Foaty Island is located about 14 kilometres east of Cork City and on the eastern side of Lough Mahon. At the entrance to Belvelly Channel, it was once the home of the Smith-Barry family. Fota House was originally a hunting lodge and did not become the family’s main residence until the 1820s, when the present mansion was built. The 780-acre Fota estate was sold to University College Cork in 1975.
Fota House is managed by Fota Trust Ltd. and is open to the public. Although it has over 70 rooms, only some of these are open to the public. However, the remaining rooms are continually being restored. The house is complemented by fine gardens and a recently restored orangery. The estate also has an internationally renowned arboretum where plants from warmer parts of the world thrive outdoors in the mild Cork climate. Both the gardens and arboretum are managed by the Office of Public Works.
Fota Wildlife Park was opened on a 40-acre site in 1983 as a joint project of the Zoological Society of Ireland and University College Cork. The aim of the initiative was to allow animals the freedom to roam in open, natural surroundings while coming as close to the visiting public as possible. Animals chosen to inhabit the park are species that have an ability to adapt to the Irish climate. Today, more than 70 exotic species from five continents live in the Wildlife Park, including giraffes, zebras ostriches, cheetahs and a variety of monkeys. A number of species held in the Wildlife Park are those whose survival is under threat. In such instances, breeding programmes may help reintroduce such species to the wild. The Wildlife Park attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year. It is managed by Fota Wildlife Park Ltd., a not-for-profit organisation and registered charity that reinvests profits to promote conservation, education and research.
The rest of Foaty Island includes an 18-hole championship golf course, which hosted the Murphy's Irish Open in 2001 and 2002. The golf course has recently been complemented by a newly-constructed 131 bedroom luxury hotel and a range of residential lodges.
Fota House images taken from www.fotahouse.com