Day Four (cont’d): Visit to Castle Birr
Located not far from the precise center of Ireland, the Birr Castle Demesne is a privately-owned estate boasting magnificent gardens and a world-class science museum. While the castle itself is off-limits to the public (it’s the hereditary home of the Earls of Rosse), the grounds and visitor centers are maintained for admission year-round.
Image: Birr Castle Demesne
This stop could easily contend as the most fascinating visit of my trip (even on a less spectacular day!) Nestled amongst the beautiful Midlands countryside and encompassing over 120 acres, the historic gardens are a walker’s dream and a botanist’s delight – and no small adventure for a photographer! The parkland estate took shape over the centuries from an oak wood in the 1700s, to an elaborate Victorian garden, to an arboretum and nursery center added in recent years. Many of the trees and plant species were imported from all over the world include some the finest specimens not only in Ireland, but in the world.
Not far from the entrance to the formal gardens is “Leviathan” – a massive telescope that would have been a considerable engineering feat in its day. In fact it was the largest telescope in the world for over 70 years, and a prized piece of technology for all the famous astronomers who journeyed to use it. It was built by the Third Earl of Rosse in the 1840s. Much of the museum exhibition revolves around the history of the telescope in particular and the science of astronomy in general. I could lose myself in the study center just as easily as in the gardens.
The museum isn’t limited to stargazing, though – there is a huge array of exhaustive exhibits that take you on a walk through time, through the various periods of the castle’s history. This is quite an expanse, considering the original structure was laid by the Normans in 1170!
Enjoy a browse through my brief photo journal of Birr’s gardens – small justice, maybe, for a paradisaical place I was reluctant to leave!