Dunmore House was purchased by Jeremiah and Mary O’Donovan from the Beamish family in 1934: At the time the House and adjoining lands were a working farm. When Mary arrived at Dunmore for the first time and looked out at the sea below the House, she is reputed to have said “there is nothing here but water”.
In the early 1940s the O’Donovans first began having guests to stay during the summer months and, in 1948, seventy-five years ago this year, the property was licensed for the first time.
The business was taken over by Derry, son of Jeremiah and Mary, on his marriage to Mary Dineen of Mill House, Ballinascarthy in 1961. Mary recounts how there were 137 guests at their wedding and they were all accommodated in the three large rooms then at the front of the main house, each measuring 15 feet by 15 feet: Two of these rooms now make up the main lounge in the hotel.
In 1962, a new modern function room was added to the front of the hotel, which became the location for many wedding celebrations and annual dinner dances (which were popular at the time) – the Gun Club, the local Co-op, The Agricultural Society and the Local Harriers to name but a few. It was also in this room that Derry and Mary had the novel idea to run ‘Ballad Sessions’ during the summer months. These nights became legendary in West Cork with long queues forming on Tuesday evenings to hear Sean O’Se, ‘Billa’ O’Connell, John White and John O’Shea (The singing fireman!).
Around this time, Derry and Mary, while rearing their young family, also set about constructing a nine hole golf course on the lands surrounding the hotel. This was indeed a major investment and undertaking at the time and, on it’s opening in July 1967, photographs of the new course with Derry, Mary and five-year-old Carol featured on all the National Sunday Newspapers. A new large kitchen with four bedrooms overhead were added in 1972 and, in 1977 the large building comprising the Ocean (Wedding) suite was built.
The hotel became a destination wedding venue through the 1980s and early 1990s.
Around that time Carol, Derry and Mary’s daughter, began to work full-time in the business and, along with Derry and Mary, continued the improvement and development of the hotel. In 1996 under the Seaside Resort Tax Scheme, a new 15-bedroom block was constructed. This addition meant that Dunmore now became a year-round destination welcoming guests from home and abroad.
Over the following decade new bedrooms were added and the ‘Courtyard’ development comprising four self-contained residential-guest accommodations was completed.
In 2015, Carol’s husband Richard retired from his work as a solicitor to work full-time in the hotel and the following few years saw the introduction of the kitchen gardens that now supply much of the produce used daily in the hotel kitchens. In 2017, Richard and Carol’s son Peter, following hotel studies abroad joined the team to become the fourth generation to work in and run the business.
Throughout the Covid period, work continued in the gardens and environs of the hotel with the addition of the Cliff Gardens and the Ocean walk along the seashore.
In 2022 the Hotel’s Adrift Restaurant was recognised with a listing in the Michelin Guide. The closing of the Golf Course in 2022 allowed the development of the ‘Ocean Club’, giving a panoramic view over Clonakilty Bay: It’s now used as a wedding drinks reception area and for various private parties and meetings.
In 2023, seventy-five years after being officially licensed and nearly ninety years after Jeremiah and Mary first farmed the lands, a foal was born on the part of the hotel lands now occupied by Dunmore Sporthorses and so the history and story of Dunmore continues – a home, a place for rest and relaxation, celebrations and song, sport and enjoyment, a workplace for many generations of local people, a focal and reference point for all.