Fota House, formerly an 18th century hunting lodge, was the centerpiece of an estate which covered the entire 780 acres of Fota Island. Early in the 19th century it was enlarged for John Smith Barry by Richard and William Morrison, architects of many of Ireland`s finest buildings. When it was decided to turn the hunting lodge into an elegant residence it was initially proposed that the design should reflect the current fashion for Tudor revival but a more elegant Regency style was ultimately executed. Two new wings were added and the interior opened up resulting in the house having over 70 rooms, ranging in size from the more modest servant rooms to the large and beautifully proportioned principal rooms. The style is classical throughout and the decor reflects continental trends in the gilt, marble work, painted ceilings and magnificent plaster details.

Fota Gardens

Fota Gardens are in the grounds of Fota House. They are highly acclaimed, consisting of a structured arboretum, walled garden and terraces. Many rare and exotic shrubs and trees exist, along with an extensive rose garden. The development of the arboretum and gardens coincided with the great plant hunting expeditions around the world bringing back specimens from places such as Asia, South America and the Pacific coast of northwest America. Many of these rare plants found their way to Fota within a few years of their discovery. In the 1840s, John Smith-Barry showed foresight by spacing the trees, enabling them to thrive with displays of seasonal color.

Fota Wildlife Park

Opened in 1983 by the President of Ireland, Dr Patrick Hillery, Fota Wildlife Park has the primary aim of conservation of global wildlife. Fota Wildlife Park has more than 70 species of exotic wildlife in open surroundings. Animals include ostriches, giraffes, kangaroos, zebras and antelope. Most of the animals who inhabit the island are allowed to roam throughout more than 50 acres of mature grassland, with the exception of the cheetahs and other predators, which have fenced enclosures. Many of the animals at Fota are under threat of extinction. The cheetah is an example of this. There are only 12,000 cheetahs in their natural habitat. Fota Wildlife Park is involved in breeding programs for these endangered species, as well as being a breeding source for other zoos around the world. An Asian sanctuary is planned to open between 2014 and 2018 which will include lions, tigers and rhinos.


Fota House was the former home of the Smith-Barry family (Earls of Barrymore since 1627), descendants of Philip de Barry. The de Barry family came from Wales as part of the Norman invasion of Ireland. He was granted Fota and other lands in 1185. The family first resided at Barryscourt Castle, Carrigtwohill, then at Castlelyons where they held extensive lands. Fota House was originally a hunting lodge and became the family`s main residence in the 1820s when the architect, Sir Richard Morrison and his son created the present regency mansion with over 70 rooms. The last member of the Smith-Barry family to live in Fota House was the Hon. Dorothy Elizabeth Bell (1894–1975). She continued to develop and record the plant collections in the gardens and in the arboretum, which her family had started in the 1840s. On Mrs Bell`s death in 1975 the estate was sold to University College Cork.


Fota Island, Cork Harbor, approximately 9 miles from Cork City on Cobh Road. Frequent train service from Cork City to Fota station.