The Great Game Fairs of Ireland

Country Sports & Country Life

Failte Ireland

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TThe objective of the Great Game Fairs of Ireland is to organise events with real family appeal for all those who live work or play in the Irish countryside.

Horse & Hounds parade at Birr
Horse & Hounds parade at Birr

Apart from the fantastic in situ attractions offered by the Birr Demesne including the world famous gardens, the largest tree house in Ireland and the revamped Science Gallery, the Fair has a wide range of competitions, displays, demonstrations, trade stands and exhibits to appeal to anyone who loves the Irish countryside and rural traditions.

Birr Castle Demesne

Full details of the attractions of the estate which is open to the public throughout the days of the fair can be seen on However estate manager Michael Parsons highlights a couple of recent innovations for visitors to enjoy:

"Birr Castle Gardens and Science Galleries

A Domain of Discovery
The Gardens of Birr Castle and the newly revamped Science Galleries are rich in flowers, rare trees, extraordinary feats of science and engineering and wonderful wildlife. The Parsons family invite you to explore one of the most extraordinary places in Ireland. Created over generations it is an environmental and scientific time capsule.

Tree house adventure area

Tree House
Tree House

This adventure area inside the Garden houses Ireland's largest tree house as well as picnic areas, a bouncy pillow, sand pits and dens there is a small additional charge for the treehouse.

Living History at the Fair

In 2014 medieval jousting was brought to Birr for the first time when the evocatively named Knights of the Damned team travelled from the UK to thrill kids of all ages with their take on the 'Knights Tale'. This year the Knights of North from the English/Scottish borders will thrill the crowds in the shadows of the castle battlements.

It is thought that the present Birr Castle building was developed on the site of a previous tower house and bawn probably built by the Anglo-Normans. Birr Castle became a stronghold of the O'Carrolls who are associated with many castles in South Offaly and North Tipperary and resisted domination by the Anglo Normans and other powerful neighbours.

Jousting with Knights of the Damned in 2014
Jousting with Knights of the Damned in 2014

The Knights of the North take the field in 2016
The Knights of the North take the field in 2016

And history is not only brought to life by the rattle of lance and sword on chain mail on shields and the thundering of hooves of horses but also through the Viking Village set up under the battlements of the castle. The Viking theme has a resonance in Birr as it is thought that the Birr monastery was attacked by Vikings in 841AD.

Some of the Vikings
Some of the Vikings

The Viking theme is not only carried through in the village where families can interact with costumed re-enactors from Living History Ireland but also in the 'Have A Go' archery stands in the walled garden. Here families can 'have a go' with weapons of the period under the supervision of Cavan Instinctive Archery. Including being invited to slay the dragon

Sporting Organisations at the fair.

Quite uniquely the Fair is supported by all the main Hunting, Shooting, Fishing and Countryside organisations including the NARGC, FISSTA, CAI, IFA Countryside, CI, HAI, IWTF and the Deer Societies.

The main sporting organisations recognise the Irish Game & Country Fair status as the ROI's national game fair and we are delighted in facilitating them to take a strong promotional message not only to Ireland's country sports enthusiasts but also members of the public. Please do take time to visit the following organisations on their stands and also the many others who are exhibiting.


The NARGC is delighted to have the opportunity to sponsor the Main Arena Programme at the Irish Game & Country Fair 2017 in Birr Castle on the 26th and 27th of August next. The NARGC has been a big supporter of this event in Birr for many years and has consistently increased its association with and participation in the Fair over those years. As Ireland's largest game shooting and country sports organisation, the NARGC welcomes the opportunity to meet its many members who attend the Fair over the two days and to impart specialist knowledge on varying aspects of hunting and shooting. In addition, information on game rearing, trapping and grouse management will also loom largely. There will be a wild bird display which is always a winner, especially with the Fairs' young enthusiasts who always find pheasants, partridge and suchlike especially exciting.

All organs of the NARGC will be represented at the Fair.

Quite apart from the focussed activities of the NARGC itself, there will also be a number of commercial outlets in the NARGC Stand this year, as before. The finishing touches are currently being put in place for those who wish to acquire display space to exhibit and sell their wares.

We will be delighted to welcome all field-sports enthusiasts to the NARGC Marquee located along the front of the main arena which, like in previous years, will be in excess of 35 metres long and where our NARGC personnel will provide expert advice on the benefits of the Association in their many facets. If you come to Birr this year, be sure to pop in to the NARGC Marquee where you will not alone receive the traditional welcome experienced in previous years but where also, you will meet old acquaintances, make new friendships and truly feel that you are a meaningful part of the wonderful organisation the NARGC is.

The Busy NARGC Tent
The Busy NARGC Tent

at The Irish Game & Country Fair at Birr Castle

Countryside Alliance Ireland (CAI) is once again delighted to be exhibiting at the Irish Game and Country Fair at Birr Castle on 26 and 27 August. The fair gives CAI the ideal opportunity to showcase the organisation's work while engaging with members, potential members and the public in general.

The CAI marquee will this year host the Wild Deer Association of Ireland with their collection of heads and deer stalking equipment, renowned Irish stickmaker, Tom Kavanagh, with his impressive display of hand crafted sticks, Kildare Regional Game Council and renowned taxidermist Mick Dunne.

CAI Chief Executive, Lyall Plant, comments: "The Irish Game and Country Fair at Birr Castle is the perfect forum for CAI to meet and chat with our members and supporters. With fieldsports, foods and a superb atmosphere all coming together in one of the country's most stunningly beautiful locations, the Fair offers something for everyone who loves the countryside and rural way of life.

We are delighted to have a significant presence and to play such a vital part."

The CAI team relishes the opportunity to get out and about to speak with fellow country sports enthusiasts face to face, so please do come along to the CAI marquee where a warm welcome is guaranteed!

Lyall Plant , Chief Executive  CAI
Lyall Plant, Chief Executive CAI

The Federation of Irish Salmon & Sea Trout Anglers Conaidhm na Slat Iascairí Bradáin agus Breac Geal

The Chairman of FISSTA - Ireland's Premier Angling body - Mr. Paul Lawton, is delighted to announce once again their participation in the Irish Game Fair at the very special venue of BIRR CASTLE.

Paul Lawton said: "Angling generates over €800m. and supports 10,000 rural jobs to the economy (source TDI) and Birr Game Fair has played their part in promoting this vitally important country sporting business at this time every year in our mid season.

"This annual event is the highlight of our country sports season where we meet our angling fraternity to discuss and monitor the mid season salmon and sea-trout runs and returns from the great salmon and sea-trout rivers of Ireland. It is a very special time for FISSTA to promote the salmon youth angling programmes which are run by over 80 clubs on the island."

FISSTA National Secretary, Noel Carr said: "For the past few years we had all our members assisting in our many campaigns to conserve our wild salmon and sea-trout and in particular to stop the mega salmon farms planned by the state run BIM which, if granted a licence would wipe out our wild fisheries.

"Thanks to the support of the Great Game Fairs of Ireland and the Irish Country Sports Magazine who gave us access to this huge country sports audience attending Birr Game Fair, we are delighted that the application was withdrawn six months after last years Birr Castle Game Fair. It is events such as these that gives our angling and country sports the focus and impetus to intensify our campaigns and to bring them to successful fruition."

Everything For Angling & Angling Enthusiasts

Anglers from all the main rivers and clubs of Ireland now gather in Birr to participate at The Irish Game Fair at Birr Castle to meet and exchange notes on developments in salmon and sea-trout angling and conservation. The fair has built up a huge following over the past few years as a venue where clubs and businesses can promote their brand of sport angling to a fast growing market of angling enthusiasts who are planning and placing bookings for the 2017 season. This is where all issues are raised and addressed by club members who travel to what is now Ireland's premier country sports event in the countryside calendar for anglers. The Great Game Fairs of Ireland partnered with the premier magazine Irish Country Sports and Country Life which features our quarterly newsletter allows us to spread the FISSTA message of angling to a very broad country sports fraternity who support us in our everyday work. We are most grateful to Albert Titterington his excellent team at the fair and magazine for providing such professional fora and for their fulsome support and cooperation in helping FISSTA to bring salmon and sea-trout angling to a wider public.

FISSTA Stand at Birr Fair - Newcomers Fishing Advice

The FISSTA stand is hosting a one-stop advice centre where newcomers can get the following information and guidance;

  1. WHERE TO FISH - where the nearest fishing is available - directions on how to access angling in your area eg salmon and sea-trout especially
  2. HOW TO START - and what tackle shop near you can supply you with the equipment needed to get started
  3. JOIN FISSTA CLUB LOCALLY - who can advise further - both at the show and in your local area.
  4. WHO WILL HELP - where to get tuition - both at the show and in your local area.
  5. WHAT YOU NEED - what equipment you will need and whose stands to visit at the show.
  6. READ MORE ON ANGLING - what to read up on where to get the books.
  7. LEARN TO FLY-CAST ON HOLIDAY - where to fish and stay on an Irish angling holiday river.

FISSTA will be on hand at the Birr Game Fair to inform and respond to any questions you might have regarding angling on Irish rivers and lakes.


This is the fourth year that the Irish Working Terrier Federation (I.W.T.F.) will be fully involved at Birr Castle, giving the I.W.T.F. the ideal opportunity to display their commitment to their work while engaging with all those in attendance at this prestigious country sports event.


"Our goal is of a vital, working and thriving working terrier service for the benefit of the farming and mainstream hunting communities. Through campaigning, lobbying, publicity and education we influence legislation and public policy that impacts on the working terrier world and rural activities. The Irish Game Fairs at Shanes Castle and Birr Castle are the perfect forum for the I.W.T.F. to meet and engage with our members and supporters".

The Salmon & Woodcock Pavilion

The Salmon & Woodcock Pavilion hosts quite a few of the sporting and angling bodies including Inland Fisheries Ireland, DAERA Fisheries Division, FISSTA, APGAI Ireland, Irish Working Terrier Federation, plus the Woodcock Group and internationally acclaimed artist John R Moore and taxidermist Ingrid Houwers.

John has produced the painting of two of Ireland's sporting icons Master Mc Grath and Mick the Miller to coincide with the launch of the Mick The Miller Challenge for traditional lurchers at Birr.

Mick the Miller


APGAII will be attending the Birr Game Fair with a programme of continuous workshops for casting and equipment plus fly dressing covering the hot topics of today's game angling scene. We will have a full complement of experienced coaches to create a number of interactive learning and discussion groups for the serious angler as well as a number of attractions for the young anglers with games and fly dressing competitions plus casting classes for young casters. We will be running a casting competition based around skill as opposed to distance with two levels "professional" and "amateur" with prizes of kit and equipment.

Joe Stitt and Arthur Greenwood of APGAI with some good reading material


The action packed arena programme of the Irish Game & Country Fair features one of the widest range of entertainment to be seen at any event in Ireland. Since 2007 the performance of the phenomenally well trained horses from the Cochise Stud has been one of the demonstrations of that thrilled the crowd.

Cochise Horses

This stud is run by Derek O'Byrne White the well known horse trainer, who has both entertained and awed crowds throughout Ireland with the results of his exceptional training skills and horsemanship. Derek will be at Birr again this year with those well trained horses including a mare which is just back in Ireland after being crowned Champion of Champions at the recent European Championships. The display of the agility of the Paso Fino horse is demonstrated beautifully by the unique 4 beat gait of this exceptional mount and anyone with an interest in horses cannot fail to be impressed.

Falconry at Birr

Faconry is one of the oldest of the countrysports with its beginnings stretching back to 2200 BC in the Far East, though it's true origins are unclear. It was brought to Europe by Germanic tribes who introduced it to Roman culture.

It thrived during the Middle Ages as both a method of hunting food (small game etc.) and as a sport in its own right among the nobles of the time. Falconry also flourished in the Middle East and Asia where the crusaders learned much from their Arab counterparts.

However in Europe in the late 18th century, with the advent of guns and their use in hunting, the sport dwindled and was limited to a few who continued the practice. The skill of the falconer and the amazing aerobatical prowess of the birds continues to inspire awe amongst Game Fair crowds.

This year we are fortunate to have John Carmichael from the NI School of Falconry with his team of assistant falconers to put on impressive free flying demonstrations and a large static exhibition.

In addition there will be a second static exhibition from the Irish Hawking club.


Wide range of trade stands for the whole family to enjoy including a Gunmakers Row; a Fisherman's Row and a Gundog Row - all bursting with products necessary for your sport.

Peter Gott
Mouthwatering Game Pies & Much More in the Fine food Festival

Plus country clothing and fashion to suit all tastes and pockets; a Craft Tent; Art Gallery; THE FLAVOUR IRELAND FINE FOOD FESTIVAL; Sporting Holidays; Renewable Energy; home & Garden equipment - in fact something to interest anyone who lives, works or plays in the Irish Countryside.


The tented village will have a number of works of art on display including major exhibit from John R Moore, who has produced the ionic painting of two of Ireland's greatest sporting legends Master McGrath and Mick the Miller.


Over a century ago one type of person made their living by keeping a wary eye out for the local village constable. Every rural county had at least one of these rogues - the poacher - who caused the local coppers no end of trouble.

Unafraid of the law or the judges who might well choose to send the poacher to jail or even to the colonies, he went his wily way on a 'shiny night' in an effort to put food on the table, or maybe even make a shilling in the process.

Steven McGonigal is keeping the traditional skills of the poacher alive with this unique act.

Stephen McGonigal shows Emma Cowan from the Flavour Fine Food Festival some of the gear he uses to acquire the rabbits that are used in the cookery demonstrations

Longnetting, with the help of his amazing little whippet towering over the nets in their attempt to catch coney is what Steven does best - legally of course - in an effort to reduce the rabbit population in infested areas of the countryside and help farmers protect their crops. He showcases this lost art alongside many of the poacher's long lost arts.

We have heard the poacher bragging 'no one can stop me especially a gamekeeper!' What he doesn't realise is that the keeper is in fact dangerous adversary just recently employed by his Lordship.

This is none other than the bucolic ,no nonsense and bewhiskered keeper known as 'Fast Hands Eddie Dash' - so named for his fame as bare knuckle fighter in his youth and for the fact that not only did he pack a fearsome punch in either hand but his hand speed was such that his opponents didn't see the punch coming. Although now slightly slower of hand and foot 'Fast Hands Eddie' is still rather fond of exacting summary justice with gnarled and rough hands or more often now with a pick axe handle on anyone caught poaching on his patch.

Fast Hands Eddie Dash

It's time to take the gloves off with regard to this slippery poacher. And how better way than to pit the former Bareknuckle Champion of Dalriada against the elusive poacher!

So if you ever had a hankering to see the wily ways of the poacher, all will be revealed at Birr - right under the nose of Fast Hands Eddie.

The All Ireland Stick Makers Championships

organised by the Celtic Stickmakers Club

The championship will take place at the Irish Game and Country Fair ,Birr Castle, Co Offaly on Sunday 27 August

Champion will win an engraved tankard to keep sponsored by Countryside Alliance Ireland The John Mc Clelland Memorial Perpetual Annual Trophy. Second place Rosettes in each class sponsored by the Celtic Stickmakers Club. Special Memorial Perpetual Trophy presented in memory of Philip Lawton for the best fancy stick. Philip was the club's first secretary.

Stick Classes

Judge: Bill Walker from Scotland

  1. Mountain Staff or Hill Walker : wood all horn including ram, buffalo, cow and antler
  2. Horn Thumbstick Plain
  3. Wood Thumbstick Plain
  4. Leg Cleek: horn, wood - one or two piece
  5. Horn Market Stick : ram, cow or goat, nose out
  6. Wood Market Stick : one or two piece, nose out
  7. Blackthorn Walker : horn or wood or plain
  8. Wood walker, one or two piece
  9. Fancy stick, any carved head, wood, horn or antler
  10. Crook, any horn, including ram, cow, goat, or buffalo
  11. Crook, wood, one or two piece
  12. Walker, any horn or antler head
  13. Horn market stick, buffalo nose out
  14. Market stick, nose in, any horn including, ram, cow, goat, and buffalo
  15. Wood Market stick, nose in, one or two piece
  16. Ornamental stick. Any carved stick, not necessary practical
  17. Novice horn head, plain or fancy
  18. Novice wood, any wood head, plain or fancy

For further details contact : Tom Kavanagh 057-8629068 E:

A Piece of Birr Castle History Brought to life

The Siege of Birr Castle in 1690

In September 1690 Birr Castle was besieged by Patrick Sarsfield and the Duke of Berwick fresh from their success at the siege of Limerick. Although they had a large force camped at Banagher the attack was carried out by 160 infantry and depending on accounts three or four field pieces - one of which blew up and one which remains outside Birr Castle today.

Sarsfield, who may even have previously been a guest in the castle had hoped it would be surrendered and did not wish to attack it but the Duke, the 20 year old illegitimate son of James II launched the attack.

According to the Castle archives "The infantry marched towards the castle.... colours flying , trumpets sounding , drums beating and bagpipes playing.... the besieged hoisted a bloody flag on top of the castle , being determined to hold out until relief arrived."

The Castle inhabitants held out valiantly even melting down the lead cistern to make bullets and their musket for proved quite successful against the attackers whereas the light cannon of the attackers were largely ineffectual against the castle's thick walls. Some lodged in the east flanker and are now displayed in the hall of the castle. The siege lasted for nearly three days and was eventually called off at sunset when news of a relief column caused Sarsfield to withdraw

Living History Ireland will recreate the siege of the castle on Sunday afternoon when Sarsfield's forces will attack the castle with cannon and muskets.

Attackers & defenders of the Castle
Attackers & defenders of the Castle

Get Up Close & Personal with International and Local Countrysports & Conservation Greats at Birr Castle Game Fair

Whether you're already a country sports enthusiast, or a complete novice aiming to learn about countrysports or conservation, we have the top people in their field at the Fair to help you 'up your game.' Well known international and national celebrities will be on hand, along with the very latest rising stars to offer help and advice on every aspect of 'the game.'


"In shooting we have Mike Yardley, a renowned broadcaster and writer, and practical shooting coach, and one of the best known personalities in the shooting world. Along with gunsmith Chis Symonds, Mike will be fitting guns and testing eye dominance at the show, using the unique methods that have led him to write two books on the subject.

Without doubt, a well fitted gun is essential to good shooting and may transform performance. Many struggle on for years with ill-fitting guns or eye-dominance issues not realising just how much they are impeding themselves. And now there is a unique opportunity to sort out your gun fit before the season commences. Mike will also be available to discuss all matters related to guns, shooting and competition as well."

Michael writes on guns and shooting for The Field and has acted as a design consultant to some of the most famous gunmakers as well making films with various television companies. His documentaries on John F. Kennedy and the Red Baron - where his vast technical knowledge of shooting is applied forensically - will have been seen by many. He has also been the voice of shooting many times when the sport is attacked in the media.

Albert Titterington said: "On the fishing side , we have possibly Ireland's most famous fisherman, Peter O'Reilly. Internationally acclaimed, Peter has been teaching fly-casting for nearly 30 years, in which time he has helped thousands of anglers to master the essential skills of fly tying, casting and fishing. Peter O'Reilly is one of Ireland's leading authorities on the trout and salmon fishing for which Ireland is justifiably famous. Peter will be there to provide the public with factual information on Irish game angling, as well as the flies to use and how to fish them. He is the author of four of the best respected books on angling in Ireland. Also in the line-up is former International Ladies World Champion Fly Caster, Glenda Powell, who will demonstrate flycasting in the Main Arena and give coaching lessons as well."


Turning to a less well known name internationally, but one already already hitting the headlines, Albert Tittering announced that that 19 - year old George Burdress, from Birr, with over ten years fly tying experience and twelve years of fly fishing experience was a new star to meet at the Fair:

Albert said; "George a professional fly tyer, a national journalist, as well as an Irish Ambassador for the Wild-Society App, whose main area of fly tying is traditional wet flies - Irish lough flies emergers and nymphs as well as lures.


"George has already attended the Irish Fly Fair and International Angling shows, as well the Angling Ireland Show and The Northwest Angling show and will be attending the British Fly Fair International in 2018. But I am delighted to announce that he makes his debut at the largest Game Fair in Ireland in the Woodcock and Salmon Pavilion at Birr Castle Fair."

And if you want advice on dog training there are plenty of international handlers on show plus again local expertise from David McLoughin and his 11 yo son Luke from Shinrone, Co Offaly who will be demonstrating gundog training in the main arena. David has owned HPRs for more than 25 years. He has made up show champions and also a field trial champion. Probably best known for his German Shorthaired Pointers, David also has Pointers and a Deutsch Drahthaar. David has imported dogs from America, Australia and Germany.

Albert Titterington commented that country sports were often portrayed in art, adding: "Birr Fair will be the place to see an exhibition of the work of internationally acclaimed artist John R. Moore who will be showing in the Woodcock and Salmon Pavilion. Quite uniquely, as well we will have a stunning taxidermy display by another International name, Ingrid Howers, who will also be on hand to explain her craft.

Also at the Fair will be Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers (FISSTA), the Working Terrier Federation, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the Woodcock Group, The Professional Game Angling Instructors in Ireland (APGAI) PLUS the many other organisations such as the National Association of Regional Game Councils, Countrysports Ireland, and Countryside Alliance Ireland along with other representative and government bodies - making the Game Fair a fantastic resource for people who want to know more about countrysports and conservation.

The Game Fair at Birr Castle also includes: a Fine Food Festival, Living History Village, medieval jousting; an action packed arena; Gunmakers' Row, Fishermans' Row Arts & Crafts, and a huge tented village of trade stands supplying everything required for the country lifestyle.

Add in one of the best clay pigeon shooting layouts in Ireland with three guns to be won, lots of 'have a go' opportunities including fly casting, air rifle shooting, archery, pony rides, children's play area plus all of Birr Castle Demesne open to the public for the two days - this really is one of Ireland's most actions packed family days out.

The Irish Game & Country Fair and Fine Food Festival will take place from 10am - 6pm on Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th August.

The event is sponsored by Failte Ireland

Ireland's Real Game Fairs © Irish Game & County Fair