Take a step back in time this summer with the stunning Doneraile Park & Gardens, located on the banks of the Awbeg River in north Co. Cork. The estate, which is now the fifth most popular free tourist destination in Ireland, continues to enthral visitors with its magnificent building and picturesque grounds.
Following a successful series last year, Ballyhoura Country is delighted to announce the return of the special guided tours of OPW’s Doneraile Park & Gardens for the 2023 season. Experience a unique and memorable event filled with pageantry, history and storytelling that is truly one of a kind.
Set amidst the majestic surroundings of Doneraile Estate, the guided tours will bring visitors on a journey back in time through the estate’s history. Led by a knowledgeable team of volunteered and trained Doneraile Local Tour Guides, the tours feature incredibly talented members of the Doneraile Drama Society, who will narrate some of the Estate’s history in authentic period costumes. They will bring to life many of the most memorable characters from the estate’s history, including Edmund Spenser, Queen Elizabeth I, and Elizabeth St Leger, The Lady Freemason.
Visitors will also get exclusive access to the private Doneraile Estate Pleasure Grounds, Parterre and walled gardens as part of the experience; access that has been provided with the kind permission of OPW.
The tours tell the story of the Doneraile estate in an entertaining and engaging way, combining historical moments with entertaining anecdotes about the area’s well-known residents. It explains how King Henry VIII first brought Sir Anthony St Leger (grandfather to William St Leger, who built Doneraile Court in the 1720s and the first Viscount Doneraile) to Ireland in the 16th century.
One of the area’s most well-known residents was the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser who lived at Kilcolman Castle near Doneraile and immortalised the nearby river Awbeg in his poem The Faerie Queene.
Elizabeth St Leger, William’s daughter, tells of overhearing a masonic lodge meeting at Doneraile Court in the early 18th century, and the consequences she experienced from this encounter. One wonders what she might have heard!
“As a dedicated volunteer guide for the past 12 years, it brings me immense joy to lead visitors through 400 years of gardening history within this remarkable estate. The tour is enriched by the presence of historical characters associated with Doneraile, creating a magnificent blend of theoretical pageantry”, says Myra Ryall, Doneraile Local Guide and Owner of the Townhouse Café in Doneraile.
Paul and Jo Ryan from Mallow, Co. Cork were among the guests to enjoy the opening event of this year’s series, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, saying: “We love a long walk through Doneraile Park and for us there are not too many places that offer such beauty and variety in one location. Last week we decided to take a guided tour of the gardens and it was definitely worth it, it’s one of those experiences where you ask yourself why didn’t I do this sooner. Our tour guide Willie was passionate about the history of the place which added to the whole experience. We loved the way he would add in loads of extra little bits of historical information.
“It was a brilliant bonus to meet some historical figures such as King Henry VIII as we strolled through the garden. These characters, played by the local theatre company, interacted with us at various stages throughout the tour. We were also given access to parts of the gardens that are not normally open to the public, all part of Doneraile Court’s hidden history. I have always been curious about a mural of a garden at the entrance to the local church, and now I know where this beautiful looking garden was originally located. It is a credit to the people of Doneraile and the OPW to put on such a unique tour and to the way Doneraile Court and grounds are maintained.”
The Guided Tours can be booked via Eventbrite at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/guided-tours-of-doneraile-park-gardens-2023-tickets-638751371547
The first guided tour of the season took place on Sunday 4th June and was completely sold out. Upcoming tour dates are:
- Sunday 9th July
- Sunday 6th August
- Sunday 3rd September
- Sunday 8th October
Doneraile Court, the centrepiece of this beautiful estate, has once again re-opened its doors, and guided tours of the house, including the stunning refurbishment of the second floor, are now available. The OPW has also partnered with Crawford Art Gallery to share some significant works from the Gallery’s collection exclusively at Doneraile.
Guided tours of the Doneraile Court are available from Wednesdays to Sundays (including Bank Holidays) from 10am – 4pm. Email email@example.com for details.
Doneraile Court will also play host to an amazing line-up of music and cultural events this season, with a programme of talks and concerts taking place between June and October. Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/opw-23416753832