Birr, a parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killaloe, is a town located in County Offaly. Owing to its perfectly preserved Georgian heritage, it has been designated as an Irish Heritage Town. Situated at the intersection of the Camcor and Little Brosna rivers, the town was once known as Parsonstown. This mediaeval name referred to the Parsons family, who were local landowners and hereditary Earls of Rosse. Camcor and Little Brosna rivers are the source of River Brosna, which flows into the River Shannon.
Being an archetypal Irish country town, it comprises castles, lakes, rivers, fountains, wildflower meadows and mature gardens. The enticing town is adorned with graceful wide streets and elegant buildings, with exquisite fanlight windows of the Georgian period. A pristine walk along the narrow main street with its small shops enables people to view the monument dedicated to the ‘Manchester Martyrs’ and experience the provincial urban grandeur of this fascinating town. The enchanting town is prominently reckoned for its landscaped estates and Georgian buildings.

Early history of the mesmerising town dates back to the 8th century, when St. Brendan of Birr founded a monastery in the town. The elegant monastery furnished the Gospels of McRegol, which were named after the abbot. These well preserved ancient structures are on display in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. 697 BC was the occasion of the Synod of Birr, during which the Cáin Adomnáin was pronounced. Birr later went on to become a market and garrison town in the 1620s.

Birr is adorned with innumerable relics and historic monuments, which spell the rich history associated with this town. Dooly’s Hotel was a coaching inn during 1747. Emmet Square is adorned with a column dating from the same year. St. Brendan’s Church of Ireland, a beautiful Gothic-style Catholic church was built in 1815. Wesley Chapel, a Methodist Church, was constructed in 1820 with the aim to accommodate a growing Methodist congregation. Another Gothic styled building, which enhances the charisma of this enchanting town, is the Sisters of Mercy convent.

Birr Castle, with its preserved Georgian architecture and extensive grounds, is a pride of the town. Within its 120 acres of parkland, people can find opportunities for indulging in fun, relaxation and discovery. The grounds of the castle boast the largest garden in Ireland, which is graced with both formal and informal gardens and an exotic tree collection.

Castle grounds are also home to a breathtakingly beautiful lake, a fernery, wildflower meadows and an astounding collection of rare species of fauna, including the champion trees of the British Isles. In addition to the scenic and panoramic gardens, the castle also boasts Ireland’s Historic Science Centre. At the castle, people can catch a glimpse of the historical ‘Leviathan’, which is the world’s largest telescope. Established by the 3rd Earl of Rosse, this telescope, dating from the 1840s, is counted amongst the most important technical monuments in Ireland.

The remarkable town of Birr never fails to awe visitors with its castle, the landscaped grounds and gardens that span four centuries of gardening styles.


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