Jam-packed with buzzing pubs, fantastic galleries, thought-provoking museums and arguably the best restaurant scene in Ireland, Cork is the perfect city break destination. Check out these 10 good reasons to pay the ‘rebel county’ a visit…
Loose clothing is advised – Cork is known as the culinary capital of Ireland, a city where you’re actively encouraged to gorge. And there’s no better introduction to Cork’s foodie scene than the fantastic English Market. It’s the oldest market of its kind in Europe and even got the royal seal of approval in 2011 when Queen Elizabeth II went on a walkabout of its artisan stalls. Feast on local cheeses, fresh seafood and chunks of handmade chocolate before rolling your way to the quirky Butter Museum where you’ll discover a surprisingly interesting take on one of Cork’s most historic industries.
Don your ear defenders, climb the bell tower at St Anne’s Church in the historic Shandon area of Cork and give the ropes a good old tug. You’re free to choose your own signature tune. Whether it’s Amazing Grace or Waltzing Matilda, make it a showstopper – the bells ring out from Shandon throughout Cork city, letting you become part of a centuries-old tradition.
Experience life in the city in the 19th and early 20th century with a trip to Cork City Gaol, a museum that offers a unique insight into Cork’s history, both inside and outside of the prison walls. The exhibition features amazingly lifelike figures, restored cells and sound effects that will transport you back to a day in the life of previous occupants and gaolers. Take an evening tour if you dare, and mingle with the ghosts of inmates past.
Located just off Patrick’s Street lies the Crawford Gallery, home of the famous Canova Casts, a series of plaster casts donated by the Vatican Museum to the Cork Society of Arts in 1818. The Belvedere Torso, The Laocoon and The Disc Thrower are among the casts on display. And the cherry on top? Admission is free.
Cork is a compact city that can be explored without much difficulty, but if you want to find out what really makes Ireland’s second city tick (and hear more of that lovely lilting accent), it’s worth checking out one of the excellent, locally led tours. For an in-depth look at the city’s history and folklore, pre-arrange a walking tour with a local guide such as Kieran McCarthy. Or you could always take the weight off your feet. Cork City Tours operates open-top double-decker buses, which run regularly during the day.
Every October, hundreds of jazz musicians and thousands of music fans flock to Cork from all over the world for Ireland’s biggest jazz festival. The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival is Ireland’s flagship international Jazz Festival, showcasing the best of Irish and overseas musicians in an eclectic four-day programme of jazz and jazz-inspired music in over 70 venues citywide. Best of all, over 90% of the performances are completely free.
Cork is the perfect starting point if you’re planning to follow Ireland’s spectacular Wild Atlantic Way route. Travel along the coast, taking in the Old Head of Kinsale, Mizen Head and if you really want to get away from it all take a cable car to Dursey Island. En route you’ll discover rugged headlands, jutting peninsulas, secret islands, and if you’re very lucky, you might even spot marine life such as dolphins and humpback whales.
Some of Ireland’s prettiest seaside towns can be found in West Cork. King of these is Kinsale, famous throughout Ireland for its seafood and award-winning restaurants. For the perfect day in Kinsale, enjoy lunch in the Fishy Fishy Café, walk out to the 17th century Charles Fort or play a round of golf at the stunning Old Head Golf Links.
One of the most popular day trips from Cork city is Cobh, a beautiful seaport town with a bittersweet history. Once the main port of emigration from Ireland, Cobh was the last port of call for Titanic and the story is magnificently told at the Titanic Experience located in the old White Star Line offices.
The world-famous Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s top tourist destinations and is located just ten minutes from Cork City. It’s home to the famous Blarney Stone, which, according to legend, holds the power to bless anyone who kisses it with the ‘gift of the gab’. After you’ve paid lip service, take a stroll around Blarney Castle Gardens. Check out the tropical looking Fern Garden and its mysterious neighbour, Poison Garden. Located just beside the battlements, it houses a fascinating collection of deadly and dangerous plants from around the world, including caged specimens of deadly nightshade, wolfsbane and poison ivy.
Nearby, you’ll find Rock Close, a mystical place where majestic yew and oak trees grow around an ancient druidic settlement. Follow the trail through giant gunnera leaves and bamboo to uncover a giant dolmen stone, a set of ‘wishing steps’ and a witch’s kitchen. Snap happy? The water garden and waterfalls provide a magical backdrop for Instagram pics.
This post was written in partnership with Tourism Ireland
Flights to Cork