Exploring Natural Cork: Enjoy the rolling lawns of Doneraile Park

In a 12-part series, RICHARD GORDON visits some of Cork’s natural wonders now that we can travel a bit further. Today he recalls his visit to Doneraile Park, in North Cork
Exploring Natural Cork: Enjoy the rolling lawns of Doneraile Park

The light was perfect, during a visit to Doneraile Park in County Cork. Pictures: Richard Gordon

THE playground of Park was vibrant with children and parents as I pulled into the car park.

Laughter and chatter and the different shadowed shapes that were cast from the swings, slides and climbing bars filled the moment with colour. It was nice to see some communal normality again.

And what an evening it was to wander around the grounds of Doneraile Estate, taking full advantage of the intra-county travel openings.

The mass expanse of rolling lawns were the wide-screen view I was first met with when I shuffled towards the walking paths, camera slung around my neck.

The light was so perfect on this evening, I felt I had to stop at every corner to capture the kaleidoscopic bursts I saw.

Doneraile House. Pictures: Richard Gordon
Doneraile House. Pictures: Richard Gordon

There are several little bridges scattered around the park as water from the Awbeg river flows through the grounds. There’s even a small waterfall that sits in the middle of the giant green, placed prominently below the court itself. Standing on a bridge and looking down river as the sun was blasting towards me, I watched people stroll along the bank as their silhouettes flared around the edges and their shadows drew out and trailed behind them.

The rippling and luminescent gleam washed across my eyes and my camera lens.

I started strolling out into the openness and towards the beautiful home at the top of the hill.

Built in the 1720s, the architecture is one of simplicity and elegance and it’s fronted by a gravel yard and a long pathway leading up to it.

I can only imagine the view through the top windows looking out onto the sweeping greenery. It was quiet but for a couple who were up close and admiring the lavish door and windows of the building, taking snaps and being curious.

The gardens are beautifully tended to.
The gardens are beautifully tended to.

The sun was falling in from the west and the long, flowing outfit that the lady wore could almost befit the era of the home itself.

The gardens are beautifully tended to and they stretch out along the side of the house, with white benches, perfectly mowed grass and dappled flower beds. There’s also a hidden wall which is intended to prevent animal access to the gardens, and to keep the view from the house unobstructed.

There’s a truly impressive collection of trees too that are placed all over the park. 

Some thick and mature yews with twisted, almost muscular looking trunks were one of the many interesting specimens I noticed throughout, almost demure and unassuming as they were nonchalantly hidden on a quiet bend in the path.

The Office of Public Works is who oversees the landscaping of the 166 hectares now and they maintain the Georgian era style.

Water flows through the park, a serpentine lake.
Water flows through the park, a serpentine lake.

The water that flows through the grassy valley of the park is a typical design development of the 18th century, known as a serpentine lake, that is associated with this style of landscaping, known as the ‘Capability Brown Landscape’, which was an aesthetic development that stepped away from overtly manicured gardens and leaned into something akin to a more seemingly natural landscape. Cedar trees stand in one of the deer enclosures and look magnificent with their horizontal and flattened branch clusters, they too are another common features of that particular landscape style.

Groups of roe deer were chewing away on their grazing patch as passers-by hunkered down to watch and photograph them. A tunnel of beech trees, tubular in shape with overhanging leaves absorbing sun, allowed walkers in who would eventually disappear from view at the far end of the tunnel.

I’ve rarely in my life been envious of joggers but on an evening as perfect as this one, I felt the envy as packs of panting people out for their exercise charged past me in the blissful surroundings of the park.

Dogs were being walked, swans were perched in their nest by a still lake of water lilies, so many white wild flowers cushioned nearly every walk, and dangling blue bells spread splashes of colour.

Majestic trees. Pictures: Richard Gordon
Majestic trees. Pictures: Richard Gordon

The clock was winding its way towards the hour and there are clear instructions that the gate closes at 8pm. I had to hurry back from the far side of the park after barely covering half the grounds. The size and beauty of the park is comparable to any manor house and estate I’ve visited.

As always, if you’re any bit like me, sunrise or sunset on a day of clear skies are guaranteed to provide awe-inspiring moments for eyes that are wide enough to see them.

I just got to the gate at 7.59pm and the gatekeeper, true to his word, was stood there with a wave ready to bolt it shut and be on his way home for the evening.

Next week: Barley Lake in West Cork

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