A visit to the beautiful Doneraile Park is one of my favourite things to do in Cork.
Doneraile Wildlife Park is a beautiful historic estate built and landscaped in the 18th century.
Located in Doneraile, County Cork, the 166-hectare park is a great place to spend the day touring the former residence of the St Leger Family and exploring the wildlife in the parklands.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from info on the various Doneraile Park walks to what to see on a visit to Doneraile House.
Some quick need-to-knows about Doneraile Park
Although a visit to Doneraile Wildlife Park is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
You’ll find Doneraile House and its glorious park located in the small town of Doneraile in County Cork. Occupying land either side of the River Awbeg, it’s just 12km north of Mallow town.
2. Opening hours
Donraile House is open four days per week from Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. The surrounding park of the estate is open every day of the week from 8am to 8pm on weekdays in summer and from 9am to 8pm on weekends in summer.
In winter, the park closes at 5pm on each day. Guided tours of the Court operate from 10am to 5pm and take approximately 30 minutes (note: times may change so check in advance).
The Doneraile Park is free of charge for visitors. The Doneraile Court is a ticketed attraction with admission costing €8 for adults, €6 for seniors and €4 for students and kids aged 12-17. Children under 12 can enter for free. You can also get a family pass which costs €20, for a maximum of two adults and three kids (note: prices may change).
About Doneraile House and Wildlife Park
Doneraile Court and Wildlife Park comprise one of the most beautiful historical estates in Ireland. Straddling both sides of the Awbeg River, the estate was the residence of the St. Leger family.
The house dates back to the 1720s and was originally built by Arthur St Leger, before being modified and improved extensively during the 19th century.
Doneraile House was the home of the St Leger family until 1969, when it was sold to the Land Commission. The house and estate is now under the stewardship of the Office of Public Works.
Doneraile Park is around 166 hectares of deciduous trees, restored water features and ponds. There is a network of well-maintained walking trails from which you can wander and enjoy herds of grazing deer and rare breed Kerry Cattle.
Things to do at Doneraile Court
The area around Doneraile House and Park is homes to heaps of things to see and do, which make it perfect for a day out.
Below, you’ll find information on the various Doneraile park walks and the house tour to the tea rooms, the gardens and more.
1. The Doneraile Park walks
The Doneraile Park walks are some of my favourite walks in Cork. The park and estate are best explored on foot with a number of trails offering great vistas.
If you walk all the trails, you’ll be covering 10km, but there’s distances to suit everyone. A popular Doneraile Park walk begins from the top of the car park and heads east providing a beautiful view over the trees, lake and house.
There is a path that then leads down to the lake and then along the Awbeg River amongst sheltered trees and colourful flowers.
At the end of the trail, you can turn right to the track that borders the edge of Doneraile Park. As you make your way to the house, you’ll be able to spot herds of deer and cattle grazing.
From Doneraile House, you can backtrack along the river and meet up with the peripheral trail again. Turn left onto it and head uphill to the top of the crest, which offers panoramic views across the whole estate.
2. The Doneraile Court Tour
A guided tour of the Doneraile Court is a great way to enjoy the history of the estate and unique architectural features. Tours run for 30 minutes from 10am to 6pm, with the last one leaving at 5pm.
The experienced guides take you from the foundations of the house right up to today, through the tales of the St Leger family and the great novelists and legendary horse races in its history. After the tour, you can head into the gardens to explore at your own pace.
3. Explore the gardens
After the Doneraile Court tour, you can explore the 18th and 19th century formal gardens around the house. It was all designed in a naturalistic style known as the famous Capability Brown. The gardens include the Pleasure grounds, the Parterre Gardens and Walled Gardens.
4. Doneraile Park Tea Rooms
The Doneraile Park Tea Rooms are a great spot to round off a visit to the park. The Doneraile Park Tea Rooms are nice and unique in that they’re set below the main house in the 19th century kitchen wing.
The tea rooms are a nice little spot for a post-walk tea and bite to eat and, going off the reviews on Google, both the food and the service are top-notch.
Things to do near Doneraile Wildlife Park
One of the beauties of Doneraile Wildlife Park is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Doneraile Court (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Visit the Donkey Sanctuary
The Donkey Sanctuary is an animal rescue service and registered charity helping donkeys and mules. Located in Liscarroll, County Cork, the sanctuary has rescued donkeys from all parts of the country after neglect or cruelty. The charity educates the public about donkey welfare and also welcomes visitors for extra love and attention for their resident donkeys.
2. Mallow Castle
This national monument is located in the town of the same name in County Cork. The long rectangular castle has distinctive polygonal turrets at the corners and was built in the 16th century. It’s likely to have been built by Sir Thomas Norrey, overlooking the River Blackwater. It’s a great place for a walk around the castle ruins and grounds.
3. Blarney Castle
The medieval stronghold of Blarney Castle is located in Blarney near Cork City. Built nearly six hundred years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, it has since become one of Ireland’s greatest treasures.
It’s heavily tied to an old legend which says that by kissing the Blarney Stone, you’ll never be lost for words again.
The stone was set in the castle in 1446 and attracts plenty of keen visitors, although there’s also beautiful gardens, the old dungeon, Badgers Cave and much more to explore.
4. Bridgetown Abbey
The Bridgetown Abbey was a 13th century Augustinian monastery of the Canons Regular of St Victor. It’s located near the confluence of the Awbeg and Blackwater Rivers in Castletownroche, just west of Ballyhooly. It was dissolved in 1540 by Henry VIII but its ruins remain. It’s free to visit with some interpretive signs at the entrance.
FAQs about visiting Doneraile House
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the different Doneraile Park walks to whether or not the Doneraile House tour is worth doing.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Doneraile Wildlife Park worth visiting?
Yes – Doneraile Wildlife Park is a brilliant place for a long or short walk and a visit is nicely rounded off with something to eat from the tea rooms.
What is there to do at Doneraile Court?
You can explore the gardens, take a tour of the house, have afternoon tea in a very unique setting or try one of several Doneraile Park walks.
Is there much to see near Doneraile Wildlife Park?
Yes – from the Donkey Sanctuary and Mallow Castle to Bridgetown Abbey and Blarney Castle, there’s plenty to see and do nearby.
Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.