The mansion house at Fernhill has a long rich history which we welcome you to visit and experience for yourself.
In order to avoid the harsh penal laws at the time, Catholics said mass at a secret mass rock located in the glen next to Fernhill called 'Ballinaffrin'. Other religious ceremonies like Weddings and Baptisms would also have been held here.
The current house known as Fernhill was built. It was a large Georgian mansion and was the most expensive residence in Clonakilty at the time of Griffiths valuation. It can be seen on an OS map from 1841 here.
The Atkin family were landed gentry who resided in Fernhill for the first part of the century until they emmigrated to Australia where they became very successful. Robert Travers Atkin was born in Fernhill and was the last Atkin to own Fernhill. He has a monument dedicated to him in Brisbane. Robert's son was Lord Atkin who became a member of the house of Lords in the UK, one of the most famous judges in history widely credited for pioneering negligence and his descendants carry the heriditary title Baron Aldington.
The Atkin family ran a soup kitchen at Fernhill to help feed the starving during the Great Famine where one million starved and a further million emmigrated.
The Wright family purchased Fernhill at this time. The Wrights were prosperous solicitors and were listed amongst 'Burke's landed gentry of Ireland' & in the British peerage lists. They built a five story tower on a site next to the hotel. It is said that it was higher than the church steeple and that you could see Clonakilty bay from the top. Fernhill became a trophy country house complete with grass tennis courts & a cricket pitch.
Gen. Michael Collins was born in Woodfield, an area which can be seen to the right when standing in front of the hotel and facing the gardens. He went on to become one of the most influential figures in the history of Ireland and visited his friend Bertie O Donovan at Fernhill on numerous occasions. The house containing the Michael Collins heritage museum was owned by the proprietors of Fernhill at the time when he lived in Clonakilty.
George Wright of Fernhill became the Solicitor General of Ireland.
The land of the hotel was used by the army as a base during World War Two in preparation for a potential invasion. An ammunition magazine building is still standing on the grounds of Fernhill.
Michael J O Neill bought the land and buildings of Fernhill from the Wrights and it has continued on in O'Neill ownership for four generations. M.J. O Neill had intrests in farming and a butchers in Clonakilty which his grandson still runs. This interest in fine food is continued at the hotel today.
John F Kennedy became president of the United States of America. The family of his Great Grandmother, Margaret M. Field lived just a few miles from the hotel in neighbouring Woodfield and the area can be seen from the front of the hotel to the right. Their homestead is just 100 yards away from the house where Michael Collins was born and raised.
Con, the second generation of O Neills took over the mansion with his wife Mary. They ushered in a new era at the hotel by opening up a hotel at Fernhill.
The third generation of O Neill’s, Michael and his wife Teresa created the magnificent gardens at the front of the hotel. The gardens were transformed from a par 3 golf course which was the site of an All Ireland Pitch and Putt Championship. Michael & Teresa were also responsible for developing the ball rooms, bedrooms, winning several awards & achieving a fourth star.
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and his wife Sabina enjoyed dinner at Fernhill as part of the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the charter of Clonakilty.
After outdoor marriage ceremonies were banned in Ireland, the O Neill’s had the matter first raised in Dáil Éireann and they were allowed again later that year after a significant amount of lobbying.