Photographer's Note

Pictured here is Birr Castle situated in the town of Birr, Co Offaly. It is the home of the 7th Earl of Rosse, and while the castle itself is a private home and off limits to visitors, the extensive grounds and gardens are open for the public to enjoy.

This place has been the site of a fortified castle since 1170 and was then the home of the O Carroll family. After the death of Charles O Carroll, the castle was gifted to Laurence Parsons in 1620, and it was at this point that construction began on the new castle which is the one we see here. The original castle of the O Carrolls, known as the Black Tower effectively disappeared.

Birr castle was again refurbished in the early 1800's by the 2nd Earl of Rosse who put the Gothic touches to its exterior. The second earls son, William Parsons was responsible for the construction of one of the most notable features of the grounds, the great telescope.

This great Telescope (a picture of this in the workshop) was completed in 1845 and at that time was the largest telescope on earth. It was capable of seeing deeper into space than any other and as a result of this Birr became a destination of choice for scientists and astronomers from all around the world. One of the more notable visitors was Charles Babbage.

The third earl discovered the Whirlpool Nebula here in the 1840's and to mark this occasion a spiral of lime trees were planted in the shape of the Whirlpool Nebula. These trees still live on today.

The castle grounds are home to a number of historical records. As well what was once the greatest telescope on the planet, you can also see the great Box Hedges. At 300 years old, these are recorded by Guinness book of records as the tallest hedges in the world.

The suspension bridge beside the castle dates to 1820 and is the oldest of its kind in Ireland.

The wildflower meadow has not been ploughed since 1620 and at its center sits the Carroll Oak; an oak tree that is over 500 years old. In addition to these features, the grounds also house formal walled gardens, a lake, two rivers, a waterfall, an ice house and a fernery. Inside the visitors center is an historical science exhibition featuring astronomical instruments, cameras, photographs and photographic equipment used by the Third and Fourth Earls and Mary, Countess of Rosse, in the middle and late 1800s.

In the workshop you can see the Great Telescope, and the people around it with the large rocket were students and teachers from schools around Ireland who were taking part in a science project to measure temperatures and pollen counts high up above the gardens. As well as the large rocket, they were also launching remote control helicopters taking sample jars high up in the atmosphere before dropping them with little parachutes. Its great to see this place of science is still being used for that purpose!

Thanks for looking.

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Additional Photos by Noel Byrne (Noel_Byrne) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4173 W: 26 N: 9238] (33764)
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