Fota House, designed by Irish architect Richard Morrison and his son William, dates from the mid 1820s. Incorporated in the house is a hunting lodge that already stood on the site. In 1991 the house and grounds were in a state of disrepair. A ceiling had collapsed, the interior was dank, the roofs leaked, and the gardens needed help. Owned by developers, the heritage area of Fota Island--house, gardens, and 100 acres of land--were turned over to a trust, the Fota Trust Company. Improvements were made to the house, gardens, roofs, and windows. Grants helped, and by 1998 much was restored, although more work is needed.
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The house and grounds were developed by the Smith Barry family who arrived in the area in the late 12th century. They became known as the Barons of Barrymore. In 1746 John Barry married a wealthy heiress, Dorothy Smith, beginning the family line related to the house. A hunting lodge was constructed on the site in the 18th century, and in the 1820s his son enlarged the house in order to live there permanently. He also built sea walls, parks, and pleasure grounds. A later son built the arboretum. Successive generations made improvements, added a billiard room, and a gallery. A younger daughter, Dorothy Bell, lived at the house until 1975 when it became the property of the University College Cork. The gardens are now managed by the Duchas Heritage Service while the house is looked after by the Trust.
Visitors will see a Greek Doric portico entrance and blue limestone dressings on the windows. The entrance hall has yellow scagliola Ionic columns.
In the dining room are Corinthian columns in grey/green. The dining room is decorated with borders and a frieze as are the library and drawing room. Doves and musical and hunting trophies are featured on the ceilings.
Upstairs are bedrooms and a dressing room with plaster decorations, 19th century wallpaper, and interesting architectural features. In 1872 a conservatory and a pine panelled billiards room were added. 1897 saw further additions and alterations. The conservatory became a gallery.
The kitchen and various servants' rooms are part of the tour. Raw meat and game were kept in the wet larder, octagonal in shape. In the middle of the room is a carousel for hanging game. Lead lined boxes were once used for salting meat. The kitchen is furnished with the equipment of the time--a charcoal stove, ranges, ovens, and boilers, as well as pots and pans. A housekeeper's room, a still room, and storage rooms were all part of the "downstairs" that made the house function.
Fota's arboretum has plants from South America, Japan, China, and North America. An orangery, a fernery and a collection of roses are further attractions.
Fota House, Wildlife Park and Arboretum
Carrigtwohill, off N25 Cork-Waterford road, Cobh exit, Cork County
Tel. 0214815543 or 021 4812728
Open: house open mid March-end Dec, Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm (last admission time), Oct-March, Mon-Sun and BH, 11am-4pm; gardens open from 9am weekdays.
Multi media programs, shop, tearoom.