My visit to Birr Castle Demesne.

It was only as I was walking out the gate that I became aware of time again. I was so engrossed in my walk around Birr Castle that time had simply escaped my attention. In the centre of Birr town in Co. Offaly, this attraction has lots to offer whether you’re on your own, with friends or with your entire family.

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How to get there? 

Birr Castle can be found in the town of Birr, Co. Offaly.  The exact location is here, https://www.google.ie/maps/@53.0967043,-7.9143201,17z

It is well signposted so once you arrive, you shouldn’t have any problem finding it.

Parking and cost of entry.

The scourge of every Irish tourist attraction is paid parking. There is no castle parking available so you must use the paid car park across the street. One hour is 50 cent.

Entry prices* are as follows:

Adult:9 euro

Student: 7.50

Family ( 2 adults and 2 children) 25 euro

*Prices were correct at time of publish, September 2015.

What can I see/do?

There are many things to do and you should give yourself a lot of time to fully visit the area.

There are 3 walks available, the longest taking at least 40 minutes to complete. During the walks you can take in beautiful gardens, waterfalls, lakes wells and bridges.

The science centre contains lots of astronomical equipment and information.

The great telescope, which was once the largest in the world is a must see.

For children, the tree house adventure area will provide plenty of entertainment. This has Ireland’s largest tree house and has a bouncy pillow available in August and September.

I myself spent at least 2 hours here exploring the area, taking in the wildlife and taking photographs. It is a photographers dream and you could easily pass an entire day getting photos.

My visit.

Although I only live a few kilometres away, I had never been to the castle before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The courtyard is really well kept as is the shop and visitor centre. The lady at the desk was happy and informative and explained the map before sending me on my way.

From there, I made my own way around the science centre which was quite interesting. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t read English because all the information is just in one language. However, it’s very visual so it would be of interest to everyone. You can learn all about the astronomical instruments and events.

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The day was picking up so my main interest was to explore the grounds. Since I had a lot of time, I took off on the river walk, which according to the map takes approximately 40 minutes to complete.

The estate is quite large and that becomes apparent immediately. There are tonnes of major walkways and minor walkways to explore, each offering something different. To walk around is quite refreshing and peaceful and I found myself regretful that I didn’t bring a picnic and a flask of tea!

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The suspension bridge dates back to around 1810 and it was the first of its kind in Ireland. According to the visitor guide, this is the oldest iron suspension bridge in Ireland and was built in original Birr workshops.

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If I have one pet peeve however, it’s litter and unfortunately there was too much litter around to go unnoticed. While most of the major walkways were litter free, the minor walks had quite a bit of litter as did the river. To me, litter is the height of laziness and when visitors are paying to walk around the estate, litter is not something that they should see. While I’m on this topic, I found some of the green keeping to be a little under loved in places. I can imagine that to keep an estate of this size in order takes a lot of work but attention to detail is essential.

As I waited to cross the little bridge at the fern waterfall, it was the squirrel and other wildlife that had me looking up into the trees. Again, as I approached the great telescope, a flock of ducks distracted me and they are obviously big characters who are used to having their photo taken.

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I love how the ducks were all walking in a line back to the river. You can imagine the leader just saying “Alright lads! Follow me! ”

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Eventually, I made it to the Great Telescope. For over 70 years, this was the largest telescope in the world. Constructed by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1840, it is now being reconstructed by the O.P.W.

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The box hedges in Birr castle are over 300 years old and seemingly the tallest in the world. The formal gardens are wonderful and make for some great photos.

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The variety of visitors there was apparent as I continued on my walk. There were some locals just out walking dogs, tourists there just for the nature and botany and then others who had their family and were making good use of the treehouse and bouncy pillow.

As mentioned earlier, the treehouse is Ireland’s largest treehouse and it really is quite impressive. The kids were enjoying it and the bouncy pillow immensely.

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Is it value for money?

After visiting the area, I asked myself this same question. Although, I don’t consider 7.50 a lot of money, I began to wonder why I had to pay it in the first place. I didn’t actually use a service of any kind as I didn’t get a guided tour or anything similar.Apart from the lady and gentleman working at the ticket desk, I didn’t meet any other workers. I can see the need to charge for use of the treehouse and bouncy pillow but walking outdoors, through nature should be free. Just a thought I had along the way.

You can find out more about this attraction by visiting their website http://www.birrcastle.com/

*All photos are my own.

*If any information is incorrect, please inform me and I’ll correct it.

An evening in Monaincha

There is a lake in North Munster with a large island which has a church and an ancient religious order. No woman or animal of the female sex could enter this island without dying immediately. This has been put to the proof many times by means of cats, dogs and other animals of that sex, which have often been brought to it as a test, and have died at one.

So wrote Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald the Welshman) in 1187 when he also declared the site the “31st wonder of the world”.

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Monincha, known in Irish as Mainistir Inse na mBeo, means Monastery of the island of the living. The monastary, formerly on an island was founded in the 8th century but later in the 18th century the land was drained. It is an example of a nave and chancel building and you can see examples of Romanesque style on the decorations in the west doorway.

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The reconstructed High Cross has a 9th Century base with the cross head being 12th century.

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A part of Roscrea Heritage Trail, you can download maps and commentary from http://www.heritagetrails.ie/explore/roscrea-heritage-trail/

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How do I get there?

When researching Monaincha, I read that it was “the best kept secret in Tipperary”. That’s because unless you know where it is, you won’t find it and the non existent signs don’t do much to help you.

First, if you have time, drop into the Tourist office in Roscrea and get a map of the area. If you’re in Roscrea town and you’re driving (the highly recommended transport option), head for the old Dublin road.On the final roundabout, you’ll see a sign for St. Anne’s and if you take this exit, you’ll see the sign for Monaincha. That is the last sign you see until you get to the lane. From the roundabout exit, it is about 3km on a small road to the site. You will recognise the lane because there is a little memorial and sign there. Monaincha-Heritage-Trail-MAP-800x486

The good points.

This place is amazingly stunning and an absolute must see. I recommend you leave the car at the top of the lane and walk in. The walk is so peaceful and serene and you get a great view of the site from the entrance. There is no entrance fee but remember that you are on private property and should respect it accordingly.

There is a commentary available on the website I listed above.

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The not so good points.

The signage to the site isn’t great. For us it was ok because we knew where to go but for visitors not familiar with the area, it would be almost impossible to find it.

          Bonus Information.

The wind turbines, just further down the road from Monaincha are well worth a visit. .

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  • All photos are my own and were taken on my visit except the map which is from heritagetrails.ie. Be sure to follow me on Instagram (iamshaunabrowne) and Twitter(@backhomeinirl or @iamshaunabrowne)  for more photos and adventures around Tipperary.

A day in Dublin

I only had one job to do in Dublin and I almost didn’t make it because I was so distracted by the photo opportunities that were everywhere! Unfortunately, the rain only got worse during the day and I went home early but here are some photos I took on my visit;

First stop Trinity College. The place was packed with tourists and locals and the grounds were as beautiful as ever.

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Off to Stephan’s Green where people were out enjoying the park before the rainy afternoon.

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Without a doubt, it is the great characters you meet that make you remember a trip. While walking through the park, I met this gentleman who was feeding the pigeons. I stopped and asked to take a picture. He obliged and told me how he rescues the pigeons and feeds them three times a week. Once he started talking, he wasn’t to be stopped and before I knew it, there were 4 or 5 people standing around having a great chat about the pigeons.

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Over to the city centre.

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Fleet street

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Obligatory picture of the spire.

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And then it poured rain and off I went.

Follow me on Twitter @backhomeinirl or Instagram “backhomeinireland”

Roscrea Castle & Damer House- an afternoon discovering heritage sites of my area.

There are so many great things on my doorstep to discover and this being Heritage Week, I wanted to get out and discover some of the great sites. First on my list was Roscrea Castle and Damer House.

A little about Roscrea;

  • Located in North Tipperary.
  • Comes from the Irish words Ros Cre meaning “Wood of Cre”.
  • Roscrea is the 3rd oldest market town in Ireland.
  • In ancient times, the Slighe Dhala (the 5 main roads of Ireland) converged in Roscrea.
  • There are many historical sites in the town and you can see them as part of the heritage walk.

How to get there & cost. 

The castle & Damer house are located on Castle Street in the town.

The facility is open from April to September 10am to 6pm. You can find all the details on heritageireland.ie.

Adult: 4 euros

Seniors/Group: 3 euros

Student/Child: 2 euros

Family: 10 euros

What can you see/do?

The main attractions are the castle and Damer house but there are other things to do.

The gardens are absolutely beautiful and a great place to spend a few minutes enjoying nature. Entrance to the gardens is free.

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You can also visit King John’s Castle, Damer House Art Gallery and an exhibition free of charge.

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The Castle

Roscrea castle dates back to 1213 and was used for defensive purposes. You can read a history of the castle on the Roscrea website www.roscreaonline.com. I was lucky to be able to join a tour and the guide, Stephanie was extremely informative and knowledgeable. The castle is in great condition and throughout the tour you can read the boards which keep the younger visitors interested.

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The Great Hall

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The Portcullis

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An interesting model of the castle.

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The staircase- built to deter attackers.

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The drawbridge.

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The Dungeon where prisoners were kept before heading to court in Clonmel

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Damer House

I believe that it is unknown exactly when Damer House was built and by whom but it has been used throughout the years for many purposes. A number of years ago, the house was almost demolished but thankfully it was saved. I was also taken on a tour of the house. The guide, Patrick gave an interesting and enthusiastic tour. Highlight of the house was perhaps the staircase which is unique and one of only 2 that still exist in Ireland. There is no photography allowed in the house which is a shame because it is full of photographic opportunities.

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A panoramic shot of the grounds including Damer house and Roscrea castle.

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The castle, seen from the top floor exhibition in Damer House.

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Visitors book in Damer House.

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Additional Information:

The castle and Damer House is just one attraction on a longer heritage walk of the town. You can used your smartphone to gain access to an audio guide of the other attractions. Worth spending an afternoon exploring.

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Good points:

When I arrived first, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the visit but after meeting the staff and joining the tours, I had an enjoyable afternoon. Patrick and Stephanie were very friendly and chatted to everyone on the tours. Kudos to them for doing a great job!

The gardens are in great shape and whoever tends to them is doing an excellent job.

The grounds are big so even if there are a lot of people, it’s quite peaceful.

The Not so good points:

There is no car park for castle visitors so you must park on the street which is pay parking. It is only 50 cent for one hour but for low budget tourists, this could well be the difference between a visit or lack thereof.

The information is only in English or Irish so speakers of other languages bight find it difficult.

Worth a visit?

Definately. This is a great way to spend an afternoon and find out more about Roscrea. You can find out more information on either roscreaonline.com or heritageireland.com. Or simply visit the tourist information office located beside the castle.

*If I made any mistakes in my information, please leave me a comment correcting it.

*You can find out more about Heritage week on www.heritageweek.ie

*My photos can also be found on my Instagram site “backhomeinireland”