This is a real, honest-to-God inhabited Irish castle.
Transplanted in 1620 from the UK, the Parson’s family has inhabited the area of Birr, County Offaly, ever since. The family has distinguished themselves with impressive scientific and artistic achievements and today their Castle Demesne stands on some impressive grounds where what was once the world’s largest telescope keeps company with Ireland’s only Sequoia Redwood tree among many other botanical wonders.
I took occasion to visit Birr Castle recently with the in-laws and found the museum and grounds to definately be worth a daytrip. You can’t tour the castle itself (it is inhabited and a tour would be tantamount to touring someone’s home), but the museum deposits you out onto the grounds which you are free to wander at your leisure.
The museum is a fascinating trip through industrial-age wonders including early examples of steam-power and many other mechanical inventions. The leviathon telescope, which was the world’s largest for more than 3/4 of a century, is the highlight and the fully restored telescope is out on the grouds for viewing.