Cork is a city full of history, culture and pleasant surprises
Ireland’s second city, Cork, is – according to its residents at least – first in anything that matters. Friendly, laid-back, young and cultured, the sing-song accent of the locals reflects the narrow, winding streets that weave their way up and down to the waterfront. With both a hint of hipster and a dollop of the traditional, you’ll find snug pubs and artisan coffee shops, 17th century streets and modern monuments. Most of all, you’ll find a city that’s welcoming, lively and fun!
I’ve only got a day. What’s easy to see and do?
St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
An 1879 whirlwind of Gothic revival, this three-spired masterpiece is located on ground that’s been a place of worship since the 7th century.
The English Market
A vaulted, Victorian masterpiece, this is where Cork’s residents come to sample and buy the freshest traditional products from around the region. Meat, vegetables, cheeses and more create a beautiful blend of colours, smells and flavours.
Cork City Gaol
A fabulously grim series of exhibitions showing what life was like for the inmates of this imposing 19th century jail. Featuring models portraying life behind bars, and the added bonus of an atmospheric night-time tour if that fits your itinerary, this is an experience you’ll not forget in a hurry.
Blackrock Castle Observatory
Standing proudly on the banks of the River Lee, the imposing Blackrock Castle looks the way a castle should, all towers, turrets and battlements. As well as exploring the castle, you can also take in the observatory which features a planetarium, a cinema, and interactive exhibits exploring science, nature and space.
Fitzgerald Park and Public Museum
On the western side of the city lies Fitzgerald park, a lovely splash of green, and a place to relax and just watch the world go by. Built at the end of the 19th century, its tree-lined avenues, lily pond and rose garden are complemented by the occasional sculpture, and when you’re done exploring, you can cross what’s known as the Shaky Bridge and head back into the city.
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Sounds great! What if I want to stay for a weekend?
Food and drink
Cork has a great microbrewery scene, and both The Rising Sons and The Franciscan Well have won international awards for their beers. Both are reasonably priced, and both have great deals on home-made, wood-fired pizza as well.
The art scene
There are a number of independent art galleries in the city, each showcasing a different aspect of the Cork art scene. The Vangard Gallery offers even more, placing art from all over Ireland at the forefront of its exhibitions, and the Triskel Arts Centre – found partly in a renovated church – has installations, theatre, cinema and live music.
Jameson Heritage Centre
Whiskey lovers from all over the world come to the town of Midleton to discover the secret of Uisce Beatha, or the Water of Life. Since the 6th century, monks have been distilling what is now one of the most popular whiskeys in the world. Learn the history, visit the distillery and, of course, have a little sample at the end!
Bring home a book
Every Spring, Cork holds a world-renowned book festival. If you’re not here for that, there’s a good number of second-hand and antiquarian book shops around the city anyway. Liam Ruiséal Teo is the oldest and largest independent book shop in Cork, and the Time Traveller’s Bookshop specialises in rare and unusual books — as well as first editions and signed copies — focussing heavily of Irish culture, language and history.
Even if you get just a little way out of town, there are plenty of walks, strolls and rambles along the stunning coastline. It’s also the perfect way to work up the thirst for a pint at a local pub along the way. After all, you’ve earned it!
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What about for a whole week? What’s in the surrounding region?
Embedded in the walls of Blarney Castle is the famous Blarney Stone. The story goes that anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone will receive the famous Irish gift of eloquence! Once done, take some time to explore the ruins of the castle and its wonderful grounds.
Cobh Heritage Centre
The town of Cobh plays host to a museum of Irish history, told through the shifting of people through Ireland and beyond. Exhibitions include the Titanic, Emigration & Famine, life on board a ship crossing to the New World, and a new genealogy service to discover if you’ve got a bit of the Irish in you!
Garnish Island and its strange micro-climate
Garnish Island is unique in Ireland. It’s situated in a well-protected part of Bantry Bay, and because of this, has a climate unlike anywhere else in the country. This means that you can find exotic plant life, and rare birds such as sea eagles. On your journey out, you’ll also pass Seal Island, home to hundreds of noisily happy seals, and if you’re really lucky you might even spot a dolphin or two!
Around 30 minutes’ drive down the coast is the pretty town of Kinsale, formerly a medieval fishing port and now famous as one of the most picturesque places in the region. There are walks both in town, exploring its history, and in the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding countryside. The nearby Kinsale Golf Club is a world-class venue if you fancy getting a round in on your travels as well.
Fota Wildlife Park
Ireland’s only wildlife park is a fabulous day out for all the family. From antelope to zebras and everything in between, you can see some of the rarest creatures on the planet and learn about how the park is working to help these amazing creatures in their natural environments.
So now you’ve seen everything Cork has to offer, why not make it a stopover on your next vacation?
In association with Cork Airport