Feel the past......touch the present
The picturesque heritage town of Birr, developed around the Birr Castle estate of the Parsons family, the Earls of Rosse. With its handsome ensemble of Georgian architecture, there’s a lot to like about Birr. The tree-lined malls and avenues of elegant houses dating from the 1800s tell a fascinating story. Heaving with history, Birr is one of Ireland’s premier heritage towns and proud of its unique character spanning many centuries.
Its most famous landmark, Birr Castle Demesne, has been the seat of the Parsons family - the Earls of Rosse - for fourteen generations. Today the Castle Gardens & Science Centre attracts tourists throughout the year, captivated by the stunning formal gardens, the Great Telescope and the grandeur of the castle itself.
The town is also home to the renowned Birr Theatre – an essential regional stop-off for all major drama, dance, opera and comedy performances doing the national circuit. A great way to explore the town is to take either the Birr Town Trail or Riverbank Walk, with both routes starting from Emmet Square and covering a distance of just over 1km each.
Birr also has a rich monastic heritage and was home in the 6th century to St.Brendan, one of the "twelve apostles of Ireland". The original monastic site is probably close to the castle in William Street, behind wrought-iron gates of the old church and graveyard of St.Brendan
In the late 8th or early 9th century when the monastery at Birr was at the height of its power, a scribe named Mac Regol wrote and illuminated an extraordinary manuscript. Although his images have been described as primitive, Mac Regol’s gospel is recognized as a unique and important work of art. It is now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. However beside the R.C. Church (Wilmer Road), in the library (tastefully converted from a Pugin designed convent chapel), is the only copy of the Four Gospels known as the Book of Birr or Macgregols Gospels.
Or, if you’re after a more energetic bout of exercise, why not pay a visit to nearby Birr Equestrian Centre where Noel Cosgrave and his team offer riding lessons and cross-country treks 7 days a week. After which, you might need a sit-down and something to eat in one of the town’s many restaurants, cafes and bistros!