One of my favourite things is to head out at the weekend and visit somewhere with a nice walk (and preferably a nice coffee shop too!). Check out my Places to Visit posts to find some of the gorgeous places we have been.
This Easter we decided to head to Birr Castle and Gardens - I'm not sure how we managed to miss it up to now because it's such a great place to go for all the family.
The weather forecast was a bit unpredictable but, let's face it, if you let the weather put you off in Ireland, you'll end up going nowhere. So, armed with raincoats galore, we set off, even persuading the teen to come which was an achievement in itself :)
There didn't seem to be any parking in the Castle grounds itself but there was free on street parking fairly near so that wasn't an issue. (Free only at the weekend, so be aware if you're there weekdays).
It was €9.00 for each adult and €5.00 for kids which is fairly reasonable I think. We wanted to see the Science Gallery as well as having a walk but we were blessed with temporary sun so went straight out to the gardens, passing through the kids' playground which has the coolest tree house ever!
It was hard to resist having a quick go so we did pause briefly :)
The path through the playground leads out to the Castle grounds and there is a very helpful map which shows where everything is - you can opt for a short or long walk around the grounds - we decided just to do the shorter version because it was late enough when we got there and the weather was still a bit dodgy.
The loveliest thing about this time of year is the swathes of daffodils everywhere, they are the cheeriest spring flower and the golden colour makes everything seem brighter.
The first thing we saw (apart from the castle itself) was the telescope - it's hard to describe how amazing this is and what an achievement for its time. I'm a total nerd and love to learn about historical facts and the whole story is just fascinating. Built by the Third Earl of Rosse in the 1840's, it was the largest telescope in the world for some time and was built in the grounds of the castle itself. It was a pioneering piece of engineering and was used to discover the spiral nature of nebulae - as photography wasn't developed enough at the time, the results of observations were carefully noted and drawn in notebooks. It also took a great deal of dedication to make these observations as the telescope would be suspended 60ft in the air and the interested party would have to sit in all sorts of weather conditions.
There was much information about this and more in the Science Gallery - we had to beat a hasty retreat to there when a heavy shower began! The Science Gallery was fantastic - I initially thought it was just one small room but it goes on and on, upstairs and through several different areas.
There was a great deal on display, lots of information about the telescope and astronomy and also artefacts from the Castle workshop as well as the preserved dark room of Mary Parsons, the wife of the Third Earl and a talented photographer.
There was plenty to keep us occupied there for ages, so many instruments and illustrations, as well as the beautiful photography of Mary Parsons.
However, we were all getting a bit peckish and I was starting to get coffee withdrawal so we popped down to the cafe for a quick coffee before resuming our walking as the rain had eased by now.
They actually seemed to be closing as we went in but the staff were lovely and said that it was fine to have coffee and cake, which we did. Coffee was perfect and I had a lovely slice of coffee cake just for good measure :)
It's a really pretty place to sit, I loved the cosy atmosphere.
We didn't have a huge amount of time left before closing so we went out to complete our walk, nearing the castle and heading behind towards the river and then back to the lake. The castle building itself is stunning and it's so soothing to walk by the river. There are lots of plants on display too, and trees. Although we didn't have enough time to cover the formal gardens as well, we saw lots and I really enjoyed it. I was also glad to see that there are many picnic tables dotted around, this would definitely be the perfect spot for a picnic on a Summer's day!
Here are some views of the castle and things we saw along our walk -
And pretty flowers -
And the lake -
It really is a stunning place and I can't wait to go back!
The castle itself is a private residence but tours are available during the summer months and this is something I would love to do. There are events on at various stages during the year also - just check the website for full information about what is available.