Brendan House & Tin Jug Studio is in the heart of Birr. It is close to Birr Castle gardens & Historic Science Centre, as well as the town's charming shops and very good cafés. It is the home of an artist/writer and a poet/journalist. This is the 'secret' B&B of Birr, with no sign outside the door and no hoards of people staying. Guests have said and written that they felt very relaxed and welcome in this bohemian and elegant Georgian house, filled with art and antiques. It has the advantage of being in the centre of town yet usually, very quiet at night.
Creative, and a few famous folk have stayed, from musicians and composers to dancers and poets. There are three lovely period-style rooms: an antique four-poster (double) and two single rooms with canopied and cushioned beds. Each room has its own wash-handbasin (one from Morocco) but guests share one unusual bathroom. The bath was the second installed in a home in Birr in the 19th century. It was renovated to its original, rich and marbelled colours, discovered under flaking white paint.
It is a very personalized experience to stay here, with little hints of luxury. We offer treats such as breakfast brought to your room (free of charge), and a candlelit, scented bath (with champagne as an extra!) Find sketch books and pencils in each room for drawing or writing. The guest wing corridor has been painted and decorated as if an Arabian tent, with shelves of books on travel. There are masks and lots of pictures with images of foreign places, and a silver tray has all you need for a cup of refreshing herbal tea at any time.
There have been many compliments about our breakfasts, some written into the visitors book, such as, 'The best we've had, anywhere'. Much of the food served is local, organic and home-made, and presented with attention to the visual as much as to the flavours and variety offered. Breakfast options can be large or small; hearty or healthy.
When the drawing room fire and candles are lit, it is a wonderful room to relax in. Occasionally an informal dinner is served (with advance booking) such as Rozzie's Casseroles of Lamb in Cider or Beef with Guinness, etc. There are no televisions but a good selection of DVDs of Hollywood and vintage films as well as Russian, French, Japanese classics and opera, favourite old TV series, comedy and children's films, etc.
Tin Jug Studio, our arts studio and gallery, is open to the public on occasions for art exhibitions, poetry readings and film screenings, as well as seasonal, weekly art classes for children. Art classes for 'total beginner' adults can be booked - from one up to three people maximum - for a unique, encouraging two hours tuition in Still Life, etc. The studio is also available at certain times of the year for tourists budget, self-catering/semi-self-catering accommodation (maximum 2 people, for up to 4 nights) with an optional experience of sleeping in an original Irish Settle Bed in the gallery. (A free whiskey included!) The studio is also available during the Summer months to artists who wish to work and stay in Birr for a week.)
What's to see and experience in and around Birr? Many things, including theatre, visits to ancient castles and monasteries, the bogs and Sculpture Park, churches with glorious Harry Clarke windows. Lots of outdoorsy stuff such as hillwalking in the Slieve Blooms, cycling, horse-riding and trekking, etc., etc. etc. A custom 'little bus tour' with an excellent guide will extend your tourism experience on day or half-day trips. Depending on the night, or the time of the year there are also excellent traditional music nights, Irish lessons and an Irish conversation circle, art tuition en plein air, art studio visits, and plenty more.
The guest rooms are on the 1st floor (that is one flight of stairs up!) There is access to the Drawing Room but limited access to the Dining Room (only when there are multiple bookings). Breakfast is brought upstairs at no extra charge. (Please see the other descriptions to get an idea of what to do and see around Birr and its environs. Or drop me an e-mail if you have a specific question.
Interaction with Guests
Staying here is more about relaxing rather than lots of chatting, but of course that is up to you! We are keen to make sure that you feel welcomed in Birr and that your experience will make you want to recommend our beautiful town and region to others. We'll enjoy your company, but are happiest to ensure you feel completely at ease to absorb the calming atmosphere. We can be of help to answer questions and guide you about 'where to go' and 'what to see'. The choices are yours.
I love a great deal about our 'neighbourhood'...where to start?
Though I may add more later, might I begin by extolling the virtues of this small, midlands heritage town. Not just for its friendly, diversely interesting and some a touch eccentric people; but also for the attractive architecture, the cultural joys of our theatre, the lovely parks and the proximity to such beautiful walks by the river, and in the mountains close by.
SOME OTHER GREAT THINGS about Birr.
Are you a 'foodie'? Apart from the much-praised breakfasts at Brendan House and Tin Jug Studio, here's more temptation for you to come:
1) Offaly Specialities include: Mossfield Cheeses and yoghurt, Kilbeggan Organic Porridge Oats), Coolfin House organic breads, Slieve Bloom Foods - preserves, conserves and Offaly Cranberries (sauces, chutneys etc.) And of course delicious local organic vegetables. The Organic Store on Main Street stocks most of the above. For the sweet-toothed, try Birr Bakes, for sale at Horan's Day Break (website hidden) There is also a new beer - rather nice, even for those who say they don't like beer - Bo Bristle from Banagher and of course the famous Tullamore Dew and Kilbeggan Whiskies.
2) Wild Food Mary - Mary Bulfin gathers wonderful harvests from around her country home and garden, and she cooks utterly delicious vegetarian dishes. These can be purchased on Fridays (see 'Friday Foodies' on (website hidden)) after Meditations at NOva, or ordered direct.
3) Newly opened Spinners on Castle Street (bistro/bar and restaurant) serves superb lunches and dinners, using local produce. (This is where the Cuban Ambassador and his wife were treated to the Civil Lunch in honour of their day-trip to Birr.)
4) In its second year, the renovated and enlarged Castle Courtyard Café is serving delicious and healthy breakfasts and lunches - and of course scones and cakes, all 'home-cooked' in their castle courtyard kitchen.
5) Brambles Café is owned and run by country people who know how to cook really tasty food, from good soups to sauseage rolls and such 'yummacious' sweet things. A choice of fine coffees, and so much more. Well worth seeking out this great little place, off the main thoroughfare. (This is where the 'cook' at Brendan House buys the Quail and Duck eggs for breakfasts!)
6) The best sauseages and rashers in town are available at Dwyer's Butchers - and a banter with Paul is memorable.
There are busses direct to Birr from Dublin and Galway (Kearns and Bus Eireann). They are reliable but not frequent. Trains run to Tullamore (regularly) and Roscrea (infrequently) but that means getting a taxi to Birr...not cheap! (For taxi contact numbers, e-mail Rosalind). Or if you own a small plane, the airfield is only a few minutes from central Birr!
When you are here, you can rent a good bike from Velo and go sightseeing! For sightseeing further afield, we recommend Leslie & Breda Parsons who have a small bus company. They do excellent guided tours, as well as ferrying people to and from the superb Slieve Bloom Traditional Music Sessions (Wednesday nights.)
Other Things to Note
Other Benefits of staying at Brendan House!
Paying guests at Brendan House receive a discount on the entry price for Birr Castle Demesne & Historic Science Centre. Just ask Rosalind about the details!
No smoking in the bedrooms please - only in the Drawing Room, when the fire is lit for an evening's relaxation. (Cigars or pipe preferred.)
No takeaways in the bedrooms please.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome - please bring their own blankets for the floor. (We have two dogs and a (email hidden)d the occasional visiting dogs!)
Stay here and you could give this host their first review!