based plants the demesne has an abundance of wild garlic, wild snowflake, heathers and one of Ireland’s finest wildflower meadows which be in its full glory by mid-June.
Birr Castle Demesne has a world famous collection of flowers, plants and trees. The Demesne is well worth a visit any time of year, but for many frequent visitors, Spring and early Summer is their favourite time with the stunning magnolias in bloom and the cherry blossoms appearing in a riot of pastel colour. There are bluebells everywhere in March and usually in April the camelia walk bursts into bloom, alongside glorious peonies as the cherry blossoms fade for another year.
The Gardens have a rich history attached to them. They were originally landscaped around the lake in the 18th century by Sir William Parsons, and over the generations of the Parsons family the Gardens has increased in beauty and interest.
It now has plant material collected and subscribed for by 3 generations of the Earls of Rosse, as well as some of the most famous plant hunters past and present. It was the first garden in Ireland to receive specimens of “Metasequoia glyptostroboides” (Dawn Redwood) after its discovery in China in 1945. The garden comes alive in spring with spring flowering bulbs and a vast Magnolia collection..
Treehouse Adventure Area
The Treehouse Adventure Area at Birr Castle Demesne features the tallest treehouse in Ireland, (for ages 7+) a fantastic playground with swings, a sand pit and more for all ages.
Science Centre For Schools
Did you know that over 150 years ago Birr was the silicon valley of the world, if you were a mad scientist, engineer or astronomer Birr was the place to be.
Why – before the days of computer, broadband and smart phones, you had to travel to where the big discoveries were being made, not only did Birr have the biggest telescope in the world, but also had some of the best engineering, mathematical and creative minds. Everyone from as far away as Australia and Russia, and even Charles Babbage (the inventor of the computer) came and were inspired.
They believe strongly at Birr that by using the past inventions and discoveries of the Parsons’ family, they can captivate our young, so that they can see how science can be fun and is relevant to their lives, and inspire them to continue to study this exciting subject through leaving unto a fulfilling career.
Discover Primary Science Educational Tours in Birr Castle Demesne
With the significant changes being introduced through the new science curriculum, the emphasis is on taking science out of the textbooks and the classroom and into everyday experiences and practical activities of investigation, experiments and analysis. Ireland’s Historic Science Centre has taken the opportunity to play a role in working with teachers and schools in celebrating our scientific heritage and fostering, inspiring and encouraging young scientists of the future. At Birr Castle they aim to achieve this by providing a fun, interactive tour through Ireland’s Historic Science Centre and through the gardens to end at The Great Telescope.
The DPSM programme consists of:-
- A guided tour of the science galleries of Irelands Historic Science Centre.
- A visit to the restored telescope in the gardens.
- An interactive workshop where the children work in groups to build and launch rockets, make observations and record results. Within the workshops children will be get a chance to work with measurements, angles and distance.
- A team game using the rockets to learn about the planets of the solar system.
- Teachers Notes
- Discover Primary Science children’s worksheet
Length of tour: 2.5 hours. Admission €10 per student. Suitable for 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Class.
For Bookings and further details, please contact the Educational Officer at [email protected]
Birr Castle Demesne Events
Birr Castle Demesne Co. Offaly offers something for everyone to enjoy and they also run events throughout the year.
St. Patrick’s Snake Trail
Friday 17 – Monday 20 March 09:00 – 17:00 each day
Come and see if you can find the snakes that St. Patrick left behind. The trail of slithering snakes will lead you through the gardens, parkland and Treehouse Adventure Playground of Birr Castle Demesne. If you can find them all and discover their secret message you can claim your sweet treat.
St Patrick’s Snake Trail is included in the General Admission price. Suitable for all ages.
No booking is required, admission tickets and trails available on arrival.
Easter Egg Hunt at Birr Castle Demesne
Easter Sunday 09 April and Easter Monday 10 April
Wild Connections Easter Camps
- 3 – 6 April and 11- 14 April 10am – 2pm each day
More information here for Easter at Birr Castle Demesne
Up-coming events –
- Big Vintage Picnic 2023 (details coming soon)
- Wild Connections Summer Camps
- Forest Bathing
Check out their regular updates on events.
Birr Castle Demesne Opening Times:
Opening Times – Open 362 days of the year
Open 09:00-17:00 daily, last entry 16:00
Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre is closed December 25th, 26th and January 1st.
- The Discovery Gift Shop – Open Daily
- The Castle Courtyard Cafe – Open Daily- March to September
- Tree House Adventure Area – Open Daily
Admission ticket gives access to:
The Gift Shop
The Courtyard Cafe -re-opens 15th March
120 Acres of Parklands
10km of walks
7-Gallery Science Centre
Red Tree Trail: 5km and 65 Trees of Distinction
The Gallery Challenge
The Solar Trail
The Quest (weather permitting)
The Engineering Trail
The Flora Trail (April-June)
Bird Spotter’s Guide
Birr Castle Admission Rates:
- Adults – €10.00
- Children 3 years and under FREE
- Children (age 4-17) – €6.00
- Family rate (includes 2 adults and 2 children) – €28.00
Ball games,tricycles and bicycles are not allowed in the gardens.
Memberships are available for 3 months, 6 months or 12 months at Birr Castle Demesne. We welcome individual and family memberships. Visit Birr Castle Friends Membership for more details.