I hardly dare say it, but the Summer has arrived in Cork. There are intervals of sunshine between the rain and I wind up sunburnt while driving the car. I really should just apply the sunscreen before getting in the car even if it’s lashing as a habit, it’s happened more than once. With the good weather joining us occasionally, it’s nice to get out to new places as a family and we’ve just discovered the beauty of Fota House and Gardens during May. More specifically, the arboretum and gardens around the house – we’ve not done the house tour but it is beautiful to look at. Here’s how we got on!
Where Is It?
Fota House and Gardens are just outside Cobh in East Cork. If you’ve ever been to Fota Wildlife Park, it’s on the same grounds and you enter the same place – you just keep driving to a car park further down. To get there from Cork City, you can either get the train from Kent Station to Fota Station, or drive the fifteen minutes to the east of the city. You can find directions here, or simply enter it into whatever GPS software you use.
How Much Does It Cost To Get In?
The gardens and arboretum are free of charge to wander around, which was a quite pleasant surprise. The website had stated prices but these are for maps and guided tours instead of actually a charge to enter. There is a charge for parking which you pay at the exit, it’s three euro and is paid in coins. If you’re planning a trip to Fota Wildlife Park, it’s the same car park fee and all money goes towards the upkeep of the house and gardens.
If you’re interested in taking a tour of the house and gardens, the full price information can be found here.
What Is There To Do?
Outside of a house tour or any events on at the site, the gardens are absolutely beautiful and great for a wander around. There was lots of room for Eliott to get all his energy out. We went Gruffalo hunting in the Arboretum, played with dandelions in the gardens and even rolly-pollyed down little hills leading onto the house. The gardens are massive, every time you reach another gate you think it surely must be looping around by now, but no, there are further surprises ahead. It’s a safe space for kids to run amuck, as there aren’t any cars to avoid, and there’s a certain charm to being able to let them run wild!
The gardens, in particular the Pleasure Garden, gave me proper Downton Abbey vibes – I can definitely envision a special high tea on the lawns happening. Those thoughts might just be jogged aside by the excited shouts of a four year old, but one can dream!
If you’re looking to get into the history of the place and have older kids, or are just going with other adults, there are tours available of the house and gardens. Fota House was designed by 19th century architects Richard and William Morrison. With beautifully proportioned rooms with exquisite plasterwork, to the preserved service wing and kitchens, Fota House offers visitors an intimate look at how life was lived in the past, as a servant or as member of the gentry. Their painting collection is considered to be one of the finest collections of landscape painting outside the National Gallery of Ireland and includes works by William Ashford PRHA, Robert Carver, Jonathan Fisher and Thomas Roberts. If you’re interested in booking a tour, you can find out more information here.
What About Food?
There is a very nice cafe in Fota House run by Bakestone Cafe. It’s quite good value for money, with locally sourced ingredients used. The menu isn’t massive, but they do have a variety of sandwiches, quiches, salad items and cake, alongside Badger and Dodo coffee. They have a great kids offer of a sandwich, drink (generally an Innocent Smoothie but we have replaced it with water each time) and a cookie for just over €5, which is great value. The adult sandwiches and other options are all equally as economical, which is always nice to see in places that have a monopoly on food – too often you find overpriced, lacking quality options when there is only one spot but this isn’t one of them. Bakestone Cafe is open from March to October, everyday from 10AM – 5PM.
There’s seating available both indoors and outdoors. On a sunny day, we’ve let Eliott run out the front of the house, safe from any harm, while we sit drinking our coffees. It’s not yet been overcast on any of our trips but there is a spacious cafe inside too for colder days.
Alternatively, you can bring a picnic and pitch up in the gardens themselves – it makes a really nice picnic spot for the whole family.
So, that’s one spot we will definitely be heading back to quite a bit over the Summer. We’re hoping to do a lot more day trips this year, now that we’re buggy free and able to venture a bit further, and I’ll be documenting those day trips here, especially ones we love in Cork.
Have you been to Fota House and Gardens? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below, or let me know recommendations for where we should try next!
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