The organisers of the Great Game Fairs of Ireland consider that a real Irish Game Fair must not only have a site that not
only enhances the event but is also centrally located and have good road access for visitors. They consider that in Shanes
Castle and Birr Castle the organisers consider that they have traditional venues that reflect the ethos of the fairs – that of
bringing country sports, conservation and agricultural interests together for the sustainable development of the countryside
and the preservation of the rural way of life. They consider that the venues compare very favourably with any Game Fair venue
in the UK or Europe.
The organising team were delighted that Lord and Lady Rosse were happy to host the Irish Game and Country Fair at their home
in Birr Castle Demesne from 2007 onwards. They are extremely proud of the Demesne which boasts stunning natural
landscapes of 120 acres with five miles of walking paths including a lake, rivers and waterfall. Noted for being the only one
in the country featured in Ferioli's 'Great Gardens of Europe,' Birr Castle Demesne also has stunning formal gardens, which
feature the world's tallest box hedges and magnificent hornbeam archways.
As Fair Director Director Philip Lawton stated "We consider Birr Castle to be a perfect location to stage such an event not
only because of its central location in the ROI but because we consider that the demesne provides a rather magical backdrop
to launch a national Irish Fair focused on what is best in the Irish Countryside. Apart from the many country lifestyle and
medieval attractions that we will bring to Birr that weekend there are so many "in house" attractions on the estate to
entertain the large crowds that we expect to attend."
The Castle and the family
Birr Castle has been the private home to the Earls of Rosse and their family for over 400 years, and the lifetime achievements
of this very academic dynasty are revealed in a number of attractions on the estate including Ireland's Historic Science Centre
at the Demesne and the tree and plant collections in the award winning gardens. The famous 56-foot long 'Great Telescope,'
built by the Third Earl in the 1840's, is a historical landmark to Birr; and now fully restored, it sits in the centre of the
Game Fair site. These unforgettable attractions are set in one of Ireland's beautiful Georgian heritage towns, offering fun,
relaxation and discovery to all who visit
Fair Directors Albert Titterington and David Wilkinson
present Lord & Lady Rosse with the
limited edition print celebrating 30 years of Irish Game Fairs
There has been a Norman castle on this site since 1170. From the 14th to the 17th century the O' Carroll family ruled from here and the territory was known as Ely O' Carroll The castle was granted to Sir Lawrence Parsons in 1620 and it is still the private family home of the Parsons family.
The Grounds and the Gardens
The grounds evolved from the parkland of oak and beech trees of the 17th century; of the same period are the Box Hedges which form part of the formal gardens. The 18th century is characterised by the creation of the lake and planting around this area.The 19th century saw the building of the Suspension Bridge and the development of the Fernery and the Fountain, the Waterfall and the Winter Garden. The 20th century saw the creation of the Arboretum, the River Garden, the terraces and herbaceous borders around the castle, the seed and plant expeditions abroad and the development of glass houses for propagation. Of the same period is the development of the formal gardens based on 17th century Bavarian design. The wildflower meadows are left uncut until July to ensure that the wild flowers seed and naturally regenerate.
The Great Telescope
Constructed here at Birr Castle in the 1840's by the third Earl of Rosse, this was the largest telescope for over 70 years and attracted astronomers from all over the world. Through the Great Telescope the 3rd Earl discovered the Whirlpool nebula in the 1840's. The telescope looks and moves just as it did over 150 years ago and demonstrations are held daily
Ireland's Historic Science Centre
This is housed in the newly restored Stable Block designed by Mary Rosse in the 1850's. At that time and up until this century, the stables housed the castle coaches, the horses and up to 30 grooms. The centre shows the many pioneering achievements of the Parsons family and of other great Irish scientists in the fields of astronomy, photography, engineering and horticulture.
Natural rivers and lake combine with formal gardens
to make Birr Demesne a magical venue for a Fair
Other Attractions in the Demesne include:
The Ice House : The early 19th century ice house is an underground cold room which was used to store ice and meat for use in the castle
throughout the year. The ice was taken from the lake during the winter or bought from an ice merchant. It was the principal means of food
preservation up until the end of the 1900's; The Rivers Camcor, Little Brosna and the Lake : his originally was a swamp. During the early
19th century the Second Earl created the present lake. He diverted the flow of the River Camcor to its present bed, increased the level of
the lake by bringing water from upstream through a system of canals and tunnel which allowed the silt to settle so filling the lake with
clear water. At the exit of the lake his son installed a water wheel which enabled drainage of low land areas; The Fernery: Ferneries were
fashionable during Victorian times. This one was created in the last century using stone from the local Slieve Bloom mountains. The fountain
in the midst of the fernery springs from a four holed pipe and is powered by gravity as the water falls from the lake to the stream; Box
Hedges: The Box Hedges are over 300 years old. According to the Guinness Book of Records they are the tallest in the world. They would have
formed part of a garden layout by Sir William Parsons in the mid 17th century and The Formal Gardens: The formal layout was designed by the
present Earl's mother to mark her marriage in 1935, in the form of a monastic cloister with windows looking inward. The great white seats at
either end were designed by Anne, countess of Rosse with the crossed initials of herself and her husband Michael, the 6th Earl of Rosse. The
two urns in the centre of the garden are from Bavaria and are 300 years old. For Further details see www.birrcastle.com
In the heart of Co. Offaly lies the beautiful old market town of Birr. Distinguished as one of Ireland's Georgian Heritage towns, and home to the magnificent Birr Castle Demesne. It is a perfect location to provide the “Town meets Country” theme of the Irish Game and Country Fair.
The town has stayed true to its 18th and 19th Century character, with tree-lined malls and avenues and wonderful Georgian Architecture. The narrow main street retains its beautiful shop fronts. The carefully preserved architecture, contrasted by the bustle and vibrancy of its old streets, bars & fine restaurants make it a gem amongst Irish towns.
Birr Castle is the private home of the Parsons family. The Demesne has become world famous for its exotic tree and plant collections, rivers and lake, formal gardens, terraces and wildflower meadows exuding an atmosphere of intimacy as well as grandeur. The Gardens extend across 120 acres of 17th Century Park whose sweeping open spaces are adorned by an outstanding collection of 2000 species of rare trees and shrubs including the tallest Box Hedges in the world. A prominent feature in the centre of the Park is The Great Telescope built in 1845; the largest in the world for over 70 years.
A diverse range of activities and attractions is on offer in Co.Offaly, with something to capture everybody's interest. During the two days of the Irish Game and Country Fair, visitors can also enjoy The All Ireland Fleadh in nearby Tullamore. This national festival of Irish traditional music provides a platform and a meeting place for over 20,000 musicians, who carry on the great tradition of playing and cherishing our music, songs and dance.
The local Little Brosna and Camcor Fishing Club are into another fishing season of intense activity and achievement. The Camcor River rises on the western slopes of the Slieve Bloom Mountains and is the primary tributary of the Little Brosna River where it joins at the Castle Demesne in Birr Town. The river receives migratory runs of large Lough Derg Trout, locally known as CRONEEN (a unique species to the Birr area) on route to spawn.
Birr has also a very active Gun Club. St Brendan's Game Conservation Club (St Brendan's GCC) or better known locally as the “Birr Gun Club” was formed in 1971 by local men and women interested in the conservation of wildlife and its habitat, while promoting the sport of Game Hunting. The club members actively practise conservation through the rearing and release of game species such as pheasant, mallard, partridge, etc. They also control pest species, which cause crop damage and predators, which prey on livestock, game and other wild life species. St Brendan's long and continuing success is due to the support of the local community in particular 'landowners'. St Brendan's is affiliated to the NARGC (National Association of Regional Game Councils) through its membership of the ORGC (Offaly Regional Game Council).
The area offers an array of breathtaking inland scenery with large tracks of bogland, rolling hills, meandering waterways and a wonderful tapestry of Irish farmland and forestry, while the town of Birr offers the complete package. From an extensive range of quality accommodation, leisure activities, and restaurants, to equestrian, golf, walking, fishing, cruising on the River Shannon in Banagher and its own Theatre and Arts Centre. Birr has it all, with a friendly reception assured.
The Irish Game & Country Fair at Birr Castle promises to be another spectacular event for Birr in addition to the many attractions the area has to offer. The Fair with its wide range of attractions, competitions, activities and displays that will not only appeal to hunting, shooting and fishing enthusiasts but all those live work or play in the Irish Countryside.
For further details of what Birr , Co Offaly and the Midlands have to offer visitors or to book accommodation visit : www.midirelandtourism.ie
Mid Ireland Tourism
Brendan Street, Birr, Co.Offaly