All you need to know to plan a visit to Birr Castle, Ireland and why this is the best Irish castle to visit if you love astronomy or if you are looking for a fun day out with the kids.
I am always on the hunt for good day trips from Dublin we can take with the kids and one day, towards the end of October, I came across a place I hadn’t encountered before: Birr castle.
Located in the town of Birr, in County Offaly, Burr Castle seems to have all a good family day trip cold offer an easy to reach location, interesting history and a fun playground for kids.
Even better, Birr castle was boasting 2 unique attractions in Ireland that got all of us quite excited: it has the biggest treehouse in Ireland and a record braking telescope!
Attracted by these promises, we spent a day in Birr Castle and loved every minute: if you are intrigued too, this is all you need to know to plan a visit to Birr Castle.
Where is Birr Castle
Birr Castle is in County Offaly pretty much in the center of Ireland. It takes about 1h40 minutes to get there from Dublin and the castle sits right in the center of the town of Birr, a very easy landmark to find.
Parking is available immediately outside the castle and also on street. On the day we visited, we left the car in the pay and display part of the road leading to the castle.
What there is to do in Birr Castle and what makes it one of a kind
There is plenty to do in Birr Castle, both for adults and kids.
The Birr Castle Playground and TreeHouse
Birr Castle has organized part of its large grounds into a lovely playground for kids.
It is in the area of the park closest to the entrance, so it really easy to find and reach and has several games and toys for toddlers and school-age kids.
There is a lovely hobbit house, a sandpit, a bouncy hill, slides and something special and unique: the biggest tree house in Ireland!
The Birr Tree house is amazing and looks out of a fairy tale.
It is a large wooden structure that looks like a castle with pointy turrets and it has a rope bridge and slide. My toddler was a little bit intimidated by it but I saw others going up no problem and my 6 year old couldn’t have enough of it.
The whole Birr playground is lovely but the tree house is special: this alone makes a visit to Birr one of the best things to do in Ireland with kids, for locals and visitors alike!
The Leviathan, Birr’s record breaking telescope
Birr Castle is also the home of something truly unique: the so-called Leviathan, a telescope so big and powerful, it stayed as the biggest in the world for 70 years!
The Birr telescope was built in the 1840s by the Third Earl of Ross who inhabited the castle and who was an avid astronomer.
Thanks to his creation, he made important discoveries such as the spiral nature of some of the galaxies and also managed to turn Birr into an important hub for European astronomy: astronomers from all over Europe used to come here to use the telescope and even just to see this incredible tool.
Indeed, even nowadays the telescope makes an impression. It is so big, it is not an object kept inside the castle but rather, it has its own building, right in the center of the Birr grounds!
The telescope was operated by ropes and cranes and is protected by a construction made of the same grey stone as the castle, making it look almost like a second mini-castle, in the grounds of the main one.
Birr Castle science center
As well as the telescope, Birr Castle also has a small yet interesting science center that is worth visiting both for adults and kids.
The science center is hosted just beside the demesne main entrance and has several telescopes, lenses, drawing and instruments as well as designs and projects showing the making of the telescope.
This is not an interactive children science museum but a cool one to visit with kids nonetheless and really interesting for adults too.
The Birr castle woodland walk
Birr Castle is surrounded by beautiful woodlands and a walk along its paths is also worth it.
The land is mostly flat and many of the pathways paved, so it is a great place for a relaxing, non-taxing walk. We came in the fall and the foliage here was wonderful!
Birr castle family days and seasonal events
Birr Castle organized family events to mark special occasions and festivals.
When we were here in October, they had a lovely Halloween themed scavenger hunt for kids and I know they have several initiatives all year round. You can find updated information here
Take a tour of the castle
The castle is still inhabited, however, the family who occupies it, occasionally opens it up to visitors, offering them the option of taking guided tours of parts of the house.
Being a family home pre-booking is essential however, it can be easily done getting in touch with the castle itself. If you are curious about this option, you can fina info and contacts here.
I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of Birr Castle and inspired you to visit. Happy planning!