Offaly or King’s County was planted with English settlers beginning in the 16th century. In 1620 Birr Castle , a stronghold of the O’Carrolls, became the seat of the Parson dynasty, the Earls of Rosse, who also gave their name to Parsonstown now known as Birr. We visited the gardens of Birr Castle Demesne. A Demesne is a piece of land attached to a manor and retained by the owner for their own use. It was very interesting. This was the only place we visited where the information was in English only and the only place where we saw or heard any interest in the coronation. It was being broadcast live and the young women at the counter were furtively glancing at the TV. There was no other interest at all. As a confirmed republican I was quite chuffed.
The castle is surrounded by a dry moat and is open to the public via the occasional tour. The gardens were beautiful and we enjoyed the walk. There is a very impressive telescope built in 1845 by William Parsons which remained the largest optical telescope in the world for more than five decades.
Our accommodation was in Athboy, a small town to the east of Dublin airport. It was Saturday and the hotel, Darnley Lodge, was quite busy. Children all dressed up, girls in white tulle, it was curious. Turned out it was a big weekend for Holy Communion. On our arrival our host enquired as to why we might be in Athboy, ‘You’d be seeing family, I suppose?’ No actually we have chosen this hotel because of its proximity to the airport. She thought that was hilarious. We were not so delighted when we discovered our twin room was in the attic. No, not really but it was on the third floor and the ceilings are very high in these old buildings. I joked that we’d be perfectly alright and I guaranteed she would hear our screams as as we fell. She immediately organised a sizeable gentleman to heft our bags up the monumental number of stairs.
We were a tad tired and decided easy was the best option. We didn’t even go out to explore the town. It was dinner in and so too a hearty breakfast before hitting the road. Sue calculated we could see Brú na Bóinne before heading to the airport. She had been there last century and was amazed by the changes. Who would have figured? It is a single massive site, consisting of spectacular prehistoric passage tombs of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth which were built circa 3200BC. It really was spectacular! For anyone wanting to see this incredible place it is essential to book- well in advance. The tours are limited to 650 people per day and take two hours plus. We paid to see the visitors centre. The whole place is jus stunning.
We made it to the airport with time to spare and then I missed the turn into the car rental place and then I parked in the wrong area and then we had to wait for a shuttle bus. Then Sue had a panic attack when she thought she had lost her phone and our amazingly cool composure just vanished. We arrived at terminal 1, two, old and frazzled ladies and settled down with a cuppa. Next stop Edinburgh.