Paying tribute to all involved in the conservation, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar was in good form as he unveiled a plaque to mark completion of a €2.5 million restoration to Fota House in East Cork earlier in the week.
Over the past 4 years Failte Ireland and the Irish Heritage Trust have put a lot of work and money into restoring Fota House and gardens back to its full glory, installing it as another magnificent attraction to Fota Island. The elegant house with its stately gardens and arboretum originally began as a hunting lodge belonging to the Smith Barry family. It was completely transformed into the elegant Regency style house it is today in 1820 upon the permanent relocation of John Smith Barry from Britain to Cork. Commissioning the talents Irish architects, Sir Richard Morrison and his son William Morrison, he had it designed into a splendid residence that would suit his position. The architects completely transformed the lodge adding two new wings, a handsome Doric portico and opening up the interior through the use of fine scagliola columns that led to a stone staircase. The overall look is classical. The interior decor reflecting continental trends of that time can be seen in the gilt, marble work, painted ceilings and magnificent plaster details.
The lodge wasn’t the only place renovated in the estate as John Smith Barry also went about transforming the entire island into an estate of parkland, woods and pleasure grounds. The highlight of which is the arboretum, with its beautiful orangery, formal walled gardens, set on 12 acres of parkland. It was created in the mid 19th century, and today boasts one of the finest collections of rare and tender trees and shrubs grown outdoors in Ireland and Britain.
It has remained that magnificence to present day and since 2007 it has been in the ownership of the Irish Heritage Trust who along with Failte Ireland have invested over 1.7 million in a 4 year restoration project which included work on the stately houses grand Arboretum and gardens. The restoration bringing this beautiful and historic stately manor and gardens back to its former glory is a welcome investment and looks sure to attract many more visitors to view this slice of Irish history and take in the many attractions of this scenic area of Fota Island and surrounding area of East Cork.