History of Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve

At the beginning of the 17th century, the woodlands around Glengarriff were extensive, and it was from the shelter of these that O’Sullivan Bear set out with his followers early in 1602 on his long march to exile in Leitrim after the defeat of the Gaelic army at the Battle of Kinsale.

In the first half of the 18th century timber was coppiced to produce charcoal for the local iron smelter.  In 1751 the woods became part of the estate of the White family, owners of Bantry House.  In the early 1800s the White’s built a thatched hunting lodge in the middle of the woods, established a deer park and employed a gamekeeper.  During the White’s stewardship it seems the woods were largely protected from exploitation with contemporary records suggesting that the woods were never devastated to the extent that many other woods in Ireland were.

The White family undertook some forestry planting.  For example, Scot’s pine (imported from Scotland) was planted in 1857 by the 2nd Earl of Bantry and a further 7ha was planted in 1887 by the 4th Earl.  Some of the Scot’s pine they planted can still be seen today.

In 1955, the state acquired 380ha of the woods for commercial forestry purposes and extensive planting of conifers occurred and many of the oldest oak were felled or ring-barked. In the 1970s, the conservation value of the remaining areas of oak were recognised and the idea of a Nature Reserve mooted.   In 1991, 301ha were finally designated as a Nature Reserve, which is now owned and managed by the National Parks & Wildlife Service.