Birr Castle Demesne – Gardens

Posted On November 30, 2009 


Birr Castle Demesne is Ireland’s award winning gardens, is set in one of Ireland’s most beautiful Georgian heritage town.  Spanning across more than 120 acres of parkland, Birr Castle Demesne includes lakes, rivers, fountains, wildflower meadows and much more. It is much frequented place not only by tourists, but also by the locals. Birr Castle Demesne offers a combination of fun, relaxation and discovery to all who visit.

Birr Castle Demesne is the kind of destination that can interest and engage a serious gardener, a landscape designer or family for an entire day. It is the largest garden in Ireland, and the grounds at Birr Castle is made up of both formal and informal gardens, exotic tree collection, a breathtaking beautiful lake, a fernery, wildflower meadows, and much more. This area also boasts of the world’s tallest box hedges. These grounds are also home to an astounding collection of rare species of plants from all around the world, including over 40 champion trees of the British Isles.

Birr Castle Demesne

Birr Castle Demesne is world-famous for its exotic tree and plant collections, rivers and lake, formal gardens, terraces and wildflower meadows.


The Demesne is home to Ireland’s Historic Science Centre, which allows visitors to travel back to the time of the earlier Earls and Countesses of Rosse. Birr Castle Demesne boasts of award winning gardens which are the largest in the Country. Even after 13 generations, it still remains the family home of Earl and Countess of Rosse and their family. While the main house is not open to the public, one may wander through the scenic and panoramic gardens. These gardens were created way back in the year 1935 with the view to celebrate the marriage of the Earl’s mother who was also instrumental in establishing the design of the garden. Two Bavarian urns dominate the center of the garden. These urns are over 300 years old. Surrounded by hedges containing openings shaped like gothic style windows, these formal gardens derive inspiration from the layout of a monastic cloister.

For almost 400 years each of the Parsons family have worked on and contributed their unique features to the Demesne. As with every family, each generation of owners at Birr has its own interests. This truly reflects in the amazing combination of plants, astronomy, engineering, and more, all in one place. One can find an amazing variety of some of the oldest and tallest boxwood hedges in the world, as well as over a 1000 variety of trees and shrubs.

The garden has evolved under the loving care and attention of its owners, the proof for which is still there for all to see. By the 18th century, work on the landscape turned the bog into a lake, and trees were planted. The year 1826 saw the appearance of a suspension bridge, which was indeed an engineering feat at that time. This bridge was built over the river. It was in the middle of the 19th century that the third Earl of Rosse built the largest reflecting telescope known at the time. The uncommon shrubs and trees which can be found now were the efforts of the sponsored plant exploration trips by the fifth Earl.

It was during the 1930s, that the sixth Earl and his wife, who hailed from a well-known horticultural family in England, created the formal gardens known as the Cloisters, now also called the Millennium Gardens. The millennium gardens reflect a French style formal garden and includes plants exclusive to the demesne. It also proudly displays some beautiful pathways of hornbeam cloister. The seventh Earl and his family continue the tradition, making Birr a fine garden and much more.

Visitor Information

Birr Castle itself remains a private residence, still owned by the Parsons family, so public visitation is not permitted. But visitors are welcome to walk around the Birr Castle Demesne. For garden enthusiasts a visit to Birr is a treat indeed, encompassing some 120 acres of gardens that span four centuries of gardening styles.

During your visit, you would be transported to a time when Birr Castle was a hub of scientific discovery and innovation. The interactive museum reveals the wonders of early photography, engineering and astronomy. One special interesting feature is the third Earl’s telescope. This telescope is a leviathan creation, which was the largest in the world for more than 70 years.

Between visiting the science center and the gardens plan for a fair amount of walking. After taking in all the wonders, you can unwind with a hot cup of tea or coffee in the signature Courtyard Cafe. A visit to the Discovery Shop is recommended where you can purchase a unique gift as a reminiscence of your trip.


Booking a tour is perhaps one of the best ways to obtain more in-depth information about The Huntington Gardens. Trained and professional staff provide various tours, based on age and requirement. Special tours are available for adults, K-12 school children, and tour groups. Pre-booked guided tours as well as educational tours for primary and secondary schools are also available. Free audio tours are also available for some exhibitions.

Group Tours

The Huntington offers Estate, Chinese garden, and Tea & Tours. Please note you would need to make reservations at least one month in advance for all group tours.

Tea & Tour

What is better than a piping hot cup of English tea after a relaxing and enjoyable day touring the garden? Enjoy a private morning tour followed by English tea in the Huntington’s Rose Garden Tea Room. Please note reservations are required at least one month in advance for Tea & Tours.

School Tours

The Huntington offers both guided and self-guided school tours. The guided school tours are available during non-public, morning hours. These tours are led by volunteer docent teachers. Interactive explorations of the institution’s treasures are a landmark of these tours. Self-guided school tours are welcome during regular public hours.

Free Garden Tours

Free tours of the gardens are available with general admission or membership. These tours can be availed of between Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday between noon and 2 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Please note, timings may vary depending on volunteer availability, You may have to check regarding the same with the Information Desk on arrival for the day’s schedule of garden tours. No tours available on Tuesdays and Free Days.

Getting There

The Huntington is located near Pasadena in the city of San Marino, approximately twelve miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The Huntington has two entrance gates: one on Oxford Road, and a second entrance at Allen Avenue, just south of California Boulevard.

Address: Birr Castle Demesne, Birr, Co Offaly, Republic of Ireland
Telephone:  (057) 9120336
Visiting Hours
Birr Castle is open all year.
March to October hours: 08.00 -18.00
Nov – Feb hours: 10.00 – 16.00.
Entrance fees are €9.00 for adults, €5.00 for children.


Very good accommodation is available close to the garden.

Kinnitty CastleClonkelly House

The Clonkelly House is a charming Irish country house, located 1 km from the castle. Built to 4 star specification in the “heart of Ireland”, this place offers self catering, and is close to Slieve Bloom Mountains, River Shannon, and many more attractions.

Kinnitty Castle

Kinnitty Castle is situated close to the picturesque village of Kinnitty, and is about 1 km from the garden.

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