The town stands on the northern slope of Knockahur hill, which rises by a gentle slope from the river and gradually ascends to a rocky prominence. However, it was not this rocky prominence but one near the graveyard of Oldcourt which together with an ancient fort built thereon, gave the town its name, Doneraile, i.e. “Dún ar Aill”, meaning the fort on the cliff. The countryside around Doneraile is very scenic and has a wealth of historical associations.
Doneraile once formed part of the poet Edmund Spenser’s great estate, until his son sold it to the St. Leger family in 1627. Indeed Spenser spent from 1586 to 1598 in nearby ruined Kilcolman Castle (not open to the public). It is believed that he wrote part of ‘The Faerie Queen’ at Kilcolman at that time.
From 1895 to 1913, Canon Sheehan the author was Parish Priest of Doneraile, and he wrote many books here which have as their subject Irish rural life.
Doneraile House is currently being restored and the Doneraile Demesne is now a public Forest Park with a herd of Red Deer and much other wildlife.