Always remember the umbrella. You would think that by now, I wouldn’t forget. I can tell you that after my morning at Birr Castle, my umbrella found its way permanently into the camera bag.
My first full day in County Offaly and I decided to take is a bit slow. My first week was a ‘runner’, and while thoroughly enjoyed, it is a pace that I do not want to continue for another two weeks. This is going to be my time to better explore the Midlands; check out what is around the corner and down the side road.
My single goal was Birr Castle in Birr, County Offaly. Actually, Birr Castle Demesne (or castle grounds) is the agenda. Birr Castle is still an active residence and only open for a
few months in the summer. It was an easy drive from Tullamore, along N52. Once to Birr, it was easy to follow the signs to a car park (paid), located outside of the castle walls.
As I approached the entrance courtyard, it was very obvious that I was in a different part of the country and that fall was settling in. Okay … my real thought … where are all the people? While I hope for economic success for Ireland’s tourism industry, a day or two off from the crowds is a treat. My time at Birr Castle was peaceful and allowed for some time to ‘catch my breath.’
- Ireland’s Historical Science Centre – Located in the restored stables, a science centre allows you to step back in time to the 1800’s when the Birr Castle was an important part of the scientific discovery. A large portion of the centre focuses on the creation of a large telescope.
- The Great Telescope – Built in the 1840’s, this telescope is located on the castle grounds. It is a ‘reflecting’ telescope; the world’s largest when it was built and still operates today.
- Gardens – There are a variety of gardens located throughout the castle grounds. The formal gardens were beginning to experience fall’s transformation, but were still enjoyable to walk through. The terrace gardens framed the castle nicely. The boxed hedges are 300 years old.
- Birr Castle – While a castle has been located on these grounds since the 12th, the current structure dates to the early 1600’s. Renovations in the early 1880’s gave Birr Castle its gothic appearance that is evident today.
Back to the gardens and the umbrella. I had been watching the weather. It was wavering between a ‘chance of rain’ and a ‘chance of sun’ all morning. I was being hopeful by leaving my umbrella in the car. As I started to take photos by the castle, it was looking more like rain than sun. Before I could get a couple of photos in, it began to sprinkle. No umbrella and a bit of a walk to the entrance, I was hoping it was going to pass. When sprinkles turned into a soft rain, I decided I needed to do something. Off to the side was a large pine tree with a bench around its trunk … I headed that direction.
What followed was one of the most peaceful and enjoyable 40 minutes of my trip. The pine was heavy enough that it kept most of the rain away. With nowhere to go, I simply sat there and enjoyed the moment. When I started to get impatient it was only a few minutes before the sun came out.