Developed in conjunction with

Institutes of Technology Ireland
Research & Innovation

Blackrock Castle Observatory – Engagement with the Wider Community

In 2000, Cork City Council purchased the derelict 16th century Blackrock Castle on the banks of the River Lee, on the outskirts of Cork city centre. Cork City Council partnered with Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) to develop the castle into a venue that would be accessible and of interest to the general public. This partnership led to the development of the Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO), which includes a professional astronomical observatory and interactive science centre.

To facilitate the partnership and the development of BCO, CIT established a company, Cosmos Education Ltd. The company, which currently employs eight staff, is responsible for the management of the science centre and aims to provide a memorable educational and outreach experience, not only in science but also in art, music and culture.

The science centre at BCO, Cosmos at the Castle, is a state-of-the-art, multimedia-driven exhibition. The main exhibition, “life in the universe”, takes visitors on a tour of the universe in a highly interactive manner using specifically designed content viewed from large interactive cinema-sized screens and individual touchscreens. The BCO staff also participate in regular outreach activities involving schools, parents and teachers, industry, the general public and community groups.

Blackrock Castle is also home to BCOLabs, staffed by researchers from the Astronomy Instrumentation Group at CIT. These researchers operate the two robotic telescopes at BCO and are engaged in developing and applying new instrumentation and technologies to support astronomy research. As well as collaborating with leading astronomy research groups, the BCOLabs have worked with a number of companies on instrument development projects.

The close integration of the public exhibition and the laboratories makes BCO a unique centre for research and education. Since opening its doors to the public in August 2007, BCO has welcomed over 100,000 visitors and features regularly in the top 10 visitor attractions in Munster. It has hosted a huge array of events from conferences and summer schools to weddings and festivals and acts as a showcase for Cork City Council’s promotion of Cork as a tourist and business destination.

To date, the exhibit Cosmos at the Castle has received 8 national awards and is the only Irish-designed and operated visitor attraction to receive a THEA ‘Award for Outstanding Achievement’ from TEA, the world association for themed attractions, in 2008.


“Engaging with Cork City Council has enabled CIT to reach out into the community in new and exciting ways. Having a science centre in the iconic landmark that is Blackrock Castle has raised the profile of CIT locally; having an exhibit that can display CIT research and innovation activities has increased public awareness of CIT’s breadth and depth of activity in this space. It also acts as a showcase for Cork City Council’s efforts to increase the awareness of Cork as a tourist and business destination.”
Claire McSweeney - Blackrock Castle Observatory, CIT

Client: Blackrock Castle Observatory
Cork Institute of Technology
Industry: Retailing, Public Sector, ICT, Pharmaceuticals, Manufacturing, Energy, Medical Devices, Financial Services, Food
National Priority Area: Manufacturing Technology

Head of Research
Dr. Niall Smith
Cork Institute of Technology
Bishopstown, Cork
T: +353 (0)21 432 6369
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Industrial Liaison Manager
Carole O’Leary/Josette O’Mullane
Cork Institute of Technology
Bishopstown, Cork
T: +353 (0)21 432 6697
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