In County Offaly, in the Midlands, in Birr, is Birr Castle, home of the Earls of Rosse. The castle as we see it today was regularly added to but dates from 1620 although there has been a castle on the site since 1170. The house is private and not open to the public but the extensive grounds are and there is a museum dedicated to astronomy. This may seem odd but Birr Castle and astronomy are closely linked. William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, built Leviathan in 1845. It was then the largest telescope on earth. His son, the 4th earl, carried on his legacy and carried out many important works and manged to calculate the temperature of the moon (don’t ask me how even though I did go round the museum!). In addition to all this, the 4th Earl’s wife was a keen photographer and you can see her darkroom, believed to be the oldest in the world.
It is an interesting place to visit and the museum could entertain a really keen astronomer for hours I am sure. I sped through, wanting to see the grounds, and exploring these could take many hours. The grounds are beautifully landscaped though most of the ‘pretty’ gardens are near the house. I ended the walk with Leviathan but that was a slight disappointment because there was a wedding in the nearby building and it was decided that it was OK to park the cars around the telescope. This is pretty annoying really because with hundreds of acres of grounds, the one photo most people want to take is of the telescope but that was impossible without including a cordon of black, teutonic vehicles.
Outside, in the courtyard, is a nice cafe selling very good food and coffee. All in all it is well worth making an effort to see and interesting on many levels. It will not hold a great deal of excitement for the dedicated gardener who wants to get tips for their own plot but it is hard not to be impressed.