Plan Your Visit


Planning your visit to Fota House, Arboretum & Gardens

We have compiled the following information to help you plan your educational visit to Fota House.  You will find useful sections about the site and details of our current education provision. We are always happy to help you plan your visit and discuss how we can tailor it to your specific requirements. We look forward to hearing from you and welcoming you to Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens. 

Free planning visits

We encourage all teachers to come to Fota House for a free “planning visit”. Please contact us to arrange a time that suits you. The planning visit will allow you to familiarise yourself with the site and facilities here, meet the staff and tailor the visit to meet your needs. If you cannot visit, please call and we can discuss your plans on the phone.

Provision for education groups

We have a wide range of options for educational groups. We can cater for a visit of one hour up to a whole day and can develop an itinerary to suit your needs depending on the time you have. Your visit could consist of a workshop with one of our trained education guides, activity sessions, free time to explore temporary exhibitions and a visit to the Arboretum and Gardens.

Group size

We can accommodate groups of up to 60 at any one time. A group of 60 will be divided into 2 smaller groups for the museum room tour. If your group is larger than 60, please contact us to discuss how we can plan your visit.

Arrival in Car Park

Our new access routes and signage are currently under construction. The new road will enable coaches and cars to access a new car park to the right of the front entrance. Signage will then direct you to the House, Gardens and Café. Presently (August 2010), the old car parking system is in place and current signage will direct you there.

Arrival/Welcome area in House

Arrival is through the Café entrance, to the left of the main Entrance Door where a Fota representative will meet you.

What is given to visitors upon arrival?

  • Fota brochure
  • Teacher Pack

Working materials such as pencils, clipboards etc. can be provided at an additional cost.

Education Rooms

We have Education Rooms on the First Floor that are available for your use for the duration of your visit. You can use them to store coats and bags or for activities. Please discuss how you would like to use the rooms when booking your visit.

Opening Hours

Fota House and restaurant are closed for winter until next spring.

However group tours and workshops can be arranged  by appointment.  

Please call 021 481 5543 or 


The gardens are open daily as follows:

April – October: 09.00 - 18.00
November – March: 09.00 - 17.00

How long does a workshop last?

A workshop at Fota usually takes 1.5 hours. This can be shortened or lengthened to your needs.

Photography/Touching Objects

Photography in the house is permitted. Students are asked not to touch any of the museum pieces in accordance with our Conservation Plan. There are however several sensory items in key places which pupils are encouraged to touch and experience.

Admission Cost

The cost of a workshop at Fota House is charged per pupil at a rate of €5 each. Our preferred method of payment for your visit is on arrival by cash, cheque and credit or debit card. Alternatively, we can send you an invoice. The arboretum & gardens are free.


We have an excellent Café situated in the atmospheric Gallery and Billiards Room on the ground floor of the house. Talk to our staff about the catering options for your group.


Pupils are welcome to bring their own lunch and snacks to be consumed in the Education Rooms on the First Floor or outside on the expansive lawns (weather permitting). Alternatively, the café can provide all meals or snacks for individuals or the entire group.

Toilet Facilities

There are several toilet facilities located on the Ground Floor. These are all clearly marked.

Special needs/Additional Needs

Fota House is fully accessible for those with physical disabilities. Please discuss any additional requirements your group may have when booking.

How to book a visit

If you would like to book a visit to Fota House, Arboretum & Gardens please telephone us on 021 481 5543 or email to outline your requirements. We will then plan the details of your visit.

Contact details

Fota House, Carrigtwohill, Fota Island, Co. Cork

To get to Fota Island take the N25 east from Cork City for about 7km and then exit the N25 heading for Cobh/Carrigtwohill on the R624. Fota Island is approximately 2.5km on the right.

Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens is a pleasant fifteen minute walk from the Fota train station (three stops) from Cobh station. The train connects to inter-city trains to Dublin and train timetables can be found online on the Irish Rail website

Brief history of the house

Fota House was originally a modest two-storey hunting lodge belonging to the Smith Barry family. The family lived in Britain, coming to Ireland for fishing, shooting, hunting and yachting. In the 1820s, John Smith-Barry (1793 - 1837) decided to make Fota his home. He commissioned the great Irish architects Sir Richard Morrison and his son William Vitruvius Morrison to convert the hunting lodge into an elegant residence.

Initially it was 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 a handsome Doric portico made an elegant entrance. The interior was opened up with fine scagliola columns, leading to a handsome stone staircase. The ceilings of the library and drawing room were decorated with great delicacy in the French style.

The house has over 70 rooms, ranging in size from the more modest servant rooms to the large and beautifully proportioned principal rooms. The curious 'dummy' windows, which occur on the exterior of the building, were added to enhance the aesthetic balance of the house. The style is classical throughout and the decor reflects continental trends in the gilt, marble work, painted ceilings and magnificent plaster detail throughout.

Since the re-opening of the house in 2009 after restoration, people can now visit the upper floor of the house for the first time in many years. The glorious neo-classical architecture and innovative designs for which Morrison was renowned can now be fully appreciated, as well as a fine collection of paintings and furniture - which have been returned to the house.

There is still, however, much to do. We have many projects under development that will add to the visitor experience from simple car parking improvements to the restoration of previously inaccessible 19th century glasshouses. The Trust is committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from, or get involved with this special place, however we cannot achieve this continuous process of repair and improvement without the generous support of visitors and volunteers. In addition to cultural and economic benefits, the Trust wants to sustain this place of artistic and architectural splendour through cultural tourism, education, celebration and family activities for all.