The move comes after intense lobbying by the community in Doneraile, which believes that its historic town can seriously benefit from tourism.
Doneraile Development Association (DDA) is working with the OPW, Cork County Council, Fáilte Ireland, Ballyhoura Development and Mallow Area Partnership to promote heritage tourism, with particular emphasis on Doneraile Court, seat of the St Leger family, and its magnificent park.
DAA chairman Willie Pat Hallihan said the OPW had committed to restoring the timber and stone bridge in the park and the Triumphal Arch entrance. Large-scale signs would also be erected in the area by Cork County Council promoting Doneraile’s heritage.
“The more we research and evaluate the built and natural landscape of Doneraile, the more we realise that it is in possession of a heritage that is of international interest. Upwards of 100,000 people now visit the park each year, and this is growing substantially.
“We have set a target of 300,000 visitors per annum in five to seven years,” Mr Hallihan said.
“Doneraile Court and the capability brown-style parkland of the demesne possess a unique assemblage of gardens extending from Elizabethan to Victorian times. We believe we can develop a visitor attraction in this part of north Cork to complement those at Bunratty, Cashel, Blarney, and Killarney. We are confident it will create jobs, and provide spin-off benefits to local towns such as Mallow and Charleville,” he added.
The Triumphal Arch entrance has been closed to the public in recent years due to concerns about its condition. The limestone structure will need to be taken down and restored, along with its Regency wrought-iron gates. Old walking routes within the park will also be reopened.
Meanwhile, DAA has also leased the architecturally important former Presentation Convent Chapel as a home for a 12-month intensive and full-time course on furniture restoration.
The de-consecrated chapel has lain idle since the Presentation nuns left the town in the 1990s.