Ireland is not renowned for its predictable weather. One can never really be certain what the day will bring especially as we head into the colder months of the year. This can make planning a winter day-trip in Ireland somewhat challenging. At this time of year, the best day trips are the ones close to Cork and ones that encompass both an indoor and outdoor element. That's why you need look no further than the hidden gem that is Fota House!
Perhaps somewhat eclipsed by the adjacent wildlife park (a fantastic Cork visitor attraction in its own right), Fota House is Ireland’s finest example of Regency period architecture. Located just 10 minutes away by train from Cork City (and the train station is less than a 10 minute walk from Hotel Isaacs), Fota House is well worth a visit if history, architecture and gardens are your thing.
Built in 1750 as a hunting lodge for the Smith-Barry Family (who occupied nearby Barryscourt Castle in Carrigtwohill), it became the family’s main residence from the 1820s when the current-day house was extended to include over 70 rooms. The hour-long tour will not take you to all 70 of these rooms but it will give you a significant idea of life in this majestic mansion.
Diversity is the key word of this great house with each room exhibiting a different style. Our personal favourite rooms are the servants kitchen downstairs (containing the original long table where the food of the house was prepared), the exquisitely, ornate dining room upstairs and the nursery with its uniquely designed wallpaper encompassing characters from traditional English nursery rhymes.
There are so many interesting stories to hear on a trip to Fota House including its very recent history. Indeed, one of the parlour maids, Peggy Butler is still alive and the house itself was occupied right up until 1975 when the then-owner Dorothy Bell died. Apparently, none of Bell’s descendants had any interest in taking over the estate due to the cost of maintaining it. Bought by UCC, the house fell into disrepair over time before being restored and reopened to the public in 2002.
Another key feature of the house that sets it apart from other visitor attractions is that it is mostly run by a group of volunteers. In fact, our tour guide was one such volunteer who merely: “loves history and likes sharing his passion to get away from his usual computer job!” The atmosphere these volunteers contribute to this attraction is really something special and has to be seen to be believed.
Finally, no trip to Fota House would be complete without a stroll around the beautiful gardens consisting of an arboretum and walled gardens including rare and exotic shrubs and trees. The area is renowned for its warm soil and the grounds even boast their very own banana tree! The challenge is just trying to find it between the showers!
As always, round off another fantastic day-trip with a visit to our award-winning Greenes Restaurant where residents enjoy a 15% food discount, or unwind over a uniquely crafted cocktail in Cask.
Fota House is open daily for tours from March to September from 10am to 5pm. Exceptionally, this year they will remain open during the weekends of October including the full October bank holiday. Admission rates are as following:
Fancy starting your jazz weekend a little earlier to beat the crowds? The Phil Collins Jazz Trio will play a special warm up gig for the 2018 Guinness Jazz Festival in the library at Fota on Thursday, October 25th. All further information can be found here.
Colette is a hotel receptionist working at Hotel Isaacs Cork. Her favourite part of the job is meeting the many guests coming from all corners of the globe and sharing with them all the wonders that Cork City and County has to offer. One of her great passions is travelling and exploring new places especially museums, galleries and castles. "One of the things I feel very strongly about is how so many people in Ireland are completely unaware of some of the hidden treasures right on their door-steps. When people go abroad, they push themselves to see all the cultural delights on offer but too often, they have no idea how great what is right in front of them, readily available every day is. I came to Cork as a student in 2008 and I too limited myself and didn't push myself to explore. It took a friend to take me off and show me how truly amazing this city and county is and this is what I want to share with my guests and readers.