Liss Ard is a 163 acre estate situated just outside of the West Cork town Skibbereen on the Tragumna, Castletownshend Road. The name Liss Ard comes from Lios Ard, lios being a prehistoric ring fort and ard meaning high – hence high fort. There are two large properties on the estate, the Country House and the Lake Lodge.
1853 – The O’Donovans, prominent Anglo-Irish landlords of the area at the time, first acquired the estate, containing 300 acres. Their homelands were originally Limerick. They were pushed out by the de Burgos and the Fitzgeralds and came to West Cork where they occupied sixty seven ploughlands covering an area from Bantry through Drimoleague to Clonakilty.
- 1853 – 1856 – The Country House, the last of the O’Donovan chief’s Georgian houses was built. A stone wall surrounded and defined the demesne. There were once ornate entrance gates into the demesne that are now internal within the estate. Adjacent to the Country House were the stables and a one acre walled garden that was during the 19th century run as a fully functional kitchen garden. Pictures of the time show large glass houses within the walled garden. The flues from the boilers are still to be seen on the surrounding walls.
- 1870’s – Construction of Glen Teigh (Lake Lodge), Tower Lodge, Entrance Lodges. Glen Teigh was the summer residence of The O’Donovans. It is Victorian in design and overlooks Lough Abisdealy. Source of income: 2000 acres of tenant farm land in Union Hall, Drimoleague, Douglas.
- 1901-1902 – Addition to the Country House was built as well as steps to the back garden.
- 1910 – The land between the Country House and the lake was bare. All trees had been planted between 1910 and 1950. In the garden can still be elements of an ornamental garden been discovered, mainly rhododendron bushes.
- 1924 – The O’Donovans sold Liss Ard with its 300 acres of land by auction, when Morgan William O’Donovan decided to spend the rest of his days in North Devon. The two properties and lands were divided into 6 lots and sold to separate individuals. The Country House was acquired by a Mr Collins for 600 P., Glen Teigh (Lake Lodge) acquired by Mr Collins brother. For the first time in nearly a thousand years, The O’Donovan, head of nine thousand Irish families, and one of twenty chiefs, emigrated from the country.
- 1930’s-1980’s – The Country House and the Lake Lodge changed hands several times. In the 1970’s & 80’s the Country House operated as a hotel restaurant and outdoor recreation centre. It was even set up as a secret exile domicile for the Swiss government by the Swiss colonel Albert Bachman.
- 1984-1989 – The American couple Harry and Audrey Lamborn owned Liss Ard and used it as their private home. Bought for £350,000
- 1989 – In 1989 both properties and 185 acres of the 300 acre estate was brought back under single ownership. Veith Turske, a German art dealer, acquired the estate: Country House, Lake Lodge, Tower Lodge, Entrance Lodges. Renovation of the Country House began.
- 1990 – Liss Ard Foundation was founded. Development of a truly imaginative and exciting landscape project with 50 acres of woodlands, wildflower meadows, ponds, including the shore of Lough Abisdealy. James Turrell started to work on the design of the Sky Garden.
- 1992 – The development of the site of the Sky Garden was completed with the construction of a temporary access road to allow building of Space 1, The Crater to begin.
- 1995 – The lime trees along the avenue were planted.
If you would like to read some history the town of Skibbereen please visit http://www.skibbereen.ie/a-brief-history/