Sunday 25 February 2024
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OPW Reopens A More Accessible Doneraile Court With Enhanced Visitor Attractions

OPW Reopens A  More Accessible Doneraile Court With Enhanced Visitor Attractions

Significant conservation work at Doneraile Court was unveiled recently, doubling the visitor experience at this architecturally important eighteenth-century house at the centre of one of Ireland’s most intact Georgian Estates.

The development in North Cork is part of the Office of Public Works’ (OPW) conservation management plan for Doneraile and received funding under the National Development Plan.

In line with government and OPW policies, a Changing Places facility has been incorporated into the refurbishment works. This facility provides suitable changing facilities for individuals with disabilities and additional physical needs. In addition, a lift has also been installed which will allow all visitors access to the first floor and exhibition spaces.

Minister O Donovan stated “I am absolutely delighted to be able to announce the provision by the OPW of these new facilities at Doneraile. Both are a positive contribution to the full inclusion, equality and rights of disabled people within our community. They also allow us to offer access to all areas within Doneraile House so that the full visitor attractions on offer can be experienced and enjoyed by all.”

Other highlights of the €2 million refurbishment project visitors can enjoy include the refurbishment of the staircase hall and staircase, the opening of nine new rooms on the first floor where an entire exhibition area has been created, new render to the East Wing of the House, new staff facilities and the refurbishment of the Lodge.

A comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for Doneraile is also being launched today. The Plan has been prepared by Rodney Melville and Partners, Chartered Architects and Historic Building Consultants, in close collaboration with the OPW. The plan outlines the investment requirements to ensure the house, designed landscape, Estate buildings, ecology and gardens can be protected and conserved for future generations to come.

Through this work, it has been possible to establish a set of policies and guidelines that are informing the future conservation, repair, management and use of the buildings and the designed landscape according to best conservation practice. Today’s launch is the delivery of Phase 2 works identified as critical to the overall plan. The Report sets out a very strong case for the preservation of the Estate as a key heritage and tourism destination in Ireland. The next Phase of work identified will see the Orangery re-instated adjoining the historic house. As well as returning a significant built feature of Doneraile, this will allow for a greater opportunity for the OPW to host cultural events and enhance the operations of the site.

On the first floor, a set of exhibitions has been installed that allows visitors to understand the wider geographical, historical, cultural and social context of Doneraile Court. It covers:

  • the early settlement of the lands at Doneraile from the time the lands came into the ownership of the St. Legers
  • the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of the St. Leger family including reference to Canon Sheehan, Lady Castletown and US Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes
  • reinstatement of Lady Doneraile’s Apartment
  • an exhibition on Lost Houses of Cork
  • an exhibition on Bowen’s Court and Elizabeth Bowen
  • historical information on the conservation works carried out by the Irish Georgian Society in the 1980s

The collections on display have been supplemented with new material that make a visit or a return visit truly worthwhile, including:

  • a Wallpaper Exhibition from the Skinner Wallpaper Archive
  • miniatures of Cork families on loan from the Irish Georgian Society, donor Edmund Corrigan
  • painting collection from the Crawford Art Gallery
  • many private loans relating to Elizabeth Bowen
  • sculpture collection from the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland
  • private loans of original furniture from the House and also a book collection

Minister Patrick O’Donovan with local Councillor Kay Dawson at the event.

More Information about Doneraile Court:

Doneraile carries immense cultural weight and is iconic in the North Cork landscape.

The estate, together with other lands, was purchased in 1629 by Sir William St Leger, Lord President of Munster, who moved into the 13th-century Doneraile Castle. By 1645, the Castle had been attacked and burned several times and was so badly damaged that it had to be abandoned.

The present house was constructed in 1725 by architect Isaac Rothery. Over the years, various extensions were added such as an octagonal kitchen and game store built in 1869. A dining room built at the same time and a nine bay Gothic Revival style conservatory built in 1825 have since been demolished. Other improvements within the estate included cottages, lodges, farm buildings and stables. On the death of Hugh the seventh Viscount, this line of the family failed, and he was succeeded by his second cousin once removed, the eighth Viscount. In 1969 the house was sold to the Land Commission.

The house has been in the stewardship of the OPW since 1994 and they have made significant incremental advances during their stewardship, securing and preserving the structure of the house through roof repairs, window replacement and other works to the fabric of the building. The opening of the Ground Floor in 2019, marking the 25th anniversary of its stewardship, highlights the OPWs ongoing commitment to the conservation and preservation of this wonderful building.

Other improvements in the Estate include a new playground, a car-park extension, toilets refurbishment, access links to the town, restoration of the Triumphal Arch and Gates, signage, re-roofing of the Coach House and Gardeners’ Cottages, repairs to boundary walls, repairs to the historic Ha Ha Walls, works to the lake and bridges, and installation of new visitor counters. There is an ongoing programme of tree replanting, landscape maintenance and management.

From its roots in the shadow of a medieval castle, Doneraile Court has survived for three centuries and thanks to the programme of works carried out by the OPW will assist in it going forward in the 21st Century as a public space accessible to all, for everyone to appreciate.

General information

Doneraile House and Estate is open to the public daily. Full details below.

House (Guided Tour only)

31 March – 22 October 2023

10.00 to 16.00 (Last admission one hour before closing)

Doneraile Estate – open all year


Daily – 8.00 to 20.00

Autumn/Winter (from 31 October)

Daily – 8:00 to 17:00