The Donkey Sanctuary: Aww, Donkeys

We came soooo close to ditching this stop; thank goodness we didn’t! Our day started with a drive to Charles Fort on the southern coast of Ireland, over 100 kilometers from the Flemingstown House, our luxurious home away-from-home. From there we worked our way back north with visits to Bridgetown Priory and Ballybeg Priory, stopping for lunch in Castletownroche along the way. The Donkey Sanctuary would be our last stop before shopping for dinner supplies. With everything taking longer than I thought (as always), and a party of 10 who might want dinner at a reasonable hour, I casually suggested that perhaps we should head straight to the grocery store. That’s when Chris (who was our fearless driver and uber-focused on the narrow winding road) plaintively replied, “But…wait…you are going to take me to see the donkeys, aren’t you?” I had to stop myself from chuckling out loud, it was said with almost childlike undertones of surprise, hurt, and disbelief. Yes Chris, of course yes! We’ll take you to the donkeys!

Chris giving some love to his new little buddy

I don’t know what donkeys are normally like, but the ones we met around Ireland were intelligent, curious, loving animals. The opportunity to interact with a whole passel of them in one place was just too good to pass up. Delightful stop! We couldn’t have asked for more: dozens of donkeys to love on, established walkways with scenic views, and helpful signage throughout. After visiting the donkeys in the main stable and barn, we strolled the Fort Walk and Rock Walk and read about the sanctuary, donkey care, and individual rescue stories. We also learned of local plants, animals, and historic ruins including the ring fort and lime kiln on-site, as well as Liscarroll Castle a stone’s throw away.

A curious donkey trying to get into Julie's bag. There's no food in the bag; just a cute stuffed donkey from the gift shop.

The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland owes its existence to Paddy Barrett and his family. Paddy’s grandfather cared for donkeys beginning in 1926, and both Paddy and Paddy’s father worked for the ISPCA (the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Paddy started a rescue center for donkeys in Ireland which joined forces with The Donkey Sanctuary UK in 1987. The Ireland sanctuary near Liscarroll comprises three farms and currently cares for about 700 donkeys; in total, they’ve taken in over 4,200 animals.

Karen and Julie visiting the mules and jennets at the far edge of the Rock Walk

If you visit, allow for plenty of time to walk the grounds. We thoroughly enjoyed the 20-minute Rock Walk, but it was disappointing to leave without exploring the Farm Walk and Barrett Walk as well. If arriving near closing time, park along the road outside the gate so you don’t risk having your car locked in. The gate closes promptly but you are free to wander the grounds after hours.

Map showing the longer walkways at the Donkey Sanctuary. Yes, there are donkeys to see along the way!

Final tip: Don’t bring carrots or other snacks to feed the donkeys. As fun as it sounds, the sanctuary discourages the practice; when fed by visitors, the donkeys come to expect food from everyone and can accidentally chomp non-food items (like fingers!) when looking for munchies. If you’d like to bring food donations, the staff will gladly distribute it to the animals during feeding time.

Map of the main area at the Donkey Sanctuary

I know next to nothing about donkeys, but these animals seem well-cared for.  We gladly made a donation to the sanctuary to support their efforts.

Location: Near Liscarroll, County Cork; GPS: 52.26694, –8.79256
Hours: 9am–4pm Monday through Friday; 10am–5pm Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays. Check their website for visitor information.
Cost: Free, but the website states “We totally rely on the generosity of the public and contributions in one of our collecting boxes will be most gratefully received.”

Gratuitous shot of an adorable kitten at the Donkey Sanctuary.