Historical houses & gardens
BIRR CASTLE DEMESNE – A GLORIOUS CENTRE OF SCIENCE AND HORTICULTURE
The gardens at Birr are set in a landscape of 50 hectares and contain some of the largest and rarest tree species found in Ireland. The gardens have a rich history attached to them. They were originally landscaped around the lake in the eighteenth century by Sir William Parsons, and over the generations of the Parsons family the demesne has increased in beauty and interest. The demesne is also home to Ireland’s historic Science centre, where visitors may travel back to the time to when Birr Castle was a hub of scientific discovery and innovation. Private visits to the castle, hosted by Lord & Lady Rosse can be arranged for groups.
Kilkenny Castle - in the heart of the medieval city
Kilkenny Castle stands dramatically on a strategic height that commands a crossing on the River Nore and dominates the 'High Town' of Kilkenny City. Over the eight centuries of its existence, many additions and alterations have been made to the fabric of the building, making Kilkenny Castle today a complex structure of various architectural styles.
The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (c.1146-1219) during the first decade of the thirteenth century. Kilkenny Castle later became the principal Irish residence of the powerful Butler family for almost 600 years. The Butler ownership began when James (c.1360-1405), 3rd Earl of Ormond, purchased the castle in c.1391, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde (1893-1971), presented it to the people of Kilkenny in return for a token payment of £50.
EMO COURT – EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY MANSION AND LANDSCAPED GARDENS
Emo Court was designed by the architect James Gandon in 1790 for the Earls of Portarlington and is a magnificent example of the neoclassical style. During the middle of this century it was owned by the Jesuits, it was then acquired and extensively restored by Mr. Cholmeley-Harrison in the 1960s. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland which were first laid out in the eighteenth century and contain formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks with many fine trees and shrubs. The house and gardens were taken into State ownership in 1994.
Colonel William Hutchinson Poe commissioned the leading architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, to plan the gardens at Heywood. Known as 'The Italian Gardens,' they are the only example of Lutyens' work outside of Dublin. The gardens were completed in 1912. They consist of formal gardens, lakes, woodland and architectural features, such as Gothic gates and artificial ruins, embellished with medieval pieces such as the window taken from Aghaboe Abbey. The gardens in Heywood remained as structurally intact as they were when they were completed at the turn of the century.