Ireland Day 2: Birr Castle, Tullamore Dew and Killbeggan Distilleries

The morning we are up eating breakfast at 7:30am. Its a usual continental breakfast in which we fill up, and make our way onto our private motor coach for our first excursion – a trip to Birr Castle, Tullamore Dew and Kilbeggan Distilleries.

It was a cozy and sleepy drive in along highway and beautiful, gray countryside. Sheep graze in the fields as we wiz by beautiful farms. We travel two hours to our first stop – Birr (pronounced like “burrrrr!”) Castle.

Birr Castle includes a breathtaking estate of the Parsons Family, with included castle, mote, elaborate gardens and exotic plants, and extraordinary feats of science and engineering as it had a beautifully done science center and ‘The Great Telescope.’

We walk in the charming courtyard of the visitor’s center in which we first proceed through the Historic Science Center. Eight galleries of extensive exhibitions, showcasing the inventions and achievements of the Parsons family in the sciences of astronomy, photography and engineering.

After the museum, I team up with Rose, as we have an hour and a half to continue exploring the estate grounds. We walk first over to the Formal Gardens. Designed by Anne, 6th Countess of Rosse to celebrate her marriage to the 6th Earl, Michael, in 1935, these gardens include incredible hornbeam arches that you can walk through. Precisely trimmed hedges and shrubs border trees and late fall flowers decorate the walkways as we make our way through the lush gardens. Its a grey day in the 60s, which makes it the perfect day to spend tucked away in this intimate courtyard.

We cut across the estate and even do a small walking trail through the ‘Whirlpool Spiral’. A plantation of lime trees were planted in the shape of the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy in 1995, marking the 150th anniversary of the 3rd Earl of Rosse discovering the spiral nature of the galaxy with The Great Telescope.

Built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1845, The Great Telescope is our next stop, having been the biggest telescope in the world for over 70 years. Using this telescope, the earl discovered the Whirlpool Nebule, which was the very first hint at the existence of other galaxies.

This was a massive telescope built into the ground with matching stone and cable system, allowing him to change the telescope’s angle. The lens itself was engineered there at the workshop, all the while his wife, who was very passionate about photography, beautifully documented its design and use over time.

After snapping a few photos, we venture down the riverside and enjoy the Suspension Bridge. This is the oldest wrought iron suspension bridge in Ireland, having been built in 1820 in the original Birr Castle Workshops.

A babbling river runs past the side of the castle, and a little venture further, and we see a gorgeous little waterfall flowing. Such a beautiful view we were not expecting to see!

We meet back at the main building for a refreshing lunch of carrot and coconut soup, egg salad and ham sandwiches, followed by pecan cake and lemon cakes for dessert. It was the perfect amount of food to be shared with friends!

30-minutes down the road is Tullamore Dew Distillery. A quick tour through their warehouse, as Jasmine gives us a lively and fun tour of how Tullamore Dew is founded and made. They even have a ‘master blender’ on staff who’s job it is to smell the whiskey all day long and make sure all the batches taste the same. How does one get this job? Well, it takes it at least 10-years training to become one. (Can I sign up? Lol.)

We enjoy a particularly fun room with a ‘perfume organ’ in which we can experience all the different smalls incorporating into the whiskey, such as nodes of apple, caramel and spices. A unique and very cool addition!

For our tasting, we enjoy three different whiskeys – original, old bonded and a 12-year. All go down way too smoothly as we then finish the tour, make some purchases in the gift shop, and then on to our next tour.

Our last stop for the day is Kilbeggan Distillery. A very rustic and authentic building, we go straight into our whiskey tasting of three whiskeys, followed by a short, 15-minute tour. Kilbeggan is home to the oldest working distillery pot in the world. A beautiful way to end our excursion as we travel an hour and a half back to Dublin.

Once back in Dublin, four of us head down the street to Madigans Pub for dinner. We had the best waiter who gave us helpful directions to bars afterwards and even gave us a little bite back whenever we ordered in the funniest way! I ordered a Guinness and fish and chips and it was absolutely perfect!

After dinner, we walked over to the famous Temple Bar to meet the entire group for drinks after dinner. We enjoyed the upbeat and bustling night pub life as there was live music playing and drinks all around!

A small group of us left to finish the night at The Porterhouse Temple Bar around the corner for some flights and good conversation. The night concludes with a cool, windy walk back to the hotel.

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