This is one of the most fascinating towns in North Cork, steeped in history from ancient times. It stands at a crossing of the Awbeg River where it runs through a gentle valley before entering the steeper gorge further south.
In the area there are chamber tombs from maybe 2000 B.C.
In the 1500’s the town was the property of Edmund Spencer the poet who wrote most of ‘the Fairie Queene’ while he lived at Kilcolman Castle. Many of the geographical references in that poem are to the Doneraile area.
Spencer had extremist views about how the native Irish should be dealt with and was burned out of Kilcolman in 1598, his infant son dying in the blaze. He died soon after in London, penniless and broken.
Spencer’s estates were taken over by the St. Legers who built Doneraile Court and who lived there until recent times, being the major political power in the area for many centuries. They are associated of course with horse racing.
The original Steeplechase horse race was organised between the steeples of Buttevant and Doneraile churches in 1752. Unfortunately the steeple at Doneraile was since demolished. The present tower of the church has the only peal of six bells in an Irish country church, and they are still rung every week.
A famous parish priest of Doneraile in the late 1800’s, Canon Sheehan, wrote novels which are still valued as sources of background information to life in the area at that time.
More recently the TV personality Fanny Craddock lived in the area and brought many famous visitors to Doneraile.