Featured image of Birr Castle

The History of Birr Castle

LocationTownparks, Birr, County Offaly, Ireland (Google Maps)
Open for visitorsYes
Owned byParsons Family
Official WebsiteBirr Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Fashion and Film Shoots)

Dating back to medieval times, Birr Castle in the County of Offaly has been the family seat of the Earl of Rosse since the 1620s. Birr Castle has had a long and eminent association with major scientific and engineering achievements.


Birr Castle Demesne was originally an Anglo-Norman structure dated 1170 and which has been significantly amended and extended since then on. The modifications were made majorly under the guidance of the O’Carroll family and, from the 1620s, by the Parsons family, who continue to live there to this day. Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodeling, which included the building of the two flanking towers on the two sides of the castle before his death in 1628.

The castle survived two sieges in the 17th century, which impacted the wealth of the family and deprived it of the vitality and strength it once held. Gradually things started to fall into place, and by the 19th century, renovations in the castle began, which gave the castle the gothic look it holds today. The 19th century also accounts for great scientific innovations done by the Parsons family, which is still remembered in the history of science. ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown’ in 1845, The Great Telescope that, at that time, was the largest on Earth and was capable of seeing the farthest than any telescope so far created. The Leviathan attracted enthusiasts from all parts of the world and was a significant tool of many scientific and astronomical discoveries. Another important discovery was ‘The Spiral Galaxy’.

Birr - Birr Castle
Birr – Birr Castle”, by Dieglop, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


Birr Castle, built in the Victorian style, has seen many changes and modifications since its establishment. Birr Castle stands three storeys across three coves, the central one breaking forward, which is flanked by two, two-storey wings with towers alongside it, all of which is over a large basement. The many amendments of the castle included the inclusion of the octagonal Gothic Saloon overlooking the river in 1820, which was added between the central block and the flanking tower. The Saloon still exists today to mesmerize the visitors of the castle.

Due to a fire that broke out in 1836, the central block of the castle was rebuilt, and many parts were added to the castle, like the dining room and a third storey, which in turn enhanced the beauty of the castle. Inside the castle, a magnificent seventeenth-century open well yew staircase rises through three storeys to a Gothic plaster ceiling. In totality, Birr Castle was given a Gothic Revival makeover in the early 19th century.

The Birr Castle accounts for 1,277 acres of land, which is known for its beautiful and scenic gardens. The castle exists within a lovely, landscaped estate adorned with formal gardens whose natural significance is maintained by the family. The gardens of the estate are extensive and open to the public. 

The castle is lived in today by Brendan and Alison Parsons, Seventh Earl and Countess of Rosse, who have transformed an old stable block into Ireland’s Historic Science Centre, celebrating the extraordinary accomplishments of their ancestors. The castle has a lot to offer, such as the formal gardens, ‘The Great Telescope’, The Science Centre, a lake, river and waterfall, old coach houses, Ireland’s largest treehouse, bridges and boathouses.

Birr Castle
Birr Castle”, by Janek Kloss, is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Movie Features

Screen Two (1985-2002) – Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence, Screen Two features Birr Castle in the Episode- Loving (1996).

The Sandeman Man (2010) – Birr Castle is featured in the short mystery film directed by Carla Mooney. The movie is about the mocking and non-belief of local farmland which leads to a chilling truth.

The Girl with the Mechanical Maiden(2013) – A short film featuring Birr Castle has been directed by Andrew Legge. The Girl with the Mechanical Maiden is a short film about a young inventor who creates a mechanical wet nurse to take care of his baby after his wife dies in childbirth.

Ladies of Science: the Extraordinary story of Mary Rosse and Mary Ward (2015) – A Drama Documentary directed by Alessandra Usai features the Birr Castle in its best form.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much is it to get into Birr Castle?

Birr Castle Demesne offers something for everyone to enjoy, and therefore has a different price range for separate age groups- adults, kids, senior citizens, students. The price for adult visitors is €10.00, and children aged 4 years and below are awarded free entry. However, for children falling in the age group of 5-16, the price is  €5.00, and for students above the age of 16 years (the students need to produce a valid ID card), it is €7.50. Senior citizens aged 6 years and above need to pay €8.00. There is also a provision for a Family Rate of €26.00, which includes 2 adults and 2 children.

  • Who built the telescope in Birr Castle?

Leviathan of Parsonstown‘ was built by William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse of Birr Castle, in 1845. It was the greatest telescope on Earth at that time which could see further into space than any other telescope had ever done before. The telescope was accessible to people from all parts of the globe and has made many significant discoveries in the world of science.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.

Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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Meet Saurabh Sharma, a tech pro with a master's from Latvia's Riga Technical University. He's great with computers, focusing on Cloud Computing and DevOps. But here's the cool part – Saurabh has traveled to places like Nordic, Baltic, and other parts of Europe. And guess what? He's into European history, monuments, castles, and museums. Whether he's coding or exploring, he's always curious, showing a love for different places and histories.

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