About the house
Drishane House has been the home of the Somerville family for nine generations, or nearly 250 years. Thomas Somerville built the house around 1780 in classic Georgian style, its elevations hung with purple Benduff slate and surrounded by park-like gardens with mature trees, including several rare specimens. Situated at the top of the hill, with fabulous views of Castlehaven Bay and the point, he could keep an eye on the progress of his fleet of merchant ships that traded with America.
The house has changed slightly over the years, adjusting organically with the demands of family life. The front door moved from the east to the north wall in 1820. Someone added a French door to the southern aspect in 1901. An American admirer wanted Edith Somerville to have her own bathroom upstairs so a room supported on stilts was added to her bedroom. There has been some sensitive modernisation to bring the house into the twenty-first century, but the swags above the curtains in the dining room date from 1820. Some rooms still bear their 1830s wallpaper (including the octagonal study), and there’s still a chamber pot hidden behind the shutter in the dining room, where the portraits of past family members look down benignly.
History of the Somervilles
The first Somerville to land in Ireland in 1690 was a refugee, fleeing persecution of the Church of Scotland of which William Somerville was a minister. He took his family and rowed twenty miles over rough water to Ulster, where they found refuge through family connections. He died four years later aged just 51.
Thomas Somerville was aged two when he made the journey by boat. The younger of two sons, he decided to make his career in the Church of Ireland. He went to Trinity College, Dublin, and became ordained. The family fortunes changed when he married Ann Neville in 1723. She was very wealthy for the time, with an income of £500 a year, and they prospered and had eight children. In 1732 the family moved to West Cork, Thomas having landed the living as the Rector Of Castlehaven. He bought as his vicarage the old O’Driscoll Castle next to the church at Castlehaven Strand and although both now lie in ruins, there still remains in the house his portrait, his stick and his 1685 edition of Bedel’s Irish Bible. He died in 1752.
Of the four sons of Thomas and Ann, three brothers emigrated to Savannah, Georgia and became very prosperous. The youngest (? – check) son, also called Thomas, lost an eye in an accident at Trinity. This prevented him from being ordained, so instead he built up a fleet of ships with which he traded very successfully with America. He married Mary Townshend (the first of three consecutive marriages to the Townshend family) and they had eleven children. He bought the estate and built Drishane and several other notable buildings in Castletownshend, notably the warehousing on the main harbour quay, the Custom House and his Dower house on the Mall.
The family fortunes waxed and waned with successive generations until in 1895 Edith Somerville took over the running of Drishane in the absence of her younger brother Colonel Cameron Somerville, who never married and remained overseas much of his life. Both the house and gardens reflect much of her taste and enthusiasms; she painted many of the pictures on the walls, gained literary acclaim as one half of the Somerville and Ross writing partnership, led the local Hunt, farmed the land, bringing the first Friesans to Ireland, and played the organ in Church every Sunday. When Cameron Somerville died, the house passed to his nephew Brigadier Desmond Somerville, a veteran of the battles of Gallipoli and the Somme, whose grandchildren Tom and Jane moved to Drishane in 2007 and are now guiding the house into the twenty-first century.
Edith Somerville was a major influence on Drishane and the surrounding neighbourhood. The museum, situated in her studio, is a celebration of her very full life, containing some 3,500 items, including many letters, drawings and photographs. Although most widely known for her collaboration with her cousin and very dear friend Violet Martin of Ross, she was far more than just a writer, which the exhibition attempts to demonstrate.
Magical paths thread through eighteen acres of informal woodlands and gardens, with spectacular West Cork coastal views. The gardens vary with the seasons; in spring the woodland floor is carpeted with daffodils and bluebells. Amongst the many mature trees and shrubs are many specimen varieties, including a Liriodendron (the Tulip Tree), a Ginkgo Biloba (a variety common in the era of dinosaurs 270 million years ago, but now endangered), and a massive Cupressas Macrocarpa, or Moneterey Pine, more commonly associated with the Californina coast.
Within walking distance of Drishane we have three rental cottages on the estate all with spectacular coastal views. Each has its own characterful charm and are a quick walk to each other, the village and the three beaches. They are very comfortable and well-appointed, all with WiFi, TV and DVD plus washing machines and other home comforts.
Castlehaven Beach Cottage (1 king, 1 twin & 1 single) Secluded and quiet, looking down on the strand and just fifty metres from the beach.
Cowshed Cottage (1 king and 1 twin) Surrounded by pasture, with panoramic coastal views.
Farrandau Cottage (2 kings and 1 small double/queen) A charming modernised estate cottage with
striking sea views from the living room.
Many options are available, including either a secluded private location for a marquee on one of our lawns, or using the reception rooms in Drishane itself. There are plenty of cottages and B&Bs nearby for guests. Have a chat with us to discuss your perfect wedding.
Please contact Tom Somerville at Drishane House, Castletownshend, Skibbereen, Co. Cork P81 Y008
By telephone: 00353 (0) 28 36126
Jane Somerville 086 4012535 and Tom Somerville 083 8574589
Do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The House, gardens and Museum are open usually in May, June and Heritage Week in August, but
please do call us to discover our open days or simply refer to our website. (For large groups we are very happy to try and accommodate your planned date if possible.)