Visiting Doneraile Park – free things to do in Cork. This Visiting Doneraile Park guide is part of a series of posts from my Munster Vales travel guide.
As part of our trip around the Munster Vales region of Ireland, we visited the North Cork town of Doneraile. The town itself may be small, but it has a huge draw – the delightful Doneraile Park.
Doneraile Park is a walled park. The Awbeg River flows through the park.
It has hundreds of acres of formal gardens, sweeping parkland vistas, groves of ancient trees and some of the longest stretches of formal still water in Ireland. Formal still water is fish ponds to you and me. Planned in the style of Capability Browne, a famous landscape architect, the parkland offers picturesque views from The Court, a fine 17th century period house in the middle of the park.
In addition to the parkland, there were smaller gardens. The gardens were for decorative purposes (and to show off) and to supply the house kitchen. A laneway with high walls on both sides leads from the house to the now restored Parterre Garden with its carefully trimmed box hedges, apple trees and quaint gardener’s cottages.
Dotted around the park are other buildings including lodges which once housed estate staff, farm buildings, stables and a granary.
Doneraile Park is teeming with trees.
In the gardens you can see ash, cherry, redwood, variegated sycamore, yew, Chusan palms and a Cork oak. You can take a stroll down ‘Beech Avenue’ and admire the double row of beeches trees that date from the 18th century. Over in Lady’s Well Wood and the wetland area there are grand old oak trees. The large larch trees on the lawn have been there since 1730, making them among the first planted in Ireland.
From the park you can see the remains of Doneraile Castle built in 1402 by the MacWilliam Mór Synan.
The castle used to look out over the park. Walled gardens stretched south-west from the castle. Within these were ‘parterres’, rectangular beds of clipped box hedging. The beds were planted with box hedging arranged in geometric or emblematic patterns. These walled gardens will soon be restored to their former glory.
The main thing that I loved about the visiting Doneraile Park was that I was surround by animals.
There were plenty of dogs on walks, Fallow, Red and Sika deer chilling on the grass and Kerry cattle grazing peacefully in the meadow. Ducks and swans glided on the ponds and birdsong accompanied me wherever I went. It was like staring in my own Disney animation. Snow White eat your heart out.
The relaxing nature of, eh, nature was only interrupted when I neared the playground. Replacing the birdsong was the laugher, screams and cries of children. The children were having plenty of fun. I’d certainly be having fun if I was swinging from the mini zip wire and monkey bars! It looked like a playground with something to offer kids of all ages. Even us big kids too.
The Doneriale Park really is delightful.
It is a spectacular use of water, grass and trees on an undulating countryside. I would consider it a must visit for those looking for things to do in Cork.
I’m not the only one enamoured with Doneraile Park. In 2016, the number of people visiting Doneraile Park increased by 11 per cent compared to 2015. Over 480,000 park lovers passed through its gates during the year. The figures show that in 2016 Doneraile Park was the fourth most popular free Irish visitor attraction and the busiest outside of Dublin. In fact, in 2016 the visited attraction in Cork was Doneraile Park. It beat out Blarney Castle and Fota Wildlife Park.
Visiting Doneraile Park
Doneraile Park is open all year and admission is free.
The house and other estate buildings are being restored. Some €1.6m has been earmarked for the refurbishment of the historic house. These buildings are not generally accessible to the public. However, in the old kitchen is the Doneraile Court Tea Rooms that serves up scrumptious cakes, hot meals and second helpings of cake. Believe me, when you see the cakes you’ll want more than one kind.
Doneraile Park also has public toilets, picnic tables and a free car park.
If you are visiting Doneraile Park, you can check opening hours, get a map of Doneraile Park and discover events taking place in the Park on the Doneraile Park website.
Thanks to Tríona O’Mahony of Munster Vales and Myra Ryall and Michael O’Sullivan of the Doneraile Development Association for organising our visit of Doneraile Park.
The following are the other blog posts in this Munster Vales series:
Have you been to Doneraile Park? Did I leave anything out of my Visiting Doneraile Park guide? Leave a comment below. I love hearing from you.
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