One thing you realise pretty quickly when you travel around Ireland is not only is it very very green, with very friendly people, it also has a lot of castles.
Over the years I’ve lost count of how many castles I’ve visited in Ireland but after our Le Boat trip on the Shannon I visited one that had something none of the others had: a giant telescope with a special place in history.
The Great Telescope was built in the 1840s by the Third Earl of Rosse and was the largest telescope in the world for more than 70 years. It is here he discovered the spiral nature of certain nebulae and helped them be identified as galaxies.
People came from all over the world to look through this incredible telescope which still works today, although only a few special people are allowed to use it on certain occasions.
I may not have been able to look through it, but simply looking at it was awe inspiring enough, thinking about the love and dedication that went into creating it.
As well as being caught up in the magic of the Great Telescope I loved the gardens at Birr Castle which are filled with rare plants, and the castle itself.
As we took a tour of the castle we discovered that our tour guide also had another job.
Damian Harte was working at Birr Castle as a tour guide when he had the chance to become the butler. While he embraced the new role, he wanted to keep doing tours to share the castle’s history and interesting tales.
Before the end of the tour I just knew I had to ask him ten questions. Over to you, Damian….
What’s the best thing about your job?
I find every part of my job enjoyable, from setting the table to guiding tours. While most days start off routinely, preparing Lady and Lord Rosse’s breakfast, opening up the castle with general maintenance checks, going for the newspaper, during the summer guiding tours and serving lunches take up most of my time.
If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?
My job and the roles I do are always changing, like most modern workplaces, so I try to fit in with the seasonal changes.
What’s something about your role that you wish people understood?
I work as part of a team which tries to make everyone’s visit here enjoyable.
What’s your favourite thing to do on your day off?
I enjoy traveling and just being part of the crowd. I love Westport and Dublin.
What’s a cheap and cheerful food secret you (usually) only tell your friends?
Cook for the person. What they like and how they might encourage a friend to help cook gives an insight to what and the way they enjoy food.
If money was no object, where would you go for lunch or dinner?
BBQ in the gardens in the evening, the setting sun just adds the extra touch. The best spot being the boathouse. Dooley’s Hotel and Kelly’s Bar are great locally.
Where do you take a friend when they come to visit?
Each part of the estate is beautiful, so depending on the season and time of day.
What’s the best shopping experience in town?
The town covers nearly every shoppers needs.
Is there a local tourist cliché that’s actually worth doing?
Clonmacnoise and Lough Boora Parklands
Is there a tourist attraction nearby that you can’t believe you still haven’t visited yourself?
Emo Court as I hear they have a great tour guide there.
Amanda met Damian Harte when she visited Birr Castle in Ireland.
Heading to Ireland? Tourism Ireland’s website has some great tips to inspire you or you may like to check out my stories about taking a self drive Le Boat trip down the Shannon, and why Belfast is such a great city to visit.