Birr (Biorra, "Spring Wells"), a thriving little market town, lies in the center of Ireland at the intersection of two main roads (N52 and N62), on the western edge of Offaly county. Immediately west of the little town is the junction of two good fishing rivers, the Little Brosna and the Camcor.The town is well laid out, with four main streets meeting in Emmet Square. It has many handsome houses of the 17th and 18th C., particularly in Oxmantown Mall and St John's Mall. In St John's Mall is a monument to the third Earl of Rosse, a famous astronomer.
Birr Castle was built in the early 17th C. and later besieged on a number of occasions. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was several times altered and enlarged. About 1840 the third Earl of Rosse, to whose descendant the castle still belongs, designed and constructed a giant telescope - for some 80 years the largest in the world - and set it up in the grounds of the castle. With this telescope he was the first to discover spiral nebulae. The building in which the telescope (now in the Science Museum in London) was housed can still be seen in the park. There is a model of the telescope and a small display of optical apparatus and drawings.Temporary exhibitions are mounted in the Exhibition Gallery.Two rivers and a lake are the focal point of the magnificent gardens of Castle Birr. Terraces, an arboretum and wonderfully maintained gardens make the parks of Birr Castle a must to see for garden lovers.
Address: Ross Row, Ireland
Opening hours: Mar 15 to Oct 31: 9am-6pm
Nov 1 to Mar 14: 12pm-4pm
Nov 1 to Mar 14: 12pm-4pm
Entrance fee in EUR: Family €25.00, Adult €9.00, Senior €7.50, Students €7.50, Child €5.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Disability Access: Partial facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
Birr Vintage Week
This annual festival takes place in mid-August and includes an antiques fair and a parade in period costumes. Other events include dances and concerts with one aim in mind - providing a good time.
8mi/13km northwest of Birr, on a hill on the east bank of the Shannon, is Banagher. The gun positions constructed by English forces in the 17th C. can still be seen. At the bridge are mooring facilities for motor cruisers. Anthony Trollope worked as a post office clerk and wrote some of his early novels here.
5mi/8km northeast of Birr, by the roadside, rise the imposing ruins of Clonony Castle (16th C.). The road to the castle runs past Shannon Harbor, where the Shannon and the Grand Canal join. Old warehouses and a hotel of 1806 bear witness to the importance of this little port.
To the east of Birr are the Slieve Bloom Mountains. At their foot is the pretty village of Kinnitty, from which an excursion into the delightful little Forelacka Glen can be made.
From the pretty village of Kinnitty an excursion can be made to the delightful little Forelacka Glen.
St Ciaran's Bush
On the road which runs southwest from Kinnitty, beyond the Clareen crossroads, a hawthorn known as St Ciaran's Bush grows in the middle of the roadway. Ciaran was a fifth century saint who founded a monastery here.
A mile or two south of St Claran's Bush in the Birr area stands Leap Castle, a stronghold of the O'Carrolls burned down in 1922 but still impressive even in its ruined state.