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County Cork

Everything good about Ireland can be found in County Cork. Surrounding the country's second city – a thriving metropolis made glorious by location and its almost Rabelaisian devotion to the finer things of life – is a lush landscape dotted with villages that offer days of languor and idyll. The city's understated confidence is grounded in its plethora of food markets and ever-evolving cast of creative eateries, and in its selection of pubs, entertainment and cultural pursuits.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Cork city jail.

Cork City Gaol

This imposing former prison is well worth a visit, if only to get a sense of how awful life was for prisoners a century ago. An audio tour (€2 extra)…

Charles Fort, Kinsale, Ireland

Charles Fort

One of Europe's best-preserved star-shaped artillery forts, this vast 17th-century fortification would be worth a visit for its spectacular views alone…

English Market.

English Market

The English Market – so called because it was set up in 1788 by the Protestant or ‘English’ corporation that then controlled the city (there was once an…

Bantry House & Garden

Bantry House & Garden

With its melancholic air of faded gentility, 18th-century Bantry House makes for an intriguing visit. From the Gobelin tapestries in the drawing room to…

Spike Island

Spike Island

This low-lying green island in Cork Harbour was once an important part of the port's defences, topped by an 18th-century artillery fort. In the second…

Ilnacullin

Beara Peninsula

This horticultural miracle of an island was created in the early 20th century when the island's owner commissioned architect Harold Peto to design a…

Crawford Art Gallery

Crawford Art Gallery

Cork's public gallery houses a small but excellent permanent collection covering the 17th century through to the modern day, though the works on display…

Sky Garden

The West Cork Coast

The Victorian country estate of Liss Ard is home to the remarkable Sky Garden, a piece of landscape art created by American artist James Turrell in 1992…

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Jul 28, 2020 • 2 min read

The 157-acre island Horse Island is located off the coast of Schull in West Cork and contains seven properties.

Medieval Blarney Castle in Co. Cork, Ireland.

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Strolling by the River Lee in Cork's city centre offers great views © Stephen Spraggon / Getty Images

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Cobh, just outside Cork, is home to the second-largest natural harbour in the world. Image by Danita Delimont / Getty

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St Stephen's Green, Dublin. Image by Anna & Michal / CC BY-SA 2.0

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Kayak around the city or head north for a hike, see Dursey by cable car and explore Beara by bike!

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Cork - Ireland's Maritime Haven

A maritime history spanning over a thousand years, set in a beautiful soft coastal environment where land, the people and their culture will allow you to discover a quirky way to stimulate your senses

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The ultimate guide to visiting Cork, Ireland

Impression of the St. Colman's Cathedral in Cobh near Cork, Ireland

As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials' guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

When planning a trip to Ireland , Dublin and Galway are two of the main destinations that spring to mind. But Cork should be on any list, too. Located in the southwest of the country, it's Ireland's biggest county and has the second most populous city. The River Lee runs through it, and Cork is on the coast, too -- so there are plenty of unspoiled beaches with big skies.

Not only does Cork, also known as the Rebel County, have some terrific dining spots and activities in the city itself, but there are also loads of fun, interesting and magical things to do and see nearby. From its dramatic coastline to kissing the Blarney stone and visiting the Titanic's "last port of call" -- there's something for everyone. And you will certainly pick up some interesting turn of phrases along the way.

So here are our picks of the best spots and some insider tips for your first — or maybe return — visit.

View of Cork City along the River Lee. (Photo by Dave G Kelly)

Cork City is compact and very walkable — it even has the second-largest natural harbor in the world. You would definitely need a car for exploring the county, as public transport — especially in the countryside -- isn't amazing, but while you're in the city, on foot is best. There are loads of cafes, some great shopping and, of course, a pub on almost every corner. Cork has an exciting music scene, too.

The English Market

This fresh food market started in 1788 and has been described as a "food lover's delight" and "one of the best-covered markets in the U.K. and Ireland." It's brimful of tasty delicacies including the freshest of seafood. And if you've seen the Young Offenders, it's where Mairead, Conor's mom, works. You can buy everything from cakes to spices to wine -- so definitely make a stop before any picnic.

Even the Queen loved if there during her royal visit to Ireland. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert / Contributor/Getty Images(

The stalls range from fledging traders to those who have been there for generations. It can be found between Grand Parade and Princes Street and is open Monday to Saturday year-round 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Crawford Art Gallery

Crawford Art Gallery is a fabulous space dedicated to the visual arts with a collection of more than 3,000 works, ranging from eighteenth-century Irish painting and sculpture, through to contemporary video installations. The Crawford also houses the famous Canova casts -- a gift from the Vatican 200 years ago. The casts were created by Antonio Canova, a renowned Italian Neoclassical sculptor who is said to be the most famous of his time.

There's also a lovely cafe, so stop off for tea and cake after getting your cultural hit. Admission is free.

Shandon Bells

St Anne's church, located in the Shandon area of the city, is one of the only churches in the world that lets you ring its bells unaccompanied. The belfry has eight bells -- weighing six tons in total -- and there's a range of tunes you can play. But remember, you can be heard all over the city, so make sure you get it right.

Read more : From Connemara to the Giant's Causeway: 9 of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland

Cork, Ireland - April 14, 2014: St. Anne's in Shandon and the City of Cork photographed against a beautiful sunset at dusk.

You can also tread the 135 steps to the top of the tower for a stunning 360-degree view of Cork. Cork is known as a city of steeps and steeples, and you'll see why. The church and tower are open year-round and admission is $7.

The music scene

Cork attracts musicians from all over the world -- from trad to jazz to choral music. There are loads of events that will keep you up till the small hours, singing your head off.

To experience some Irish "trad" music, head to The Oliver Plunkett where you can hear live tunes every night. This late-night place is somewhat of an institution -- see who you can spot on its photo-covered walls. Plugd Records is a great record shop that also holds indie events. Every year, Cork hosts the Guinness Jazz Festival in late October and it attracts hundreds of jazz names and thousands of fans. The atmosphere is electric and greats such as Ella Fitzgerald have even performed at the event.

St Fin Barre's Cathedral

Time it right, and you might catch the choir practicing and see the magnificent organ being played at St Fin Barre's Cathedral. Built in 1870, the cathedral is actually on grounds where Christians worshipped way back in the seventh century. The neo-Gothic architecture is something to behold. Admission is free.

Restaurant top pick: Izz Cafe

Izz Cafe is Cork's only Palestinian eatery and has just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Located at George's Quay in the city center, it's created a huge amount of buzz since it opened. Izz is owned and run by a Palestinian couple who moved to Ireland as asylum-seekers. Specialties include maneesh (Palestinian pizza), "guilt-free" falafel and tasty cinnamon rolls.

Where to stay

There is a generous choice of places to stay in Cork, and most are fairly affordable. There are very few chain hotels in Cork, and many are family-run -- this provides a whole different experience that you should embrace while you're there.

You'll find genuine Irish hospitality, and Irish breakfasts are super. Wait until you try some freshly baked soda bread slathered in butter. Here are two of our favorite places to stay.

Hayfield Manor

This is Cork city's only five-star hotel and is essentially a manor house within a city. Each of the 88 rooms is individually adorned with antiques, and the vibe is pampered and serene. The property itself is a fairly new build but looks the opposite. However, the grounds and gardens date back 150 years.

Style: "Neutral"

And yes, Hayfield Manor family-run. There's also a gorgeous spa with an indoor pool overlooking the garden, an outdoor hot tub and most spa breaks come with lunch or afternoon tea. Rooms start at $271 a night.

Hotel Isaacs

This place is slightly edgier. It's very modish and located in the heart of Cork's theatre district, among lots of trendy boutiques and cafes. Hotel Isaacs used to be an Edwardian tobacco warehouse and some of the rooms have retained original features. But don't worry, there are heated towel rails, a pillow menu and rainfall showers. Another big draw is the hotel's restaurant , Greene's. It has been regularly voted one of the best in Cork, and residents get a 15% discount. The courtyard even has a natural waterfall -- a welcome respite from the din of the city.

county cork travel guide

Cork County

The blarney stone.

You can't visit Cork without kissing the Blarney stone. I did it as a child, and looking back, it's probably not that hygienic -- millions of other mouths have done the same. But, if you brave it, you'll supposedly be blessed with "the gift of the gab." That's where the expression "talking blarney" comes from -- the knack of clever, flattering sweet talk.

(Photo by Unsplash/Morgan Lane)

The stone, laid in 1446, is at Blarney Castle, about three miles outside Cork city. The origin of the stone is shrouded in mystery but one extreme theory is that it's the same rock Moses himself struck to provide water for the Israelites after escaping slavery in Egypt. After smooching the stone, you can also explore the castle, dungeons, the grounds and more. Entry is $18 for adults, and for children younger than 16, it's $8.

Fota Wildlife Park

This 100-acre wildlife and conservation park is home to 30 different types of mammals, including kangaroos, wallabies and cheetahs. In fact, Fota has successfully bred more than 200 cheetah cubs. All its habitats are carefully designed to promote biodiversity and "encourage the expression of a range of natural behaviors in the animals it houses." So much so that Fota created the "cheetah run" -- a device that suspends food items on a wire that travels 10 feet off the ground, at approximately 40 miles per hour to emulate a cheetah chasing its prey.

(Photo by Christine Rose Photography/Getty Images)

The park is on Fota Island, in Cork harbor, and visiting is a good activity that practices social distancing, as there's plenty of space. You can also stay at Fota Island Resort -- a five-star hotel and spa nearby. It offers self-catering lodges, too. Rooms start at about $199 per night.

This is the town I grew up in, so it has a special place in my heart. However, bias aside, it's marvelous. Kinsale is a fishing town about a 25-minute drive from Cork Airport and is home to some of the country's finest seafood restaurants. I highly recommend Max's Wine Bar and Fishy Fishy . The town itself is full of twisty alleyways and hidden corners and the buildings are all brightly daubed. Plus, there are practically no chain businesses -- for the most part, they're independently owned.

View of the Kinsale Harbour during sunset, County Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Eduardo Fonseca Arraes/Getty Images)

There are some great pubs including The Spaniard and The White House , and once you've fed and watered yourself, there's lots of walking to be done. Either down the pier to admire the marina, up to Compass Hill for some amazing views, to either James or Charles Fort for a bit of history or just meandering around the many shops. If you fancy a spot of crabbing, pop to Mylie Murphys on Pearse Street for all your bicycle and fishing needs.

Keeping with the seaside resort theme, from Kinsale, keep heading west along the coast until you get to Clonakilty, home of the famous black pudding. Clonakilty is a big tourism hub for West Cork and was voted the best town in Europe in 2017. The town is abustle in the summer with loads of flowered shop fronts with hand-painted signs in Gaelic and quintessentially Irish bars with a big emphasis on live music. I recommend De Barra's, a famous folk venue, which has seen the likes of Christy Moore and Roy Harper play there.

(Photo by John W Banagan/Getty Images)

Nearby is the small island of Inchydoney, which is connected to the mainland by two causeways. It has two stunning and popular beaches, as well as a surf school. To stay, there's the luxurious Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa , which offers seaweed therapies as well as delectable seafood and lovely rooms.

Cork is full of pretty towns by the sea -- Cobh is another. However, one reason it particularly stands out is that it was the last place the ill-fated RMS Titanic docked before she set sail for America on her maiden voyage in 1912. There were 123 passengers who boarded at Cobh (then known as Queenstown) with only 44 of them surviving the sinking.

(Photo by benstevens/Getty Images)

Historically, Cobh is also important as it was where millions of hopeful Irish people set sail for America to find their fortunes. To learn more, you can visit the Titanic Experience, which is in the old White Star Line ticket office. There's a guided tour, an exhibition and you will learn all about life on board and about the role of RMS Carpathia in the rescue of the survivors.

Bottom line

If you want to visit somewhere besides Dublin that is beautiful, authentic, close to the coast and near an international airport, then Cork needs to be on your bucket list. The myth that Irish people are friendly, welcoming and love to chat is true. Corkonians are ready and waiting to welcome you with a pint... or even a drop of the pure.

The Irish Road Trip

28 Best Things To Do In Cork In 2024 (With Map)

By Author Keith O'Hara

Posted on Last updated: April 8, 2024

28 Best Things To Do In Cork In 2024 (With Map)

Although the best things to do in Cork are arguably the Ring of Beara and Mizen Head, this is far  from a two-horse-county!

Cork is Ireland’s largest county, and it’s easily one of the most scenic.

The result is that there’s endless  places to visit in Cork that’ll knock you sideways, from castles and coves to cliff walks and more

In this guide, I’ll show you what to do in Cork based on the many, many  holidays that I’ve spent here during my 35 years of living in Ireland.

Table of Contents

The best things to do in Cork

what to do in cork

Click to enlarge map

The map above has what are, in my opinion, the best places to visit in Cork plotted on it. 

Take 30 seconds to throw your eyes over it as it’ll give you a lay of the land nice and quickly!

1. The Beara Peninsula

Beara Peninsula

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find the magnificent Beara Peninsula finely plonked between Bantry Bay and the Kenmare River in West Cork. It’s here that you’ll discover a landscape that’ll never leave you.

The Peninsula, which is arguably one of the most scenic places to visit in Cork, is best explored by foot, although you can see some of the finest scenery it has to offer on the Ring of Beara drive.

Beara’s two mountain ranges (the Caha Mountains and the Slieve Miskish Mountains) make this a glorious place to hike around and the Beara Way trail is worth committing a week to.

Related read: 31 of the best things to do in West Cork in 2024

2. Mizen Head

Mizen Head

A journey to Mizen Head will take you to Ireland’s most southerly point where the Wild Atlantic Way’s scenery is at its most dramatic.

The signal station at Mizen was constructed to protect those sailing off the coast of Ireland and those that visit will be immersed in the areas history via the Maritime Museum.

However, it’s what’s outside that counts at Mizen. When you leave the visitor centre, you’ll follow a well-trodden path towards the station and across the Mizen Head bridge.

The towering cliffs, the whistle of the wind and the crashing of the waves below combine to make this one of the best things to do in Cork for good reason.

3. Ireland’s Teardrop and Cape Clear Island

fastnet lighthouse

One of the more non-tourists things to do in Cork is a tour that takes you from Baltimore  to Cape Clear Island and then, on the return journey, around Fastnet Rock .

Fastnest is nicknamed ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’ as it was the last part of Ireland that many 19th-century Irish emigrants saw as they sailed across to North America.

You can climb aboard the ferry to Cape Clear (takes 45 minutes) and then hop into a shuttle bus that takes you to the islands heritage centre where there’s a multimedia exhibition.

The island is home to raw, unspoiled beauty and plenty of archaeological sites, too. The return journey around Fastnet will give you an eye-full of one of Ireland’s most impressive lighthouses.

4. Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Now, Blarney Castle gets its fair share of criticism. This is mainly due to people thinking that the Blarney Stone is the only thing that Blarney Castle has to offer.

That isn’t the case – the grounds here are gorgeous and they’re the perfect spot for a ramble. There are also some very unusual places to see, like the ‘Witches kitchen’.

If you want to kiss the Blarney Stone, you can of course. According to legend, the stone has the power to give anyone who kisses it the gift of the gab – aka the ability to speak with ease and confidence.

The castle and its gardens are one of the more popular places to visit in Cork during the peak season, so arrive early if you’re visiting during summer.

5. Bantry House

Bantry House and Gardens

Our next stop takes us to Bantry House and Gardens – the ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry. You’ll find it finely perched on a site that overlooks Bantry Bay.

The house and it’s beautifully maintained gardens opened to the public in 1946. Those that visit can kick-back with a bite to eat in the tearoom or head for a saunter around the gardens.

One of the reasons that this is one of of the more popular Cork attractions is due to the view (above) that you can get of the house and the bay beyond from an elevated area.

6. The Baltimore Beacon walk

baltimore beacon

The Baltimore Beacon is arguably best-visited around sunset when the sun dips over Sherkin Island (as an added bonus you can enjoy a pint in nearby Bushe’s Bar after!).

You’ll find it standing proudly at the entrance to Baltimore harbour where it’s been acting as a warning system for sea-farers for many a year.

The British ordered the construction of the beacon after the 1798 Rebellion. The current structure is said to have been built at some stage during the 1840s.

You can drive to it (there’s parking beside the hill) or you can do one of the trails from our Cork walks that leaves from the town and ends at the Beacon.

Related read: See our guide to our 9 of the best hotels in West Cork

7. Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra

I’ve visited our next stop, Gougane Barra, on many occasions and it is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Cork when the weather’s good!

There are few places in the world, never mind in Ireland, like the magical Gougane Barra . Those that visit will discover a large valley and lake that are enveloped by mountains which rise up to 370 metres in height.

If you’re thinking, ‘Is that yoke a little church?’, it is indeed! The story goes that St. Finbarr (the Patron Saint of Cork) built a monastery on the little island in Gougane Barra Lake during the 6th century.

The little chapel on the island that stands today isn’t the original, but it adds to the fairytale-like surroundings at Gougane Barra. There are several trails of varying length and difficulty to try here!

Cobh

Few towns in Cork are as photographed as the wonderful Cobh in East Cork . When you arrive, park up behind Cobh Cathedral and admire the impressive architecture.

Although there are plenty of things to do in Cobh , most people only visit to see the Deck of Cards (photo on the left above). They’re worth a visit, but there’s more to Cobh than some colourful houses.

Your next stop is the Titanic Experience tour where you’ll learn about the Titanic’s arrive into Queenstown (what we now know as Cobh) on its maiden voyage.

You can then take the ferry over to a place known as ‘Ireland’s Hell’ – Spike Island . Over the course of 1,300 years, the island has been home to a 24-acre fortress, a 6th-century monastery and the biggest convict depot in the world.

9. Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne

This sea-water lake is nestled within a fold of rolling hills, 5km from the lively little town of Skibbereen . It’s also Ireland’s First Marine Nature Reserve with its very own ecosystem.

This Lough Hyne Walk takes you up Knockomagh Hill and treats you to stunning views out over the lake and the surrounding countryside.

It can take around an hour, with stops, and is pretty steep in places. However, the climb to the top is well worth the effort. 

10. Cork City

Blackrock Castle

Cork City makes a great base to explore from – especially as you can round off a day of adventure in one of the trad pubs in Cork !

Activity wise, there’s plenty of things to do in Cork City , like St Fin Barre’s Cathedral , where you’ll see the swinging cannonball which arrived in 1690… when it was fired from Elizabeth Fort during the siege of Cork.

Then there’s the brilliant Cork City Gaol tour (it was designed in the early 1800s to replace the city’s old gaol) and the English Market which has been running since 1788!

Nip into one of the restaurants in Cork to refuel and then it’s on to the impressive Blackrock Castle , parts of which date back to 1582. Round off your day in the quirky Cork Butter Museum .

Need a place to stay in the city?  Hop into our guide to hotels in Cork City or our Cork B&B guide

11. Bull Rock

Bull Rock

If you’re wondering what to do in Cork for a very unique experience, take a tour around Bull Rock – it’s the island near Dursey (yep, it’s the one with the cable car!).

You’ll find three large ‘rocks’ off Dursey Island; Cow Rock, Calf Rock and the one that looks like something from a Disney Movie – Bull Rock.

Bull Rock stands at 93m high and 228m by 164m wide. If you’re after a unique experience, you can hop on a 1.5-hour tour with the lads at Dursey Boat Tours.

You’ll be taken over to the island (note: not onto the island) and through the tiny passageway that cuts through Bull Rock! Some other nearby island tours include Bere Island and  Whiddy Island .

12. Charles Fort and Elizabeth Fort

Charles Fort

Charles Fort near Kinsale is a late 17th-century star-shaped fort that’s linked to several significant events in Irish history.

The most significant of which was the Williamite War (1689-91) and the Civil War (1922-23). You can do a self-guided tour here that’ll take you around the inside of the fort and through a number of different buildings.

Another mighty Cork fort is Elizabeth Fort , a 17th-century star fort located on Barrack Street in Cork City. It was built as a defensive fortification on high-ground outside the city walls.

Cork City then gradually grew around Elizabeth Fort. Over time, as the city swelled, the fort became redundant. These are two of the more popular Cork tourist attractions for good reason.

13. Garnish Island

Garnish Island

Photos by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

Those that take the 15-minute ferry ride over to Garnish Island in Glengarriff harbour with the folks at Garnish Island Ferry are in for a treat.

The journey across includes a stop off at seal island where you’ll get to see a seal colony. The colony is believed to be comprised of a whopping 250 seals. You can just imagine the noise off of these lads!

When you land on the island, there’s plenty of things to see. After you’ve had a stroll through the gardens, head on to the Martello Tower. You’ll get the view above from towers battlements!

14. Glengarriff and its surrounds

Caha Pass

Glengarriff is a fine base to explore to and there’s plenty to see and do a stone’s throw from the town.

Head to the Caha Pass ( follow this route on Maps), first, and spin through the tunnels while soaking up beautiful valley views.

Next, tip into Glengarriff Nature Reserve . This is another one of those places to visit in Cork that tends to rock you a little.

Do the Waterfall Walk. It’s short but packs a punch and the trail is nice and gentle with very little incline.

Related reads: See our guide to the best things to do in Glengarriff and find a place to stay in our guide to the finest Glengarriff hotels

15. Kinsale

Kinsale

Kinsale is one of the most popular places to see in Cork amongst visiting tourists, mainly thanks to its colourful streets and busy harbour.

However, there’s a handful of things to do in Kinsale if you’re looking to explore the area, including the Scilly Walk , Charles Fort and the Old Head of Kinsale walk .

If you, like me, are as fond of a pint or five, there are some mighty pubs in Kinsale , with the Bulman and the Spaniard being the pick of the bunch.

The town also has a flourishing food scene, thanks to its position on the coast. Some of the finest restaurants in Kinsale are the Black Pig and Man Friday.

Fancy staying in the town? These are the  hotels in Kinsale that I’ve been recommending for years

16. The Ballycotton Cliff Walk

Ballycotton Cliff

There are few walks as fine as the Ballycotton Cliff Walk . This is an absolute peach of a ramble that’ll take between 2 – 2.5 hours to polish off, depending on pace.

You’re treated to brilliant views throughout and you’ll have a chance to see some lovely hidden beaches, the Ballycotton Lighthouse and plenty more.

If you’re looking for places to visit in Cork that’ll treat you to glorious views throughout your ramble, get yourself here. Round it off with a bite to eat in Ballycotton Village and you’re laughing.

17. Healy Pass

Healy Pass

Healy Pass is one of the most unique roads that you’ll find in Ireland. The pass was created back in 1847, during the famine years, to help prevent starvation.

You’ll find it on the Beara peninsula where it takes drivers, cyclists, and walkers on a unique and bendy route through the Caha Mountains.

Places like this make me happy. They make you feel like you’re on a different planet and 90% of the time you visit (basing this on my last 3 visits) you’ll be one of the only people there.

18. Dursey Island

Dursey Island

You’ll find of the more unique things to do in Ireland at Ballaghboy, at the very tip of the Beara Peninsula. I’m talking, of course, about the cable car to Dursey Island .

The Dursey Island Cable Car has been in operation since 1969. It runs an impressive 250m above the ocean below and it takes just 10 minutes to cross.

When you arrive over on Dursey, you’ll be able to soak up some unrivalled views of the Beara Peninsula on this lovely looped walk.

19. The Youghal Clock Gate Tower

Youghal

Photos © Tourism Ireland

A visit to the Clock Gate Tower is arguably one of the most popular things to do in Youghal and you’ll find it in the centre of the East Cork town.

Standing at 24 metres in hight, this historic landmark boasts a colourful history spanning over 700 years, and you can learn all about it on the tour.

The tour offers a unique sensory experience in the Merchants Quarters where you can smell spices and see smooth silks. You can also see the gaol cell and catch panoramic views from the top of the tower.

20. Visit the Jameson Distillery

Jameson Cork

Photos courtesy Hu O’Reilly via Fáilte Ireland

If you’re looking for things to do in Cork with a group of friends, plan a trip out to the Jameson Distillery in Midelton .

Jameson called Dublin home for 200 long years. Then, in 1975, they packed up and moved their expanding operation to Midleton in Cork.

Whiskey lovers can now take a ramble around the distillery on the highly recommended Jameson Experience Tour. This is a fully guided tour around the original Midleton Distillery with excellent reviews online.

Related read:  See our guide to 13 things to do in Midleton

21. Clonakilty and its surrounds

Clonakilty

Photo left and top right: Micheal O’Mahony via Failte Ireland. Others via Shutterstock

There’s plenty of things to do in Clonakilty and it’s for that reason that the town comes alive during the summer months.

Start of your day here with a ramble (or a paddle!) at the gorgeous  Inchydoney Beach .

Next, work up an appetite at Clonakilty Black Pudding Visitor Centre before heading into the Michael Collins Heritage Centre .

To polish off your day, DeBarras Folk Club and catch a live music session while quenching your thirst with great Irish beers or Irish stout .

22. Doneraile House and Wildlife Park

Doneraile Cork

Photos courtesy Ballyhoura Fáilte

Doneraile Court and Wildlife Park is another great spot for those of you wondering what to do in Cork with the family.

The estate straddles the Awbeg River and it’s a joy to have a ramble around. If you fancy a ramble, there are several trails you can head off on.

You can also try the Doneraile Court Tour (perfect if it’s raining) or head for a ramble around the finely manicured gardens.

23. Whale watching

whale watching cork

Whale watching in Cork is one of the more unique experiences the county has to offer (note: you’re not guaranteed to see whales on any of the tours).

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see everything from Basking Sharks and Harbour Porpoise to Sea Turtles and Jellyfish on one of these tours .

There’s a 2-hour tour which, according to those that run it is, ‘a thrilling fun-packed coastal sightseeing tour of the West Cork coastline, with whale, dolphin, seal and wildlife watching.’

24. Breath-taking beaches

Barleycove Beach

Some of the best places to visit in Cork are the sandy stretches that are dotted along the county’s magnificent coastline.

And, as is the case with most coastal counties, a few Cork beaches , like Inchydoney Beach , Garretstown Beach and Barleycove Beach (pictured above), tend to get all of the attention.

The result is that many tend to miss the joys of the likes of Allihies Beach (one of the most impressive beaches in West Cork ) and  Warren Beach .

FAQs about what to do in Cork

West Cork Ireland

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are the best things to do in Cork if you only have a day?’ to ‘What are unique things to see in Cork?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the most unique places to visit in Cork?

I’d argue the the most unique places to go in Cork are the county’s many islands. A lot of people get put off by having to take a ferry to an island, but many of Cork’s islands can be reached in under an hour (with some reachable in 10 minutes).

What are the best things to do in Cork for an active break?

If you’re wondering what to do in Cork that’ll get you out of the car and treat you to heaps of scenery, look no further than the Sheeps Head Way and the Beara Way. These are two long-distance walks that pack a punch.

I’m wondering where to go in Cork on a weekend break?

If you only have a couple of days, your best bet is to find a base and explore around it. Cork City is a good option here, but this’ll depend on where in Ireland you’re travelling to Cork from. Kinsale is another good option if you want a lively town.

county cork travel guide

Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 35 years and has spent most of the last 10 creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries . Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.

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Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Nano Nagle Centre near St. Finbarrs Fitzgerald Park Cork Crawford Art Gallery The Old Waterworks Cork Doneraile Park North Cork Fota House and Gardens FOTA Wildlife Park The Ewe Experience West Cork Whale Watching Courtmacsherry.

Friday 6th of March 2020

you forgot Youghal!!

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Cork is far and away Ireland’s largest county, though nearly all visitors simply ignore its massive hinterland of dairy farms, dotted with low mountains and evergreen plantations. The coast’s the thing, and in an east–west spread of over 170km it unfurls an astonishing diversity. Based around an island near the mouth of the River Lee, Cork city, the capital of the self-styled “rebel county”, is renowned for its independent spirit, and packs a good cultural and social punch in its compact, vibrant centre. With its excellent restaurants, cafés and specialist food market, the city also sets a high culinary tone, which much of the rest of the county keeps up. Further reminders of a prosperous seafaring past can be seen hereabouts in the ports of Cobh, Youghal and especially Kinsale, each of which has reinvented itself in its own singular way as a low-key, pleasurable resort.

The Mizen Head Peninsula

The sheep’s head, the beara peninsula, some history, neogothic cork, cork’s festivals, fota island, skibbereen and around, west towards skibbereen.

Though it meanders wildly through inlets and hidden coves, the coastline west from Cork city as far as Skibbereen remains largely gentle and green, with a good smattering of sandy beaches and a balminess that has attracted incomers and holiday-homers from the rest of Ireland and Europe. Facing each other across the shelter of Roaring Water Bay, the good-time ports of Baltimore and Schull are popular with a cosmopolitan, watersports crowd, but the offshore islands of Sherkin and Clear presage wild country ahead. Mizen Head is the first of Cork’s and Kerry’s five highly irregular, southwesterly fingers of folded rock, which afford spectacular views of each other and the Atlantic horizon. The next, narrow Sheep’s Head, is perhaps the most charming, where – especially if you slow down to walking pace – you’ll feel as if you’re getting to know every square kilometre of gorse, granite and pasture and just about every inhabitant. Shared between Cork and Kerry, the Beara Peninsula is especially dramatic, epitomized by mild, verdant Glengarriff’s backdrop of dark, bare rock and lonely mountain passes.

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East Cork (w www.eastcorktourism.com) occupies a blind spot in the eyes of many visitors, their focus set on the more spectacular coastline to the west, but several interesting places are worth considering, all of them served by public transport. A suburban train service makes possible an excellent, varied day-trip across the Lee estuary to Fota Island, with a sensitively restored Neoclassical hunting lodge and a wildlife park in its surrounds, and on to the attractive harbour town of Cobh on Great Island. Now isolated between Fota and the N25 at Carrigtohill, Barryscourt Castle makes for a fascinating visit, while further east lies Midleton, the traditional home of Jameson whiskey and a culinary hub. In an expansive setting at the mouth of the River Blackwater, the historic, easy-going resort of Youghal, some 40km east of Cork, marks the border with County Waterford.

YOUGHAL (pronounced “yawl”) enjoys a lush, picturesque setting on the west bank of the River Blackwater’s estuary, the border with County Waterford. It was one of Ireland’s leading ports in the medieval era, with a scattering of ancient buildings to show for it, and later became a centre for the carpet industry, but today it is popular with holidaying Irish families, who take their leisure on the long, sandy, Blue Flag beach to the southwest.

Mizen Head is a wild and beautiful peninsula, projecting southwestwards around the substantial mass of copper-rich Mount Gabriel. The whole of its empty northern coast presents sheer cliffs and stupendous views. The south coast is more populous, sheltering safe harbours, the large village and resort of Schull and the remote, sandy beaches of Barley Cove, while the only tourist attraction of any note is the signal station at the very tip, the Mizen Head Visitor Centre.

The peninsula’s main settlement, SCHULL, is a congenial harbour town that’s not only popular with yachties but also has an artistic bent, with crafts shops, galleries and a weekly food and crafts market (every Sun morning from Easter to Christmas; wwww.schullmarket.com). It shelters in the lee of 407-metre Mount Gabriel, to the north, topped by an aircraft-tracking station and blessed with fine views. The walk up there (about 8km there and back) is detailed in a very useful, annual booklet, Schull Visitor’s Guide, that’s available around the town; since the mountain was actively mined for centuries, take care on the way that you avoid uncovered mine shafts.

The Sheep’s Head, a precarious sliver of land between Dunmanus and Bantry bays, is the quietest and smallest of the major southwestern peninsulas. Gorse and heather sprout from its long granite spine, leaving room for narrow pockets of green pasture on its north and especially its south coast. With magnificent views of the larger peninsulas on either side, it can be best appreciated by pedalling the easy-to-follow, 90-kilometre Sheep’s Head Cycle Route, or by walking the 88-kilometre Sheep’s Head Way, both of which are waymarked circuits from Bantry; the latter is relatively easy walking, avoiding the round-peninsula road for most of the way, and is covered by OS Discovery Series map number 88. It can be done in four days, with two nights in Kilcrohane after two long days’ walking and a night in Durrus; the last day is missable, so you might want to catch a bus back to Bantry from Durrus.

BANTRY enjoys a glorious location, ringed first by lush, wooded slopes and then by wild, bare mountains, at the head of 35-kilometre-long Bantry Bay, one of the finest natural harbours in Ireland. The prime viewpoint is naturally occupied by Bantry House, which with its sumptuous interior and garden is one of West Cork’s few unmissable historic sites. At the junction of several important roads, Bantry is also a substantial market (Fridays) and service town, with plenty of amenities for visitors.

Bantry House

Bantry House is one of Ireland’s most compelling country houses, both for its lavish art works and for its magnificent setting, among formal gardens overlooking the bay. Built in the early eighteenth century and extended a hundred years later, it was spared destruction during the Irish Civil War, when it acted as a hospital for the wounded of both sides. Many of its beautiful furnishings were gathered by the Second Earl of Bantry on his nineteenth-century grand tour and boast name-dropping provenances, such as the gorgeous Aubusson tapestries made for Marie Antoinette on her marriage to the future Louis XVI. The highlight is the dining room, which resembles an extravagant stage-set: rich, Chartres-blue walls, a marble colonnade and vast seventeenth-century sideboards carved with cherubs and classical scenes. There’s a very attractive café, with tables under the house’s west balcony, which serves tea and simple lunches.

The largest and most remote of Cork’s peninsulas, the Beara (w www.bearatourism.com) careers southwestwards for 50km between Bantry Bay and the Kenmare River. Patterns in the landscape are hard to distinguish here, and contrasts frequent. Indeed, the peninsula’s most popular tourist spot, Glengarriff, has built an industry on the stunning contrast between its lush subtropical setting and the irregular, barren rocks of the Caha Mountains behind. The mountainous spine is often augmented by ribs, and particularly in the awesome Slieve Miskish Mountains at the Beara’s tip, the coast road is forced to climb through whatever passes can be found. Round on the north coast, half of which belongs to County Kerry, the only settlements occupy occasional cups of green farmland beneath the stony ridges. This diverse scenery is linked together by two routes: the Beara Way, a 200-kilometre waymarked walk (9–11 days), following mostly tracks and minor roads from Glengarriff west (via Adrigole, Castletownbere and a ferry to Bere Island, which can easily be missed out) to Dursey Island, then along the north coast of the peninsula (via Allihies, Eyeries, Ardgroom and Lauragh) to Kenmare and back to Glengarriff; and the 138-kilometre Beara Way Cycle Route, which mostly follows the quiet main road around the peninsula. Route guides are available locally, and the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Discovery map 84 covers nearly the whole peninsula.

Glengarriff

The founders of GLENGARRIFF were perhaps having an off-day when they named it An Gleann Garbh, the “rugged glen” – or, to be charitable, maybe the climate has changed since then. It’s true that above and behind stands the magnificent backdrop of the wild, bare Caha Mountains, but the village itself sits in a sheltered oasis of balmy greenery. This picturesque juxtaposition, warmed by the Atlantic Gulf Stream, has attracted tourists since the eighteenth century, when the Eccles Hotel was built. The landscape – and the gift shops – still pull in the coach parties, but the village’s popularity also means there’s a decent range of places to stay, making it a good base for exploring some of Cork’s most beautiful countryside or for just hopping over to see the horticultural delights of Garinish Island. To the west, in the dramatic shadow of Hungry Hill, watersports and a pleasant hostel are on offer at Adrigole.

Garinish Island (Ilnacullin)

In 1910, the MP Annan Bryce bought Garinish (aka Ilnacullin) from the British War Office and, after shipping in all the topsoil, gradually turned the rocky inshore island into an exotic garden oasis. Having passed into public ownership in 1953, the island is now a delightful and accessible escape from the mainland, especially in summer, when colourful plants from around the world set the island alight against a backdrop of the sparse, jagged mountains just across the water. The island’s centrepiece is a formal Italianate garden, surrounded by a walled garden and wilder areas, a Grecian temple with magnificent views of the Caha Mountains and a Martello tower. There’s a coffee shop and a self-guided trail around the gardens, and serious horticulturalists should pick up the Heritage Service’s guidebook, which includes detailed plant lists. The ten-minute boat trip to the island takes you past the lush islets of Glengarriff Harbour, where you may see basking seals.

Looping round an especially harsh and rocky part of the peninsula on the R575, you’ll come upon ALLIHIES, its brightly coloured houses dramatically huddled together against the leathery creases of Slieve Miskish’s western flank and blessed with superb sunset views. In 1812, the Industrial Revolution descended on this most remote corner of Ireland with a vengeance, bringing state-of-the-art engineering and Cornish mining techniques to work the copper ore in the mountains above the village. At any one time, up to 1500 people, including women and children, worked for the mines here in desperate conditions, until their closure in the 1880s, when many of the miners emigrated to the huge copper lode in Butte, Montana. The story is now engagingly told at the excellent Allihies Copper Mine Museum, set up by a group of dedicated local enthusiasts, in a renovated Methodist church that was built for the immigrant Cornish miners. Highlights of the thoughtful displays include video recollections of local men who worked in the mines when they briefly reopened in the 1950s, bits of ore that you can handle and a small-scale reconstruction of a steam pump. In addition, a network of signposted trails has been laid out in the surrounding countryside, allowing you to take in ruined mine buildings and spectac- ular views. One of the trails leads down to Ballydonegan Strand (beware the currents when swimming), 1km to the southwest – this sandy beach is actually composed of crushed quartz produced in the copper extraction process.

Around 10km southeast of Midleton, off the R629 Cloyne–Ballycotton road, lies Ireland’s most famous restaurant Ballymaloe House, serving exceptional modern Irish cuisine using local ingredients, with some nice traditional touches – you’ll be asked if you want second helpings and you choose your dessert from a groaning trolley. There’s much more to this grand enterprise than just a restaurant: accommodation in the vine-covered, originally fifteenth-century manor house and adjacent courtyard mixes country-house style with contemporary art, and there’s a summertime heated outdoor pool, five-hole golf course and a tennis court, plus bicycles for guests’ use and walks around the extensive grounds and farm. Attached to the house is a shop selling crafts and, of course, kitchenware, with an excellent daytime café; there’s also a seventeenth-century grainstore that’s been converted into a concert venue. The nearby cookery school runs prestigious twelve-week certificate courses as well as a host of short courses, and you can visit the school’s restored nineteenth-century gardens, featuring the largest formal herb garden in Ireland and a Celtic maze.

On the southern coast of Great Island, with extensive views of Cork Harbour, COBH (pronounced “cove”) makes a great escape from the city on a fine day. This historic and unpretentious resort, clinging onto a steep, south-facing slope, sports a stony beach, a promenade with a bandstand and gaily painted rows of Victorian hotels and houses. Much of the tourist traffic comes now from the dozens of huge cruise-liners that dock here every year, continuing a long tradition for this fine, natural harbour: Cobh was a port of call for the Sirius, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, in 1838, and for the Titanic on her disastrous maiden voyage in 1912. The port was also a major supply-depot during the American and Napoleonic wars, and became Ireland’s main point of emigration after the Great Famine. This long and often tragic seafaring history is vividly detailed at the Queenstown Story, a heritage centre in the former Victorian train station on the seafront (the town was renamed Queenstown after a visit by Queen Victoria in 1849, but its old name was restored after Independence). If your appetite for salty tales and memorabilia still hasn’t been sated, get along to the Cobh Museum, housed in a nineteenth-century Presbyterian church on the west side of the town centre.

The Republic’s second city, CORK (Corcaigh, “marshy place”) is strongly characterized by its geography. The centre sits tight on a kilometre-wide island, much of which was reclaimed from marshes, in the middle of the River Lee, while the enclosing hills seem to turn this traditionally self-sufficient city in on itself. Given this layout and its history, it comes as no surprise that Corkonians have a reputation in Ireland for independence of spirit, not to say chippiness. Indeed, in many ways, Cork sees itself not in second place but as a rival to Dublin. It produces its own national newspaper, The Irish Examiner, brews Murphy’s and Beamish, its own versions of the national drink, stout, and supports a vigorous artistic, intellectual and cultural life of its own. Even its social divisions match Dublin’s: here too the south side of the river is generally more affluent, while the north side has more public housing and a stronger working-class identification.

In colonial times, Cork also maintained its own strong links with London, through its role as a major port, proof of which can still be seen all around town. The main drag, curving St Patrick’s Street, was originally a waterway lined with quays, while you can still spot eighteenth-century moorings on Grand Parade. Though contemporary Cork doesn’t make the most of its long riverfront, much of which is now lined by major roads, the channels of the Lee, spanned by more than twenty bridges, break up the cityscape and pleasantly disorientate. The harbour area has Ireland’s largest concentration of chemical factories, fortunately downstream of the centre, while the city’s other main modern industry, computers, is linked to the prestigious university, to the west of the centre. All of this has spawned a widespread commuter belt, but the compact island is still the place for the many excellent restaurants, lively pubs and artistic venues.

The best of the city’s sightseeing options are the Crawford Art Gallery, with its fine collection of eighteenth- to twentieth-century art, Cork City Gaol, which vividly evokes life in a nineteenth-century prison, and the hi-tech cosmological displays of Blackrock Castle Observatory. In truth, however, none of Cork’s sights are absolute must-sees, though it’s a pleasant place to stroll around on a fine day. The city centre is essentially the eastern part of the island, with its quaysides, bridges, old warehouses and the narrow alleys of the medieval heart, plus a segment to the north of the River Lee that has MacCurtain Street as its central thoroughfare.

In the seventh century, St Finbarr established a monastery at Cork, on the site of today’s cathedral, to the southwest of the modern centre. Three centuries later, the Vikings created a separate settlement, an island in the River Lee’s marshes, which was taken over in the twelfth by the Anglo-Normans. They strengthened the defences of the central part of the island with the construction of vast city walls, leaving the west and east ends to the swamp and later developing suburbs on the slopes to the north and south. The fortifications were largely destroyed, however, in the successful Williamite siege of 1690, and became redundant when the marshes were reclaimed soon after. The next century witnessed great wealth, through the trade in butter and pickled meat and the development of the port for provisioning westbound sailing ships. Brewing and distilling plants were established, which persist to this day, along with glass, silver and lace industries, but the Act of Union and the introduction of steamships brought stagnation in the nineteenth century. At the start of the last century, Cork took an active part in the War of Independence and the Civil War, and suffered as a consequence. In 1920, the Royal Irish Constabulary murdered the Lord Mayor, Tomás MacCurtain, and as a reprisal for an ambush, the Black and Tans burnt much of the city centre to the ground in 1921. MacCurtain’s successor as mayor, Terence MacSwiney, was incarcerated and went on hunger strike, which after 74 days led to his death on October 24, 1920.

For those with a taste for it – and with shoe leather to spare – there’s plenty of Neogothic church architecture to see in Cork, mostly along the river banks. The highlight is William Burges’s St Finbarr’s Cathedral on Proby’s Quay, consecrated in 1870, whose three soaring, French Gothic spires are visible all over the city. The well-lit interior, which is elaborately decorated with red Cork marble, stained glass and Italianate mosaics, also impresses with its lofty proportions. Leading nineteenth-century practitioners Augustus Pugin and George Pain also worked in Cork. The Church of SS Peter and Paul, just off St Patrick’s Street in the centre, was designed by Pugin and sports some fine woodcarving. Pain was the architect behind Holy Trinity Church on Father Matthew Quay, with its handsome lantern spire, and St Patrick’s Church out to the northeast on Lower Glanmire Road.

Blarney, Blarney, what he says he does not mean. It is the usual Blarney.

So spoke Queen Elizabeth I, and a legend and its accompanying tourist phenomenon were born. Though supposedly loyal to the queen, the Lord of Blarney, Cormac MacCarthy, had been stalling her emissary, Sir George Carew, who had been sent to restore English control of Munster, sidetracking him with wine, women and words. MacCarthy, it was said, could talk “the noose off his head”, and over the centuries blarney came to mean “flattering, untrustworthy or loquacious talk associated with…Irish people” (The Encyclopedia of Ireland). This story of the word’s origin, however, may itself be blarney…

At some stage in the nineteenth century, with the beginnings of mass tourism to the southwest of Ireland, it became popular to kiss the Blarney Stone, part of the machicolations of Blarney Castle, a fine fifteenth-century tower house, set in attractive grounds, in the village of the same name, 8km northwest of Cork. The stone stands over a 26-metre drop, and planting a smacker on it is meant to grant “the gift of the gab”. Legions of the verbally challenged queue up in summer, when it’s best to turn up early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Cork hosts plenty of lively festivals, of which the largest and most prestigious are the midsummer festival, a wide-ranging celebration of the arts in late June (wcorkmidsummer.com), the jazz festival in October (wwww.guinnessjazzfestival.com) and the film festival in October or November, with a particular focus on short films (wwww.corkfilmfest.org). There’s also an international choral festival in late April or early May (wwww.corkchoral.ie), an early-music festival in late September, shared between the city and East Cork (wwww.eastcorkearlymusic.ie), and a folk festival in early October (wwww.corkfolkfestival.com).

If you travel from the mainland by road, you’re hardly aware that Fota is an island in Cork Harbour. Its main attraction is Fota House, built in the 1740s as a hunting lodge for the Barry family, whose main seat had by then moved from nearby Barryscourt Castle to Castlelyons near Fermoy. In the early nineteenth century, the house was substantially redeveloped and extended in elegant, Neoclassical style, and now lies a ten-minute walk from Fota train station. Excellent guided tours reveal plenty of telling details, with the highlights being the entrance hall, a beautifully symmetrical space divided by striking ochre columns of scagliola (imitation marble), and the ceiling of the drawing room, with its plasterwork doves, musical instruments and hunting implements and delicately painted cherubs and floral motifs. The tour also goes below stairs to the servants’ quarters, which include an impressive octagonal game-larder and such features as gaps at the top of the windows of the butler’s servery – added so that food smells would tantalize the poor servants rather than the house guests. For visitors, there’s now a nice little café in the long gallery and billiard room. Much of the estate’s formal gardens and its internationally significant arboretum, laid out in the mid-nineteenth century, are under the care of the Office of Public Works, with free access. At its best in April and May, the arboretum hosts a wide range of exotic trees and shrubs, with many rare examples, including some magnificent Lebanese cedars, a Victorian fernery and a lush, almost tropical lake.

KINSALE, 25km south of Cork city, enjoys a glorious setting at the head of a sheltered harbour around the mouth of the Bandon River. Two imposing forts and a fine tower-house remain as evidence of its former importance as a trading port, and Kinsale has built on its cosmopolitan links to become the culinary capital of the southwest. Add in plenty of opportunities for watersports on the fine local beaches and a number of congenial pubs, and you have a very appealing, upscale resort town.

St Multose founded a monastery at Kinsale in the sixth century, and by the tenth the Vikings had established a trading post. After the Anglo-Normans walled the town in the thirteenth century, it really began to take off, flourishing on trade, fishing and shipbuilding in its excellent deep harbour, which became an important rendezvous and provisioning point for the British Navy. The Battle of Kinsale in 1601 was a major turning-point in Irish history, leading to the “Flight of the Earls” to the Continent six years later which saw the end of the old Gaelic aristocracy: Philip III of Spain had sent forces to Kinsale to support the Irish chieftains, but communications were poor and Chief Hugh O’Neill, more accustomed to guerrilla warfare, was defeated by Elizabeth I’s army in a pitched battle.

In 1689 James II landed here in his attempt to claim back the throne, only to flee ignominiously from this same port a year later, after defeat at the Battle of the Boyne. His supporters fought on, however, burning the town and holing up in James Fort and Charles Fort. After a series of decisive attacks by the Duke of Marlborough, they surrendered on favourable terms and were allowed to go to Limerick for the final battle under Patrick Sarsfield.

During World War I, in May 1915, a German submarine torpedoed the passenger liner Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale, as it was sailing from New York to England. Twelve hundred of the passengers and crew were lost, and the sinking was a major factor in the USA’s eventual entry into the war.

SKIBBEREEN (often shortened to “Skibb”, the lively administrative centre for this part of west Cork, is a good spot to take a break and recharge your batteries, with plenty of restaurants and accommodation options and an excellent heritage centre. To the south, it gives access to a rich coastal landscape where green pastures begin to alternate with the scrubby, rocky slopes so typical of more westerly parts. If you have your own wheels, you shouldn’t miss the uniquely beautiful lagoon of Lough Hyne, while regular buses run down to the animated resort of Baltimore, which is connected by ferry to the contrasting islands of Sherkin and Clear.

Between Kinsale and Skibbereen, the main route west along the coast – the R600 and then the N71 – carves its way across the top of successive peninsulas, touching the sea only at the estuary towns of Timoleague, Clonakilty (often shortened to “Clon”) and Rosscarbery. With names such as the Seven Heads (between Timoleague and Clon) these jagged-edged peninsulas are worth exploring with your own transport and no set destination in mind – crisscrossing minor roads will reveal sheltered coves, wild cliffs and balmy beaches. Clonakilty is the main base here, with the small coastal villages of Courtmacsherry and Glandore, which is handy for one of the country’s finest stone circles at Drombeg, providing picturesque and tranquil alternatives.

If you head out of Skibb on the Baltimore road and take a left turn after about 3km, you’ll come upon Lough Hyne after a further 3km or so. Ireland’s first marine nature reserve, this tidal lake is joined to the sea only by a narrow channel, known as the rapids, but reaches depths of 45m in places. A combination of warm waters from the Gulf Stream and diverse habitats – sea caves, whirlpools, shallow and deep areas – supports an astonishingly rich variety of saltwater species here, over a thousand in less than a square kilometre. Many are rare species that are generally only found in the deep ocean or the Mediterranean, such as the triggerfish and the red-mouthed goby. Sheltered by varied slopes of gorse, woods and bare rock, the placid waters are also popular among swimmers and kayakers. To make the most of a visit, see the exhibit at the Skibbereen heritage centre first, where you can also pick up a brochure for the Knockomagh Wood Nature Trail. Beginning where the road from Skibb meets Lough Hyne, at its northwestern corner, this two-kilometre trail zigzags upwards and westwards past fine viewpoints of the lake, ancient sessile oaks and bluebell meadows, to the 197-metre summit of Knockomagh Hill, which affords a panorama of the coastline stretching from Galley Head in the east to Mount Gabriel above Schull.

Though isolated at the end of a stubby peninsula to the southwest of Skibbereen, BALTIMORE comes as a lively surprise, bustling with fishing and pleasure boats and ferries to Sherkin and Clear islands. In fine weather, there are few pleasanter spots in Cork than the small, sun-trap square above the harbour, filled with café and bar tables. Overlooking the square stands Dún na Séad, a thirteenth-century tower house that was the chief residence of the infamous pirates, the O’Driscolls, but fell into ruins from the end of the seventeenth century until its painstaking recent restoration as a private home. It’s worth a visit in summer (June to mid-Sept daily) to see the imposing great hall on the first floor and to take in the commanding views of the harbour and Roaringwater Bay from the battlements. Basking in the shelter of large inshore islands, the port is particularly busy during the regatta held in early August, but there’s also a fiddle festival in early May (wwww.fiddlefair.com) and a combined food and sailing festival during the last weekend in May (wwww.baltimorewoodenboatfestival.com).

Sherkin Island

Guarding the west side of Baltimore Harbour, Sherkin (Inis Arcáin, “Island of the Porpoise”) is a tranquil, pretty island that shares the mixed scrub and pastoral landscape of the mainland hereabouts. On a half-day stroll around the boot-shaped island, you could take in the highest point, Slievemore, to the southwest on the toe of the boot, and the best beaches, Trá Bawn, Trá Eoghan Mhór and Silver Strand, to the north of Slievemore. Ferries from Baltimore land at the easterly pier, behind which stands a plain fifteenth-century Franciscan abbey, with its fifteen-metre tower intact; you can still see the outline of its cloister and the walls of a curious seventeenth-century fish “palace”, where pilchards were salted and barrelled for export to Spain.

Clear Island

Ireland’s most southerly inhabited point, Clear Island (Oileán Chléire, also known as Cape Clear) is an isolated outpost of the Gaeltacht, which welcomes teenagers from all over the country to learn Irish during the summer, and generally reaches out to visitors, with plenty of facilities and information available. The island also holds a traditional story-telling festival, with concerts, workshops and music (wwww.capeclearstorytelling.com), over the first weekend of September. Clear describes a very rough figure-of-eight, just six kilometres square, with North Harbour, where ferries dock, and cliff-girt South Harbour almost meeting in the middle. Its landscape of steep, rolling hills of heather and pasture is crossed by narrow, hedge-lined roads and paths, affording fine views of Roaringwater Bay and of Fastnet Rock to the west in the open sea, where whales, dolphins and sharks can sometimes be spotted. The island is most famous as one of the best seabird-watching sites in Europe, with breeding colonies of black guillemots, choughs and rock doves and an important bird observatory at North Harbour (t028/39181, wwww.birdwatchireland.ie; April–Oct). Late spring and October are the best times for twitchers, who can take field courses and stay at the observatory.

Whale watching and kayaking

The seas off Skibb, rich feeding grounds for herring and sprat, are earning a reputa- tion as one of Europe’s premier whale-watching sites, with minke (roughly from April), fin (from June or July), more rarely, humpback (from September) and occasional killer whales, as well as scores of dolphins and porpoises, coming remarkably close to shore; September to November is the peak time. For further information, consult the website of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, iwdg .ie. Along the coast here, there are also sea-kayaking trips, ranging from half-day and starlight outings to two-day expeditions.

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Best Things to Do in Cork, Ireland (County Guide)

The southernmost county in Ireland is Cork, and it is one of the best places to visit on the Emerald Isle.

If you have not explored Cork before, or are visiting Ireland for the first time and wondering if it is worth adding to your itinerary, you will discover the best things to do in Cork, Ireland right here to help you decide.

Having visited Cork myself a few times, despite being a Dublin girl, I know some of the best things to see and do in the county. And I’ve added to my own knowledge by researching other things to do for a forthcoming trip to the county for my own family.

So, if you are looking for adventure in County Cork, read on for the best things to do in Cork, Ireland.

Gourmet Cork

Hayfield manor, casey’s of baltimore hotel.

*This post contains affiliate links, which may include Amazon affiliate links. To read more about affiliate links, please visit my Disclosure Policy page.

Cork is a county that I have only recently begun to explore, having eluded me throughout my childhood and teenage years.

As the largest county in Ireland, Cork has plenty to offer visitors, whether they are native to Ireland or not.

In this post, I help you uncover 10 amazing things to do in County Cork that will soon have you heading south!

Best things to do in Cork, Ireland

You need not be wondering what to do in Cork with this list of 10 things to do in the county. Whether you prefer the outdoors, history, food, or culture, there is something there for every type of traveller.

As the main city in the county, there are lots of things to see and do in Cork. Sitting on the banks of the River Lee, Cork was the base for the rebel movement during the fight for Irish independence. It is a bustling city.

There are several churches and cathedrals in the city worth visiting including St Anne’s Shandon, an 18th-century church that is a famous landmark in Cork. Its clock face was known as the four-faced liar because until 1986 when it was repaired, each of the four faces showed slightly different times. Visitors to the city can climb the tower and ring the famous bells for a small fee. St Fin Barre’s Cathedral is also worth visiting.

The Cork Butter Museum is another must in the city. In the 19 th century, Cork was the largest exporter of butter in the world and the museum tells the story of Ireland’s most important food export.

Cork City Gaol (pictured) is also another one of the great things to do in Cork City. Located a 20-minute walk from the city centre, the restored City Gaol has fascinating exhibitions about the lives of the inmates in the 19 th and 20 th centuries. There is also a Radio Museum in the same building. Book your tickets in advance for the Cork City Gaol here .

Blackrock Castle (discussed in more detail below) and Barryscourt Castle are both great places to visit in Cork too.

Other areas of Cork City to spend time in include the Quays, Grand Parade, St Patrick’s Street, and the Shandon Quarter where you will find galleries, antique shops, and cute cafes along its squares and old lanes.

Discover Cork on a walking tour of the city. For the latest prices and availability, and to book it, click here .

A picture of an exterior wall of the Cork City Gaol

Blarney Castle and more

Some of the best places to visit in Cork are the many castles and one of the top things to do in Cork, Ireland is to visit Blarney Castle (pictured).

As one of Ireland’s most famous tourist attractions, Blarney Castle welcomes thousands of visitors every year who flock to do one thing. Kiss the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that those who kiss the stone will be bestowed with the gift of the gab and never be lost for words again. The stone is located at the top of the castle, some 99-steps high and you must sit with your back to it, lean back, and kiss it upside-down.

But that is not all there is to do at Blarney Castle. There are stunning grounds to visit with a poison garden, fern garden, two waterfalls, playground, fairy garden, and more. My advice is to arrive early, kiss the stone and spend the rest of your time exploring the gardens.

Blackrock Castle in Cork City is also worth visiting. This 16th-century castle was built as a harbour fortification for the city and while it still looks like one, it now houses an observatory and museum with educational exhibits. You can climb to the top and discover the armoury on a guided tour.

Barryscourt Castle was the 16 th -century seat of the Barry family and has been extensively restored. The tower house stands out from most thanks to its 50m (164ft) long hall which occupies the west of the castle. The castle has period furnishings and decorations, and the orchard has also undergone restoration work. The work is not yet complete, meaning the castle is currently closed to visitors. But keep an eye on the website to see if it is open when you are planning to visit County Cork.

Other castles to visit in County Cork include

  • Desmond Castle, Kinsale – 16 th -century fortified house once occupied by the Spanish. Enjoy exhibitions detailing its history, and a small wine museum.
  • Baltimore Castle, Baltimore – 13 th -century stone tower castle which dominates Baltimore Harbour. Enjoy seasonal art displays, exhibits on the town’s and castle’s history, and views from the battlements.

Discover both Blarney Castle and Cobh on a day tour from Cork City. For more information and to book, click here .

A picture of the circular tower and tower house of Blarney Castle, one of the best castles to visit in Ireland

Cobh is one of the best places to visit Cork. Pronounced ‘cove’, this charming coastal town in Ireland is dotted with colourful houses that are overlooked by a splendid cathedral, St Colman’s Cathedral. Cobh is one of the top places to visit in Cork thanks to its association with the Titanic.

Cobh was the final port of call for the fateful liner before it started its first and only journey out across the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors can enjoy an insight into the tale of the liner at the Titanic Experience Cobh. Guided tours lead you through to a set of interactive exhibits before you get to stand on the exact spot from where the passengers left to board the ship.

Other places to visit in Cobh include the Cobh Museum which traces the history of the town, and the Cobh, Queenstown Story where you can learn about the emigration during the Great Famine and the convicts shipped to Australia, through interactive displays.

A picture of the harbour at Cobh, Cork with the cathedral on the hill in the background

Houses and Abbeys

Some of the best things to do in County Cork are to visit the great houses and abbeys.

Bantry House is located about one and a half hours drive from Cork City and is an early 18 th -century historic house with gardens. Located along the Wild Atlantic Way, Bantry House has been the home of the White family, formerly the Earls of Bantry, since 1739. They still live there and manage the estate.

The house is adorned with art and furnishings brought from Europe by the 2 nd Earl of Bantry including tapestries originally made for Marie Antoinette. The gardens are a treasure, with the Italian Garden being a highlight in front of the great house, which leads to a set of terraces with incredible views. The house and garden are a must-visit in West Cork. And you can even stay there in one of the B&B bedrooms.

One of the best things to see in County Cork is Timoleague Abbey. Located in Carbery East in County Cork, this friary was established in 1240 on the site of a 6th-century monastic settlement and is a great place to visit if you like ecclesiastical architecture. Wandering through the grounds you’ll be able to explore the church, infirmary, walled courtyard, and lots of cloisters.

A picture of the beautiful gardens in front of Bantry House in Cork, Ireland

Islands off County Cork

One of the things you cannot miss if you are visiting this part of the Emerald Isle is to visit one of the islands off the coast. There are several islands lying off the coast of Cork and they are among the best things to see in Cork.

In Cork Harbour, you will find Spike Island. Once an important part of the city’s defenses with its artillery fort, it was used to house prisoners of war during the Irish War of Independence and between 1984 and 2004. This use of the island earned it the name “Ireland’s Alcatraz”. Today you can explore the former prison buildings on a guided tour. Allow plenty of time to enjoy the site.

A 10-minute ferry ride from Baltimore will lead you to Sherkin Island, a tiny island that is frequented by day-trippers and artists. If you are looking for secluded coves to swim in, want to gaze out to sea, or enjoy lunch somewhere different, then head to Sherkin Island.

Another of the Cork islands to visit is Cape Clear Island (pictured). The crossing takes 45 minutes from Baltimore to reach the island and there you will find private inlets, pebble beaches, and cliff-top walks. This small island is in a Gaeltacht area (Irish speaking) and is Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island. There are walking trails, a ruined 12 th -century church, the ruins of 14 th -century Dunamore Castle and you can take boat trips to see one of the best lighthouses in Ireland , the off-shore Fastnet Lighthouse, also known as Mizen Head Lighthouse. This rock is also known as the Teardrop of Ireland as it was the last sight of Ireland emigrants saw on their journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Titanic also passed her as she set sail across the ocean.

Other Cork islands to visit include

  • Dursey Island, a wildlife sanctuary that is connected to the mainland via a cable car.
  • Bere Island, with its ruined Martello towers and 19km loop of the Beara Way walking route.
  • Garnish Island, also known as Ilnacullin, which is a horticultural wonder.

An aerial picture of the Old Lighthouse, Cape Clear Island, Cork

Coastal Towns

Among the top 10 things to do in Cork is exploring the pretty coastal towns. With a long coastline and as Ireland’s largest county, Cork has plenty of coastal towns to visit. Cobh, already discussed, is often top of people’s lists but you should also consider some of the others.

Kinsale is another Cork coastal town that makes it onto people’s wish-list (pictured). This pretty town has a harbour filled with yachts and is home to Desmond Castle, an early 16 th -century tower house. Just east of the town lies Charles Fort, an impressive 1670s-star fort that is one of the finest examples remaining in Europe today. Other things to do in Kinsale include visiting St Multose Church, Old Market House which is a museum, and the Signal Tower and Lusitania Museum dedicated to the ship of the same name that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915. The Old Head of Kinsale is also the starting/endpoint for the Wild Atlantic Way .

One of the best towns in Cork to visit along the coast is Youghal. Located in the east at the mouth of the Blackwater River, Youghal pretty town that was once presided over by Sir Walter Raleigh who was its mayor between 1588 and 1589. You can enjoy walks, boat cruises along the Blackwater and discover the town’s history in the heritage centre.

A picture of some boats in Kinsale Harbour, Cork

County Cork has several peninsulas which are worth visiting and are home to some of the best beaches in Cork.

Peninsulas to visit include Mizen Head, Sheep’s Head, and the Beara Peninsula.

Mizen Head is home to one of the best Irish beaches , Barleycove beach. Schull is the main town from where you can take walking trails. There is also a planetarium and dive school. Mizen Head Visitor Centre is home to the information about the Fastnet Lighthouse (already mentioned, and pictured).

Sheep’s Head Peninsula is a rocky landscape where you can enjoy hiking and walking and also cycling. The Sheep’s Head Way is popular with walkers and is a 93km-long walking route around the peninsula.

The Beara Peninsula is home to parts of both Counties Cork and Kerry. It holds the third major ‘ring’ circular driving route in Ireland and the 137km Ring of Beara can be done in one day. However, you should make time to drive the Healy Pass Road too across the peninsula. At the end of the Beara Peninsula lies Dursey Island (mentioned above).

A picture of the tall Fastnet Lighthouse standing on its rocky island off-shore, one of the best lighthouses in Ireland to see

Fota Island

Lying in Cork Harbour is Fota Island, connected to the mainland by a short bridge. This former private estate is home to one of the fun things to do in Cork with kids, Fota Wildlife Park. As well as the wildlife park, there is a resort hotel, golf course, and beautiful gardens.

Fota Wildlife Park is a large outdoor zoo that has plenty of animals to delight kids including zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, and plenty of monkeys. Animals have enclosures that are large and some even roam free within the zoo itself including some cheeky lemurs. There is also a little train that goes around the zoo and a large playground that kids will love.

Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens are also located on the island and Fota House is a Regency-style house that you can take guided tours of. The 150-year-old arboretum is the highlight, along with the gardens which include walled gardens.

And finally, Fota Island Resort is a luxury hotel that boasts no less than three championship golf courses. There are self-catering holiday homes available if you’d rather not stay in the hotel and there is a spa for pure relaxation.

Michael Collins Trail

One of the interesting things to do in County Cork, Ireland is to embark on a Michael Collins Trail. Born just outside Clonakilty in Cork, Michael Collins was a leading figure in the War of Independence in the early part of the 20 th century and became commander-in-chief of the army of the newly formed Irish Free State in 1922.

There is a Michael Collins Centre in Clonakilty for those who are fans of the revolutionary hero, where you can learn about his life and the times in which he lived. From there, you can join a Michael Collins War of Independence Tour, visiting notable sites around County Cork that are associated with the man himself and the era. Pre-booking is essential. For more information, visit the website .

You can also visit the Michael Collins House , a museum dedicated to the Irish hero and revolutionary figure. This is also located in Clonakilty. This museum also has a Michael Collins Trail ( link here ) that you can follow to visit notable sites from his life and the War of Independence.

A picture of the Michael Collins Statue in Clonakilty

Although you might not think it, County Cork is becoming a culinary destination in Ireland. From food to whiskey, Cork is moving up in the world of Irish food and drink.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School is fast becoming the best place to visit in Cork, thanks to its owner and famous chef, Darina Allen. You can do half-day sessions, all the way to 12-week cookery courses.

Clonakilty produces some of the best black and white Irish pudding, one set of Irish foods I miss the most. Clonakilty sausages are also among the best ingredients for a full Irish breakfast.

Cork is also famous for its cheese, with the Mitchelstown and Charleville producers located in the county. Gubbeen Farm Foods are located near Schull and produces artisan cheese. Other products from the Gubbeen Farm include ham, salami, free-range eggs, and organic vegetables.

If you are looking for other artisan produce, head to the Belvelly Smokehouse located 19km east of Cork. This is the oldest smokehouse in Ireland and the owner is happy to show you around (arrange ahead of your visit). Seafood and cheese are smoked here and if you can’t make it to the house, there are stalls to buy the produce at Cobh and Midleton farmer’s markets, and at the Cork English Market.

As for drink, the most famous distillery in Cork is the Midleton Distillery where you can join the Jameson Experience tour to discover how Irish whiskey is made, in one of the best Irish distilleries . Book your ticket ahead of your visit by clicking here .

The West Cork Distillers produce liqueurs, vodka, and a range of whiskies. Although there are no formal tours, visitors are welcome to arrange a visit (call ahead of time).

A picture of a copper stil outside the Jameson Experience at the Midleton Distillery

Where to stay in CORK

Luxury hotels in cork, castlemartyr resort.

This luxury hotel and resort is located 35-minutes east of Cork City. This is among the finest castle hotel resorts in Ireland and if it is luxury you are looking for, then you won’t go wrong with this hotel. Stunning woodlands, a spa, golf course, and three dining options await you here. For more information and to book this hotel, click here .

Fota Island Resort

This 5-star hotel and resort is located on its own island is a haven outside of the bustling city of Cork. The resort has a luxury hotel, self-catering holiday homes, 3 golf courses, a spa, and much more. There are lots of on-site activities, plenty of dining options, and the hotel is ideally located for exploring Cork and Cobh. For the latest prices and availability, click here .

This 5-star luxury hotel is located in Cork City and is the ideal place to stay if you want to be located in Cork City. This family-owned, boutique hotel is often voted among the best in Ireland and offers walled gardens, luxury accommodation, and a relaxing spa, all within a 15-minute walk to the city centre. If you fancy a luxury stay in the heart of Cork City, then Hayfield Manor is for you. Click here for more information and to see the latest prices and availability .

Budget-friendly hotels in CORK

Jury’s inn cork.

One of the best hotels in Cork for budget-friendliness is Jury’s Inn in Cork City. Located on Anderson Quay, you will have a comfortable stay in this affordable hotel. The hotel is centrally located, has an all-day coffee bar, bar menu available, and a seasonal restaurant serving food after 6pm. Click here for the latest prices and availability .

Quality Hotel Youghal – Note, you should contact the hotel direct to enquire if they are taking bookings for 2022.

If you are looking for accommodation in the east of County Cork, then the Quality Hotel in Youghal is a perfect place to stay. With both hotel rooms and self-catering accommodation, this is a great place to stay in Cork, whether you are travelling as a couple or a family. There is a bar, restaurant, and leisure centre on-site. To find out more and see the latest prices, click here .

If you would prefer to base yourself in West Cork, then consider checking in to Casey’s of Baltimore. Located an hour and a half from Cork City, this hotel offers luxury stays at affordable prices. The hotel is located off the Wild Atlantic Way and has a variety of accommodation options, as well as a restaurant and easy access to lots of activities in the area. Find out more and check the latest prices here .

Things to know about County Cork, Ireland

If the county is new to you, or you don’t know much about it, this section has some interesting facts about Cork to know before you go.

Where is County Cork? – County Cork is located in the south of Ireland and in the province of Munster. It has a coastline that lies on the Celtic Sea, an area of the Atlantic Ocean to the south of the Emerald Isle. Cork is bordered by Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.

County Cork facts :

  • Cork in Irish is Corcaigh, from corcach, meaning “marsh”.
  • The county covers 7500 square kilometres (2900 square miles) and the population of County Cork is approximately 543,000.
  • It is one of the twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland.
  • Cork is the largest county of Ireland (all 32 counties), by size and 3rd in terms of population. Cork City is the 2 nd largest in Ireland after Dublin.
  • Cork has two Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) regions.
  • Cork has a mountainous region, the Shehy mountains which form part of the border between Cork and Kerry. The highest peak is Knockboy at 706m.
  • Rivers that flow through County Cork include the Lee, the Bandon and the Blackwater.
  • The Old Head of Kinsale is the start/end point for Ireland’s famous Wild Atlantic Way Coastal Route.
  • Notable cities towns in County Cork – Cork City (only city), Bantry, Midleton, Youghal, Blarney, Cobh, Mallow, Clonakilty, Charleville, and Skibbereen.

Weather in Cork – Cork has a similar climate to the rest of the Emerald Isle, with warm summers and mild, wet winters. Summer days are long with high temperatures of 19˚C (lows of 11˚C), and short, dark winter days with high temperatures of 8˚C (lows of 3˚C). Rain is common throughout the year, with April being the driest month. Don’t travel to Cork at any time of the year without a raincoat and umbrella. If you want to know more about the weather and best time to visit Cork, Ireland, read this post .

Famous people from Cork – Cork has produced its fair share of famous people including Michael Collins (revolutionary leader and hero, already mentioned), Sonia O’Sullivan (athlete), Jack Lynch (former Taoiseach), Micheál Martin (Taoiseach), Roy Keane (footballer), Graham Norton (TV personality), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (actor) and Cillian Murphy (actor).

Final thoughts on the best things to do in Cork, Ireland

If you have been wondering what are the best things to do and see in Cork, I hope that this guide to the county has helped. From castles to islands and more, these are the best things to do in County Cork, Ireland.

More about visiting Ireland, Cork and its neighbouring counties:

  • Best Afternoon Tea in County Cork
  • Best Afternoon Tea in Cork City
  • Best Places to Go Glamping in Cork
  • Best Things to Do in County Tipperary
  • Best Things to Do in County Waterford
  • Best Time to Visit Ireland
  • Navigating Ireland With or Without a Car
  • Best Reasons You Should Visit Ireland
  • Getting Around Ireland Without a Car
  • The Ultimate Ireland Packing List
  • Best Places in Ireland to Visit

county cork travel guide

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county cork travel guide

Download GPX file for this article

  • 1 Understand
  • 2.1 By plane
  • 2.2 By boat
  • 2.3 By train
  • 3.1 On foot
  • 3.2 By bicycle
  • 3.3 By train
  • 3.5 By taxi
  • 4.1 Further out
  • 7.2 Mid-range
  • 7.3 Splurge
  • 9.2 Mid-range
  • 9.3 Splurge
  • 10 Stay safe

Cork is the principal city of County Cork in southwest Ireland. It was already the second-largest city in Ireland when in 2019 its boundaries were extended, to have a population of 210,000. The new boundary includes the town of Blarney , but this is described on its own page; Cobh and Crosshaven downriver remained separate.

Understand [ edit ]

county cork travel guide

Corcaigh is an old word for "salt-marsh" - the River Lee broke up into a wetland delta draining into the drowned valley that forms its natural outer harbour. It was tidal and navigable, and Saint Fin Barre founded a monastery on its south bank in 606 AD, the nucleus of a settlement. The Vikings in the 9th / 10th centuries and the Anglo-Normans from the 12th were also attracted by this fertile area, and sought to claim the area as their own. It was under King Henry II that Cork was granted city status in 1185.

Medieval Cork was walled for defence and overcrowded, so several river channels became infilled, the basis of what is now St Patrick's Street, South Mall and Grand Parade. The main north and south channels persisted, enclosing the arrow-shaped island of the city centre. Cork's heyday was the 17th century, when sea trade was booming but ships had not yet outgrown the river - later the port moved downstream to Cobh . Prosperous suburbs such as Sunday's Well and Montenotte were built on higher ground on the north bank, while on the south bank a university campus grew up from the 19th century.

The Tourist Information Centre is at 125 St Patrick's St, corner of Lavitt's Quay one block west of the bus station.

Get in [ edit ]

By plane [ edit ].

To the city: Buses 225 / 226 run every 30 min between the airport, Parnell Place next to Cork bus station, and the main railway station, taking 25 min to the city. Bus 225 starts from Haulbowline navy base via Ringaskiddy cruiser terminal and Carrigaline, Bus 226 starts from Kinsale . In 2023 an adult single is €2.20 by cash and €2 by Leap card.

The taxi rank is outside Arrivals. A taxi to city centre might be €25 for up to four passengers.

Dublin Airport ( DUB  IATA ) may work out better, for its better range of flights and direct buses to Cork.

Shannon Airport ( SNN  IATA ) near Limerick is a good alternative for transatlantic flights. There's public transport to Cork but you'll be wanting a rental car.

By boat [ edit ]

In summer there are car ferries from Roscoff (15 hr) and Santander (26 hr) to Cork once or twice a week, operated by Brittany Ferries . They were suspended in 2020 and the timetable for 2021 has not been announced.

51.833 -8.322 2 Cork Ferry Terminal is at Ringaskiddy, 15 km south east of the city on N28. Bus 223 / 225 runs here, see Get around.

Cruise liners often visit: they may dock at Cobh or at Ringaskiddy, or land passengers by tender for excursions. Many are on round-trip itineraries, but check the upcoming cruise schedule in case a point-to-point journey is possible. For instance transatlantic one-way cruises from New York might let you off at Cork on their way to Southampton.

By train [ edit ]

county cork travel guide

Trains run hourly from Dublin Heuston, taking 2 hr 40 min to Cork via Kildare , Portlaoise , Ballybrophy, Thurles , Limerick Junction (for Tipperary ) and Mallow . A walk-up single is around €40, see Irish Rail website for timetables, fares and online tickets. From central Dublin, get a ticket from city centre not Heuston, as this includes the tram fare and saves a couple of euros over separate tickets.

From Limerick , change at Limerick Junction. Change there also coming from Waterford , via Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel , Cahir and Tipperary .

From Tralee (via Killarney and Mallow ) a couple of trains are direct, but you normally change at Mallow onto the commuter train.

Commuter trains run from Cobh and from Midleton every 30 min. See Get Around for the suburban stations.

51.902 -8.459 3 Kent Station is the main station,on Lower Glanmire Road, 500 m east of city centre. There's just a coffee shop here but lots of facilities outside on the street, and be grateful that your train isn't going to be hauled by Engine No 36, the Victorian 2-2-2 loco in the main hall. For local buses take the south exit onto Horgan's Quay. The station is named for Thomas Kent or Tomás Ceannt (1865 – 1916), executed for his part in the Easter Rising. He and his three brothers actually stayed home, but when the police came to arrest known sympathisers there was a shoot-out which killed his brother Richard and a policeman.

By bus [ edit ]

Buses run hourly from Dublin Airport (3 hr 30 min) and Busáras (3 hr) to Cork, for a single adult fare of around €20. There's competition on the route between Aircoach (Bus 704X), Bus Éireann (Expressway X8) and Gobus .

City Link runs every 3 hours from Galway via Shannon Airport, Limerick , and Cork city centre and airport. The slower Bus Éireann 51 runs hourly from Galway via Ennis , Shannon Airport, Limerick and Mallow to Cork.

Expressway Bus 40 runs hourly from Rosslare harbour (for ferries from Wales and the Continent) via Wexford , New Ross , Waterford , Dungarvan and Youghal to Cork, where it takes a break then continues west to Macroom , Ballyvourney, Killarney , Farranfore (for Kerry Airport) and Tralee .

Bus Éireann 260 runs five times a day from Youghal to Cork; some of them start from Ardmore in County Waterford.

By car [ edit ]

From Dublin take M7 onto M8 and reckon 2 hr 30 min. There are tolls at Portlaoise and Fermoy, €1.90 at each, pay online or by phone. Avoid rush hour in Dublin or Cork if you can.

N20 from Limerick is mostly an undivided road and will take around 1 hr 45 min to Cork. Say an hour from Killarney and 90 min from Waterford.

From Cobh you could cross via 51.861 -8.326 5 Passage West Ferry onto R610.

Try to avoid bringing a car into city centre. If you're day-tripping, use the Park & Ride at Black Ash south side of the city - it's well signposted and cost €5 to park all day, with a free bus to and from the centre. The last outbound bus is at 20:00 and the park is locked at 20:30 so it's not for evening attractions. The University has its own Park & Ride and shuttle bus, but you need to show staff or student ID to use it.

Get around [ edit ]

Map

On foot [ edit ]

Cork has a small city centre, and most places to stay, eat, drink and tour are within one busy km. So too are the transport hubs.

By bicycle [ edit ]

There are many cycleways, both in-street and segregated, with some contraflow lanes.

The bike share scheme has docking stations across the city centre extending west to UCC. You need to register and pay a deposit of €150. As of Nov 2020, an annual pass is €10 and a 3-day visitor pass is €3. The first 30 min of any journey is free.

Cycle shops offering bike hire are Cycle Scene and The Bike Shed . Kilgrews in city centre sell and repair but don't hire.

Irish Rail commuter trains serve three lines out of Cork Kent station:

  • East then south every 30-60 min to Little Island, Glounthaune, Fota (for Wildlife Park), Carrigaloe, Rushbrooke and Cobh , taking 25 min, single fare €5.
  • East every 30-60 min to Little Island, Glounthaune, Carrigtwohill and Midleton , for the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, 25 min, single fare €5.
  • North hourly non-stop to Mallow , for the racecourse, 25 min. Many of these are inter-city trains to Dublin Heuston or Tralee, but you pay the same commuter fare of around €10 single.

county cork travel guide

Buses in Cork are run by Bus Éireann, with 22 routes , see map . Apart from three orbital routes that you're unlikely to use (201 north, 219 south and 225 further south), they all run cross-town, with central stops around St Patrick Street, Merchants Quay or Parnell Place main bus station. They run daily 06:30 - 23:30, every 10-20 min at peak times, except Bus 220 which runs 24 hours.

  • Route 202 from Hollyhill and Knocknaheeney northwest to city centre then Blackrock and Mahon Point southeast.
  • Route 203 from Farranree and Blackpool in the north to city centre then Turners Cross and Ballyphehane south.
  • Route 205 from Cork Institute of Technology and University College Cork west to Kent Railway Station.
  • Route 208 from Curraheen and Cork University Hospital southwest to city centre then Mayfield and Lotabeg northeast.
  • Route 213 from Black Ash Park & Ride south to St Patrick Street in the city centre - no Sunday service. The P&R is locked at 20:30.
  • Route 214 from Cork University Hospital and Wilton southwest to city centre.
  • Routes 215 and 215A from Jacobs Island and Mahon Point southeast to South Mall in the city centre. Route 215 also extends northwest across the city to Blarney and Cloghroe.
  • Route 220 runs 24 hours from Ovens and Ballincollig in the west to city centre then Douglas and Carrigaline southeast. Alternate buses continue to Crosshaven .

Most bus stops have real time displays. You can also plan your journey and check real time arrivals with the TFI website and apps. All buses are low-floor wheelchair accessible.

Cash fares within the city are €2.40-€2.80 adult and €1.40-€1.70 child, while if paying with a TFI Leap Card are €1.68-€1.96 adult and €0.98-€1.19 child. On TFI Leap Card, 24 hour, 7 day and monthly tickets are also available.

By taxi [ edit ]

Fares are nationally regulated and taxis must use the meter. As of March 2021, fares M-Sa 08:00 to 20:00 are €3.60 flagfall then €1.10-1.50 per km, 20:00 to 08:00 and Sunday €4.00 flagfall then €1.40-1.80 per km. In slow traffic or if asked to wait they charge by the minute, 40-50 cents. Fares are negotiable for longer out of town trips. Many drivers also offer fixed priced guided tours.

Taxis look like normal cars with a yellow bar with their licence number and "taxi" or "Tacsaí" printed on it. If the light is on, the taxi is available for hire.

See [ edit ]

county cork travel guide

  • Red Abbey Tower is off Douglas St just east of Nano Nagle Place. It's one of the few medieval structures remaining in Cork, the bell tower of a 14th century Augustinian abbey: in 1690 John Churchill (later Duke of Marlborough) used its vantage point to blast away at the Jacobites below. The Augustinians moved out in the 18th century and the abbey became a sugar refinery, then in 1799 a fire destroyed everything except the tower. You can't go inside.
  • Butter Museum , O’Connell Square, Shandon T23 H004 ( at foot of St Anne's ), ☏ +353 21 430 0600 , [email protected] . Oct-May W–Sa 10:00–16:00, Su 11:00–16:00, Jun-Sept M–Sa 10:00–16:00, Su 11:00–16:00 . This explores Ireland's long history of butter-making. 1000 year old bog butter, anyone? Adult €5, students & seniors €4, child €2 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8961 -8.4943 9 Cork Public Museum , Fitzgerald's Park, Mardyke T12 V0AA , ☏ +353 21 427 0679 . Tu-F 10:00-16:00, Sa 11:00-16:00 . Wide-ranging museum depicts the city's history from prehistoric to modern times. There's a good section on Michael Collins and the anti-Treaty Cork Brigades of the Irish civil war. Free . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Fitzgerald's Park outside the museum is a genteel municipal space on the riverside, laid out in 1902 after Cork hosted an international trade exhibition here. Your only excitement will be from crossing the pedestrian "Shaky Bridge" to Sunday's Well Rd on the north bank.
  • 51.89323 -8.49247 11 University College Cork (UCC) main campus is beyond the Glucksman on Western Rd. You can stroll around (see college map ) and take in the variety of architecture, from the modern extension of the Boole Library to the Honan Chapel, completed in 1917 but got up in Celtic-Gothic style to look much older.
  • 51.88735 -8.48677 12 Lough park is 1 km south of city centre. The Lough, which gives its name to the neighbourhood, is a small freshwater lake fed by springs bubbling out of the limestone; it's barely 1 metre deep. The Lough is ringed by housing but is a wildlife reserve: waterfowl nest on the wooded island at the south end. The lough shore has a firm track of 1.1 km, popular with joggers and dog-walkers. There are carp, eels, tench and other freshwater fish, and coarse angling is permitted by catch and release. There's a cafe by the north end and a bar with meals at the south end.

Further out [ edit ]

  • 51.8999 -8.4029 13 Blackrock Castle Observatory , Castle Rd, Blackrock T12 YW52 ( Bus 202 towards Mahon ), ☏ +353 21 432 6120 , [email protected] . W-Su 10:00-16:00 . If pirates ever try to attack Cork from the moon, this place will give ample warning. It was first built in 1582 to defend the harbour and its shipping, but twice burnt down without the help of any marauders. The present castle is a cod-medieval structure of 1828; in 2007 it became an astronomy museum and observatory. Adult €7, conc or child €5 . ( updated Mar 2023 )

county cork travel guide

  • 51.916 -8.175 16 Midleton is a town 16 km west of Cork along the road to Youghal. Its main attraction is the Old Midleton Distillery or "Jameson Experience", with a huge waterwheel and pot still, which produced Jameson whiskey from 1825. It's open for tours daily 10:30-17:00 (€26 in 2023). In 1975 production transferred to the new distillery alongside; the business is now owned by Pernod Ricard. There are tour buses from Cork to the distillery, and the railway re-opened in 2009, so Midleton has grown into a large commuter town. The Farmer's Market is held on Saturday 09:00-13:00.
  • 51.888 -8.589 17 Ballincollig is a small village 5 km west of Cork which throughout the 19th century held a large military-industrial complex, the Royal Gunpowder Mills. These are nowadays just bosky ruins 500 m north of the village in the riverbank park. 500 m south of the village is the Norman stump of Ballincollig Castle, which is on private land.
  • 51.865 -8.711 18 Kilcrea Friary is the substantial ruin of a 15th century Franciscan abbey. It came under repeated attack by the English while the Friars holed up in Kilcrea Castle 500 m west: the castle ruin is on a farm with no public access.
  • Cobh and Crosshaven are small ports in Cork Harbour, see separate pages.

Do [ edit ]

  • What's on? Listen to Cork 96 on 96.4 MHz, C103 on 102.6 MHz, or Red FM on 106.1 MHz.
  • Cork City Tours operate a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city, as well as excursions out to the Jameson Distillery, Mizen Head, and Ring of Kerry. These run May-Sept, and in 2023 the city tour is €18 adult, €16 conc, €7 child.
  • Cork Arts Theatre is on Carroll's Quay, Box Office +353 21 450 5624.
  • Crane Lane Theatre on the block between South Mall and Oliver Plunkett St is a live music venue and bar open to 02:00 nightly.
  • Gate Cinema is top of North Main Street by the bridge.
  • Triskel Arts Centre on Tobin Street has a gallery, live music, theatre and a cinema.
  • Cyprus Avenue is a live music venue on Caroline Street.

Sports [ edit ]

county cork travel guide

  • Gaelic games at 51.9 -8.4353 1 Páirc Ui Chaoimh , Ballintemple ( 2 km east of centre ), ☏ +353 21 201 9200 . This 45,000 capacity stadium hosts the biggest games. It's the home ground of Cork GAA, the county team, playing Gaelic football and hurling. They have a secondary home stadium at Páirc Uí Rinn, capacity 16,440, and club games are usually played at this and similar-sized grounds: Nemo Rangers for football, Blackrock for hurling, St Finbarr's play both. The fixture list is posted by the national GAA . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Soccer at 51.886 -8.468 2 Cork City FC , St Anne's Park, Turners Cross T12 Y7D6 . "The Rebel Army" were relegated in 2023 so they now play soccer in the League of Ireland First Division, the Republic's second tier. The playing season is March-Oct and matches are usually on Friday evenings. Turner's Cross Stadium (capacity 7485) is 1.5 km south of city centre. Take a bus to Evergreen Road or walk; you may not walk on South Link Road. ( updated Nov 2023 )
  • Rugby Union , 15-a-side: Munster Rugby are one of the four Irish professional teams playing in the United Rugby Championship (formerly Pro14), the European (predominantly Celtic) league. Their usual home ground is in Limerick, but some home games are at Musgrave Park, capacity 8000 (also known as Irish Independent Park). Junior internationals are also held here. It's off Pearse Rd a mile south of the centre.
  • Go to the races but you need to set off early: Cork Racecourse is at Mallow 35 km north.

Events [ edit ]

  • St Patrick's Day on 17 March is a big event here, with streets closed off for the parade.
  • Cork Midsummer Festival features theatre, music, dance, painting, photography and more. The next is 14-25 June 2023.
  • Ironman Triathlon is held between Youghal and Cork on 20 Aug 2023. The event offers 40 qualifying slots for the world championships in Hawaii.
  • Cork Jazz Festival is next held 26 - 30 Oct 2023.
  • Cork International Film Festival is next held 9-19 Nov 2023.
  • 2024 Four Nations - Masters hockey (31st may-2nd June) , Garryduff Sports Centre,Garryduff, Cork, T12 ER22 . 2024 Four Nations Women's hockey competition. Over 35, Over 40 and Over 45's - Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales teams. ( updated Feb 2024 )

Buy [ edit ]

  • Shopping areas are along St Patrick's Street, Oliver Plunkett Street, Paul Street and North Main Street.
  • Farmers' Markets are held at Blackrock (Su 10:00-14:00), Mahon Point (Th 10:00-14:00), Douglas (Sa 10:00-14:00) and Midleton (Sa 09:00-13:00).

Eat [ edit ]

county cork travel guide

Eating places and bars are everywhere, but especially on MacCurtain Street, Washington Street and Oliver Plunkett Street.

Budget [ edit ]

  • 51.8991 -8.4742 1 Dukes Coffee Company , 4 Carey's Lane T12 YY89 , ☏ +353 21 490 5877 . M-Sa 09:00-17:00, Su 10:00-16:00 . Big portions, slick service. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • My Goodness , Unit 2, English Market, Princes St T12 W9XP ( within Market Hall ). Vegan cafe. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • Kellys Restaurant , 64 Oliver Plunkett St T12 K5FH ( Upstairs, opposite English Market ), ☏ +353 21 427 3375 . Tu-Su 12:30-17:00 . Inexpensive trad fare. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • O'Flynns Gourmet Sausage Co , 14 Winthrop St T12 A367 ( corner of Plunkett St ), ☏ +353 21 427 4422 . M-Th 09:30-17:00, F Sa 09:30-19:00, Su 11:00-17:00 . Hotdogs, sit in or take away. They also have a stall within English Market. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8978 -8.4763 2 Amigo's , 7 Washington St T12 Y75F . M, W-F 12:00-21:00, Sa 12:00-23:30, Su 13:00-20:00 . Burritos and kebabs. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8988 -8.4777 3 Tony's Bistro , 69 North Main St T12 H61W , ☏ +353 21 427 0848 . Daily 08:30-17:00 . Irish breakfast and similar trad fare. ( updated Feb 2023 )

Mid-range [ edit ]

county cork travel guide

  • 51.898 -8.4698 4 Jacques Restaurant , 23 Oliver Plunkett St T12 A5D7 , ☏ +353 21 427 7387 , [email protected] . Tu-Sa 17:00-21:30 . A long-established Irish restaurant. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8971 -8.473 5 Clancys , 15 Princes St T12 V6FH , ☏ +353 21 234 4455 , [email protected] . M-Sa 09:00-23:00, Su 10:00-23:00 . Trad Irish pub but nowadays primarily a restaurant. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8984 -8.4681 6 Market Lane , 5 Oliver Plunkett St T12 T959 , ☏ +353 21 427 4710 , [email protected] . Daily 12:00-21:30 . Bustling two-storey Irish restaurant and bar near English Market gets great reviews for its food and has a GF selection. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8978 -8.4781 7 Liberty Grill , 32 Washington St T12 T880 , ☏ +353 21 427 1049 . F Sa 09:30–14:30 & 17:00-20:00, Th Su 09:30–14:30 . New England style bistro with good all-day brunch, licensed. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8987 -8.464 8 Café Gusto , The Boardwalk, Lapps Quay T12 WY42 , ☏ +353 21 422 4099 . M–F 07:00–15:00 . Good for a quick bite and coffee. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • Another Cafe Gusto is at 3 Washington St.
  • 51.8778 -8.4341 9 East Village Hotel , East Village, Douglas T12 Y688 ( next to Douglas shopping court ), ☏ +353 21 436 7000 . M–Th 18:00–21:00, F 17:00–22:00, Sa 13:00–22:00, Su 13:00–21:00 . It's a mid-range hotel but most reviews rate it for food and drink. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8964 -8.4721 10 Jacobs on the Mall , 30 South Mall T12 NY22 , ☏ +353 21 425 1530 , [email protected] . Tu–Sa 17:00–22:00 . Modern gourmet cuisine, lots of veggie choice, the set menu is especially good value. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.9002 -8.4723 11 Luigi Malones , 1 Emmet Place T12 VF43 ( next to Opera House ), ☏ +353 21 427 8877 . M-Th 12:00-20:00, F Sa 12:00-21:00, Su 13:00-20:00 . Long-established popular Italian place with Art Deco interior. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • Nash 19 , 19 Princes St T12 W718 ( next to Clancy's off Oliver Plunkett St ), ☏ +353 21 427 0880 . Tu–Sa 09:00–16:00 . Bright modern cafe, good choice for lunch. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8995 -8.4767 12 Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega , 44 Cornmarket St T12 W27H , ☏ +353 51 427 3756 , [email protected] . Daily 10:00–20:00 . Cafe/bar in a nicely refurbished industrial building with a good all-day brunch. The bar has a formidable selection of whiskey and at weekends they have a late-night club. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.8955 -8.4749 13 Quay Co-op , 24 Sullivans Quay T12 X867 , ☏ +353 21 431 7026 . M-Sa 08:00-18:00 . Vegetarian restaurant (lots of vegan and GF choice) within a health food store. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • 51.89855 -8.46993 14 Scoozi , 2-5 Winthrop Lane T12 DE6W ( off Winthrop St ), ☏ +353 21 427 5077 , [email protected] . M-W 09:00-20:00, Th-Sa 09:00-21:00, Su 13:00-20:00 . Lively family-oriented place with standard Italian fare. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • Farmgate Café , English Market, Princes Street T12 NC8Y ( within Market Hall ), ☏ +353 21 427 8134 , [email protected] . Tu-Sa 09:00-16:00 . Erratic quality, pricey for what you get. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8772 -8.4361 15 Barry's of Douglas , Douglas East T12 YV08 , ☏ +353 21 489 1370 . M-Th 09:30-23:30, F Sa 09:30-00:30, Su 12:00-23:00 . Slick modern place, value for money food and drink. ( updated Mar 2023 )

Splurge [ edit ]

  • 51.8971 -8.4825 16 Café Paradiso , 16 Lancaster Quay T12 FKE1 , ☏ +353 21 427 7939 , [email protected] . Tu-Sa 17:30-21:00 . This upscale creative vegetarian restaurant gets rave reviews even from committed carnivores. ( updated Feb 2023 )
  • Greenes Restaurant , 48 MacCurtain Street T23 F6EK ( opposite Metropole Hotel ), ☏ +353 21 455 2279 , [email protected] . W-F 17:30-21:15, Sa Su 12:30-14:00, 17:30-21:15 . Upscale innovative Med cuisine, the tasting menu is especially good. ( updated Feb 2023 )

Drink [ edit ]

county cork travel guide

  • An Bróg , 74 Oliver Plunkett St T12 FP28 ( by English Market ), ☏ +353 21 427 0074 , [email protected] . M-F 16:00-02:00, Sa Su 14:00-02:00 . Lively bar, popular with students. Bróg means shoe but one woozy regular is beginning to suspect they don't sell shoes. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8966 -8.4766 1 An Spailpín Fánach , 29 South Main St T12 DYX9 , ☏ +353 21 427 7949 . M Tu 17:00-23:30, W-Su 19:00–23:30 . It's Irish for "the migrant labourer" and has trad music most nights and a great atmosphere. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • The Oval , 25 South Main St T12 Y15D ( by An Spailpín Fánach ), ☏ +353 21 427 8952 . Su-Th 16:00–23:30, F Sa 16:00-00:30 . Great pub with trad decor and welcoming staff, quiet music that you don't have to yell over. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • The Pav , 13 Carey's Lane ( corner with St Patrick's St ), ☏ +353 21 229 6785 . M-W 14:00-23:30, Th-Su 14:00-02:30 . Pav is a two-level bar in a converted cinema. The downstairs Intermission Bar is cosy, the upstairs Pavilion is arty. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9015 -8.4767 2 The Bierhaus , 28 Popes Quay T23 AE79 ( at Shandon footbridge ), ☏ +353 21 455 1648 , [email protected] . M–Th 15:00–23:30, F 15:00–00:30, Sa 13:00–00:30, Su 13:00–23:00 . Great selection of beers, new offerings monthly. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Cask , 48 MacCurtain St T23 F104 ( opposite Metropole Hotel ), ☏ +353 21 450 0913 , [email protected] . Su-Th 16:00-23:30, F Sa 14:00-00:30 . Cocktails and tapas, pricey but good quality. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8975 -8.4789 3 Chambers , 26 Washington St T12 KC52 , ☏ +353 86 703 7018 , [email protected] . Th-Sa 17:00-02:00, Su 14:00-02:00 . LGBT bar and dance club. Gay Bingo?? Hey, whatever. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8974 -8.4802 4 Costigan's Pub , 11 Washington St T12 N768 , ☏ +353 21 427 3350 , [email protected] . M-Th 16:00-23:30, F 14:00-00:30, Sa Su 12:30-23:30 . Lively pub, gets busy but there's enough room to watch TV sport or avoid it. Big selection of whiskey and other spirits. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Edison ( formerly Long Island Bar ), 11 Washington St T12 YK63 ( next to Amigos ), ☏ +353 21 427 3252 , [email protected] . W 18:00-23:00, Th-Su 17:00-23:00 . Cocktail bar with an extensive menu and loads of variety. Try the whiskey toddy on a drear winter night. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9011 -8.4821 5 Franciscan Well Bar & Brewery ( Fran Well Bar ), 14B North Mall T23 P264 , ☏ +353 21 439 3434 , [email protected] . M-F 16:00-23:30, Sa 13:00-00:00, Su 13:00-23:00 . Pub with large beer garden on north river bank, serving pizza from Pompeii Pizzeria next door. Brews its own range of beers and has a fine section of foreign bottled beers. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Rising Sons Brewery is on Cornmarket opposite Tesco. The bar is open Su-Th 12:00-23:30, F Sa 12:00-00:30 and serves food.
  • The Poor Relation is on Parnell Place 100 m south of the bus station. They serve Rising Sons ales and are open M-Th 10:30-23:00, F Sa 10:30-00:30, Su 12:00-23:30.
  • Arthur Mayne's Pharmacy , 7 Pembroke St T12 VR62 ( flanking Imperial Hotel ), ☏ +353 21 427 9449 . Daily 10:00-02:00 . Atmospheric wine bar in a Victorian apothecary shop. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.898 -8.4707 6 The Hi-B Bar , 108 Oliver Plunkett St T12 E6CX , ☏ +353 21 427 2758 . M-Th 15:00-23:30, F Sa 14:00-00:30, Su 17:00-23:00 . Small quirky bar up old creaking stairs, named for the former Hibernian Hotel. It often has live music, but no TV and definitely no mobile phones. Its legendary grumpy owner died in 2019 but his successors have retained the ambience. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Long Valley Bar , 10 Winthrop St T12 NW64 ( off Plunkett St ), ☏ +353 21 427 2144 . Daily 10:00–00:30 . Busy central pub does good filling sandwiches. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Mutton Lane Inn , Mutton Lane, 3 St Patrick's St T12 RV07 ( by English Market ), ☏ +353 21 427 3471 . M-Th 10:30-23:30, F Sa 10:30-00:30, Su 09:00-23:00 . Dark and comfortable with candle lit tables and trad sessions on Monday night, and no TV. Nice selection of foreign and local beers. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8936 -8.4783 7 Pigalle , 111 Barrack St T12 FK75 , ☏ +353 21 432 3214 , [email protected] . W–Sa 18:00–23:30 . French cafe-bar with great selection of French wines and continental beers. They still do good cocktails but now major on their restaurant offerings; on warm nights, eat in the courtyard. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Tom Barry's , 113 Barrack St T21 RT44 ( next to Pigalle ). Su-Th 16:00-23:30, F Sa 16:00-00:30 . Trad Irish pub with great pizza. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9017 -8.4711 8 Sin é , 8 Coburg St T23 KF5N , ☏ +353 21 450 2266 . Su–Th 12:30–23:30, F Sa 12:30–00:30 . Trad pub since 1889, when there was a funeral parlour next door – Sin é means "that's it." In the 20th century the pub was the queue for the barbers shop upstairs. It's kept its atmosphere and has live trad music every night. No food served, but you can bring in cold bites, no hot food allowed. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8979 -8.4727 9 Thomond Bar , 2 Marlboro St T12 NF84 , ☏ +353 21 427 9747 , [email protected] . M-Sa 10:30-23:30, Su 12:30-23:00 . Great pub for TV sports, food served till late. ( updated Mar 2023 )

Sleep [ edit ]

  • 51.9014 -8.4661 1 Bru Hostel , 57 MacCurtain St T23 CD00 , ☏ +353 21 455 9667 , [email protected] . Hostel with bar, open all year. Live music and a lively pub most nights, so not for light sleepers. Prices include breakfast, wi-fi internet, bike and luggage storage. Dorm bed €35 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Kinlay House , Bob and Joan's Walk T23 CK10 ( east side of Shandon Bells ), ☏ +353 21 450 8966 . Small hostel by Shandon, nowadays housing Ukrainian refugees. ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Sheila's Hostel , 4 Belgrave Place, Wellington Road T23 XF95 ( facing Auburn House, below ), ☏ +353 21 450 5562 . Clean well-run hostel open all year with free wi-fi. Reception is 24 / 7. Dorm from €28, double room €80 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • Camping: the closest campsite is near Blarney 8 km northwest and open April-Oct.
  • 51.9022 -8.4662 2 Auburn House , Garfield Terrace, Wellington Rd T23 FD27 , ☏ +353 21 450 8555 , [email protected] . A smart welcoming B&B near the railway station. B&B double €110 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.904 -8.4242 3 Clayton Hotel Silver Springs , Tivoli T23 E244 ( N8 two km east of city ), ☏ +353 21 450 7533 . Good mid-range place with leisure centre and large conferencing and banquet facilities, free parking. Assistance dogs only. B&B double €110 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9017 -8.4681 4 Hotel Isaacs , 48 MacCurtain St T23 F6EK , ☏ +353 21 450 0011 , [email protected] . Excellent stylish hotel, with quality beyond its price range. B&B double €110 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8995 -8.4639 5 Leonardo Hotel ( formerly Jury's Inn ), Andersen's Quay T12 DCR9 , ☏ +353 21 494 3000 , [email protected] . Reliable central 3-star chain hotel, close to bus and railway stations. The 133 rooms have wifi and satellite TV. There is also a bar and restaurant. Charges for the small hotel car park. B&B double €130 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9027 -8.4744 6 Maldron Hotel Shandon Cork City , John Redmond St T23 A9TF , ☏ +353 21 452 9200 . Clean well-run chain hotel north of river. With leisure centre and pool. B&B double €190 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9013 -8.4676 7 Metropole Hotel , MacCurtain St T23 PX44 , ☏ +353 21 464 3700 , [email protected] . Welcoming helpful central hotel. 112 modern rooms with free wi-fi. No hotel parking. B&B double €150 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9058 -8.3578 8 Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa , Ditchley House, Little Island T45 WF53 ( jcn 2 of N25 ), ☏ +353 21 429 7000 , [email protected] . Modern hotel on a retail park east of city, gets mostly good reviews for service, comfort and food. B&B double €130 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8793 -8.4252 9 Rochestown Park Hotel , Rochestown Road, Douglas T12 AKC8 ( 5 km east of centre ), ☏ +353 21 489 0800 . Smart midrange place at southeast edge of city. B&B double €120 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8723 -8.4702 10 Travelodge Cork Airport ( 2 km north of airport ), Kinsale Road Roundabout, Frankfield Rd T12 E2XY , ☏ +353 21 431 0722 , fax : +353 21 431 0723 , [email protected] . Reliable chain hotel. On drab commercial estate with no eating places beyond hotel. Pets accepted. Free parking during stay. No availability in 2020 . ( updated Oct 2020 )
  • Airport: Cork International Hotel , Cork Airport Business Park T12 H516 ( 200 m from terminal ), ☏ +353 21 454 9800 , [email protected] . Great scores for comfort and service, a short walk to terminal. B&B double €150 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8653 -8.0734 11 Ballymaloe House , Shanagarry, Midleton P25 Y070 ( On road to Youghal ), ☏ +353 21 465 2531 . This is a long way out but worth a splurge. A top-rank country hotel in a Georgian mansion with outstanding restaurant. B&B double €300 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8985 -8.4652 12 Clayton Hotel Cork City ( formerly Clarion ), Lapps Quay T12 RD6E , ☏ +353 21 422 4900 , [email protected] . Slick modern hotel, very central. B&B double €190 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.9004 -8.2926 13 Fota Island Resort , Fota Island T45 HX62 ( From N25 jcn 3 follow R624 south ), ☏ +353 21 488 3700 , [email protected] . Plush but family-friendly hotel with 123 en-suite rooms, 8 suites, several restaurants and a spa. It's set amidst 3 golf courses and extensive wooded parklands; gets great reviews. Fota Island is a peninsula in the estuary reached by public road. B&B double €190 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.891 -8.4897 14 Hayfield Manor , Perrott Avenue, College Rd T12 HT97 , ☏ +353 21 484 5900 . Charming upscale hotel hidden away in grounds behind UCC campus, great comfort and service. B&B double €250 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.897 -8.4701 15 Imperial Hotel Cork , 76 South Mall T12 A2YT , ☏ +353 21 427 4040 , [email protected] . This grand 200-year old hotel earns great reviews for comfort and service. B&B double €180 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8937 -8.5085 16 Kingsley Hotel , Carrigrohane Rd T12 P680 ( opposite County Hall and Library ), ☏ +353 21 480 0500 . Pleasant hotel on the riverbank, with spa, fitness club and pool. B&B double €180 . ( updated Mar 2023 )
  • 51.8729 -8.4216 17 Maryborough Hotel & Spa , Maryborough Hill, Douglas T12 XR12 , ☏ +353 21 436 5555 . Upscale hotel in 18th century mansion at the leafy south-east edge of city, highly rated for comfort and service. With Bellini restaurant, fitness centre and spa. B&B double €200 . ( updated Mar 2023 )

Stay safe [ edit ]

Cork is mostly safe, but show usual caution around rowdy drunks.

Connect [ edit ]

As of March 2023, Cork and its approach roads have 5G from all Irish carriers.

Go next [ edit ]

  • Blarney 8 km northwest has the castle, gardens and of course the Blarney Stone - it's very touristy.
  • Cobh , reached by local train, was the port for Cork in the age of the great ocean liners. It's an agreeable colourful place often visited by cruise ships.
  • Crosshaven is a pleasant seaside town with clean beaches and clifftop walks.
  • Kinsale is an attractive seaside town with water sports and the impressive Charles Fort.
  • Further west beyond Clonakilty the coastline becomes rugged, with stony hills surrounding small towns such as Skibbereen and Bantry .
  • Lismore in County Waterford has a fine castle, gardens and cathedral, and several mansions and gardens in the countryside around.
  • Cahir in County Tipperary has a castle on a river island and the playful Swiss Cottage.
  • Killarney in County Kerry has the Killarney lakes, castle and wildlife park.

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County Cork travel guide

Ireland’s biggest and most southerly county offers an attractive combination of sea and hill scenery, interspersed with lively small towns and villages, especially along its long indented coast. Because of the Gulf Stream, parts of the southwest coast are frost-free-year round, and have lush, subtropical vegetation, with massive rhododendrons and azaleas from mid-April to May. An added bonus is the high quality of County Cork’s natural produce – farmhouse cheeses made from the milk of sleek cows grazing the fertile green meadows, locally reared beef, pork and lamb, and freshly caught fish. Local honey, home-grown potatoes, salads and vegetables (increasingly organic) will impress with their flavour and freshness. These are sold locally in specialist food shops and at farmers’ markets, and feature on restaurant menus, giving the area a high reputation among food-lovers.

The vibrant hub of the southwest, Cork City has long divested itself of its sleepy second-city status, with multinationals (including Apple, which has its European headquarters here) creating jobs, a thriving student community and a significant population from European Union states such as Poland, Hungary and Lithuania adding a multicultural feel. The result is a cosmopolitan city bristling with fashionable bars and restaurants, live music venues and festivals.

county cork travel guide

Places to visit in County Cork

The historic centre of Cork is built on an island created by two channels of the River Lee. Read more.. .  

Renowned for its restaurants, Kinsale is a pretty seaport with a large, virtually landlocked harbour. Read more. ..

The colourful and compact town centre of Clonakilty is easily explored on foot. Look out for Emmet Square, lined by tall Georgian houses, and the Post Office, in a small 19th-century church on Bridge Street. 

Just outside Clonakilty is the birthplace of local hero Michael Collins, who played an important role in the founding of the Irish state. 

Blarney Castle

tel: 021-438 5252

www.blarneycastle.ie

A visit to Blarney Castle makes a pleasant half-day outing from Cork. The castle, a formidable keep built in the mid-15th century, is surrounded by well-tended gardens, two rivers, a ‘Druid’ grotto and parkland with an attractive lake. 

Kissing the Blarney Stone, a slab set high up in the wall below just the castle’s battlements, is supposed to bestow the gift of eloquence. Those who wish to romance the stone have to ascend the castle’s many steps to the rooftop, then lean backwards by the battlements (there are iron bars to hold onto – asking someone to hold you by the waist is also recommended), before finally landing a smacker onto the legendary surface. There is no charge for this odd ritual, but many people are so happy to survive it that they pay €10 at the exit for a souvenir photograph.

Bantry Bay, one of the big attractions of Southwest Ireland, is around 34km (21 miles) long and 6.5km (4 miles) wide. The town of Bantry is nestled in a magnificent setting at the top of the bay. Beside it, looking out to sea and set in subtropical gardens, is Bantry House, a stately home with a fine collection of antiques including Aubusson carpets, Gobelin tapestries, Russian icons, Chinese lacquer and French and Irish 18th-century furniture.

Beyond Bantry Bay the road climbs into open, more rugged country, offering ever-changing views across the bay. Glengarriff, a wooded glen with a sheltered harbour warmed by the Gulf Stream, has an especially mild climate. The village is teeming with craft shops, serving coaches en route to Killarney to the north, but Ilnacullin Gardens, on Garinish Island, five minutes offshore, are well worth a visit. The flora comes from five continents, and the centrepiece is a stunning walled Italian garden, surrounding a pool, its straight architectural lines contrasting with the ruggedness of the distant mountains that frame it.

The north side of Bantry Bay is formed by the Beara Peninsula, which stretches for about 48km (30 miles) southwest from Glengarriff. The southern part of the peninsula is in County Cork, while the north is in Kerry, with the Caha and Slieve Miskish mountains running down its centre. The road around the Beara, the Ring of Beara, makes a less busy alternative to the Ring of Kerry .

Foodies should head to culinary Kinsale and check out our guide to what to eat in Ireland

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Places to visit in County cork

county cork travel guide

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Cork Travel: A Guide To Visiting The City

Even though it’s the second-largest city in Ireland behind Dublin, Cork is considered to be the country’s foodie capital.

The city of Cork (in the county of the same name) is also home to the biggest jazz festival in Ireland and the famous Blarney Castle.

You truly can’t say you’ve experienced Ireland until you’ve taken at least a day trip to Cork — better yet, a weekend ! Use this Cork travel guide to start planning your next Emerald Isle adventure!

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit Cork is the same as the best time to visit the rest of the country.

Most people will visit in the summer months because of Ireland’s warm weather. This is when everything is guaranteed to be open, no disappointments in the summer! 

In spring and autumn, it’s a bit less busy and the weather is still quite nice. Fewer people will visit during the winter months even though Cork doesn’t get any snow.

This area of Ireland has pretty mild weather year round — you can enjoy travelling Cork throughout the seasons. 

summer in cork

Peak Season

Peak season in Cork City is June through August.

It doesn’t rain as much during Cork’s summer months which is a huge plus to visiting during this time.

The weather during Cork’s peak season is quite nice and averages around 14 ° C.

However, since this time is the busiest, you can expect to have to book tickets ahead of time for every attraction you wish to visit.

Prices for accommodations most likely will also be inflated during this season.

Unless you don’t have another option, try to avoid the summer months in Cork due to how busy the city can get.

cork shoulder season

Shoulder Season

Cork’s shoulder season consists of March through May (spring) and September through November (autumn).

The weather during both of these times is not too bad, averaging around 8 ° C in the spring and 11 ° C in autumn.

Keep in mind that it does rain a lot more in the shoulder season, especially in the springtime.

However, you aren’t experiencing Ireland if you don’t witness at least one dreary day!

The nice thing about travelling to Cork during this time is that not as many people visit, except for around St. Patrick’s Day (which is held in March).

You’ll find that accommodations will be a lot more reasonable price-wise.

winter in cork with snow

Cork’s off-season is December through February, the winter months.

During this time, the weather averages 8 ° C, so it’s not warm enough for you to go out and walk the streets unless the sun is out.

This is the time that it rains the most in Cork as well, so that’s something to keep in mind if you plan on visiting in winter.

On the plus side, since it’s the off-season, you’ll find that hotels and bed and breakfasts are a lot more budget-friendly.

The winter months aren’t the best time to visit Cork, unless you’re trying to avoid all possible crowds in the city, are travelling on a strict budget, or if you’re planning to visit around Christmastime to enjoy the markets on offer!

Neighbourhoods

Where to stay.

Cork is filled with so many amazing places to stay! Since Cork is a larger city in Ireland, there are a variety of hostels, bed and breakfasts, hotels, and Airbnbs in all of these areas.

The price can vary depending on where you choose to stay in Cork. The closer you are to the city centre, the higher the price, unless you opt to stay in hostels.

Here’s a look at some of the best areas to stay in Cork City.

cork where to stay in the victorian neighbourhood

Victorian Quarter

If you’re looking to stay in a historical area of Cork City, then you have to consider the Victorian Quarter. This area of Cork is filled with 19th-century landmarks and buildings.

The Victorian Quarter is home to a variety of restaurants, museums, book stores, and a lot of fun bars. This area is also very photogenic and is located near the city centre.

Most places to stay here will cost you €70 ($80) to €88 ($100) per night.

cork city center

Cork City Centre

Staying in the city centre is the best, no matter the city because you’re right in the middle of all the action.

The majority of Cork’s festivals are held here, and this area is also home to all of the great pubs, restaurants, and stores for shopping.

If you’d like to stay in Cork city centre, be prepared to spend €88 ($100) to €122 ($140) per night.

cork lough cork city

University College

With stunning architecture, green spaces, and a vibrant student scene, this is a great place to stay for a younger crowd.

The University College Cork is also known as being the foodie area of the city — you’re never far from a good pub or restaurant here!

Near the campus, you’ll find Cork Lough, which is a great place for walking.

cork neighbourhood

Blackpool is one of Cork City’s suburbs and therefore is a great place to stay if you’re looking to stay outside of the city. This is especially a good option for families.

The suburb of Blackpool is only a 7-minute drive or 25-minute bus ride from Cork city.

This area doesn’t have many hotels, but all the bed and breakfasts in the area cost €44 ($50) to €70 ($80), so it’s a lot more affordable than staying near the city centre.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Cork is an extremely historical city that’s filled with a lot of activities, both outdoor and indoor. It’s a great city to explore whether you’re visiting with a family or just by yourself.

Below, find some of the best things to see and do in Cork.

blarney castle cork where to stay

Explore Blarney Castle & Gardens

This Cork travel guide would not have been complete without at least mentioning Blarney Castle & Gardens. This is the main attraction that everyone comes to Cork to see.

Don’t let that deter you! Blarney Castle & Gardens is filled with rich history and there’s a lot more to the castle than the Blarney Stone.

At the castle, be sure to explore the rest of the gardens that the estate owns. I recommend looking for the Poison Garden, the Jungle, and the Bog Garden.

An adult ticket costs €18 ($21) and a child ticket costs €8 ($9). You could also purchase a family ticket for €45 ($51) which will cover two adults and two children.

english market cork

Eat At The English Market

The English Market is a market that has been in the same spot since the 18th century in Cork City. Your Cork travel experience will be a million times better if you at least stop by this market!

There are so many great things to purchase here, from lunch to souvenirs. This is a great place for a family to grab a meal because there truly is something here for everybody.

Even if you don’t plan on purchasing anything, it’s a lot of fun to meander throughout the market and explore all the stalls. It’s also a great way to meet some of the locals.

gaol travel cork

Visit Cork City Gaol

Cork City Gaol is a 19th-century jailhouse. It was a prison until the early 20th century, and then soon after became a radio station.

Today, the jail is a museum that is well worth visiting. You can learn all about what the prison was like and explore a Radio Museum.

Adult tickets cost €10 ($11) regular or €12 ($14) with an audio guide. A ticket for a child costs €6 ($7) regular or €8 ($9) with an audio guide. Family tickets are also available for €30 ($34).

TOP TOURS IN CORK

Cork has a lot of lovely tours in the city because it’s so widely-visited. From food tours to historical tours, this city has it all.

Keep in mind that it’s best to always book your tours well in advance to guarantee that you’ll be able to go on them.

Below are a few of the most highly-rated tours in Cork City.

Jameson Experience Whiskey Tour

Your trip to Cork won’t be complete without sampling and learning about Jameson Whiskey!

Jameson whiskey is proudly produced near Cork City in the town of Middleton, so while you’re in the area, why not take advantage of the location and learn more about it?

The Jameson Whiskey Experience will bring you to a museum dedicated to Jameson where you’ll be able to try different whiskeys and learn about how the whiskey is produced.

At the end of the tour, you can even enjoy lunch at the Malt House Restaurant. Keep in mind that this tour is best for couples and solo travellers, but not kids! Click here to read more about the tour.

things to do in ireland jameson whiskey tour cork

2-Hour Guided Walking Tour

This guided walking tour is a great way to get introduced to the city. The tour is run by a local guide who will bring you to some of Cork’s top things to see.

Plus, the tour is capped at only 20 people so you’re sure to have an intimate experience with the city.

This tour is great for families, couples, and solo travellers. Be sure to wear comfy shoes that are great for walking because it lasts two hours. Click here to read more about the tour.

Cork Food and History Tour

The Cork Food and History Tour will provide you with an overview of some of the best food and drinks in the city.

It is more of a historical food tour, so you’ll learn a lot about the city’s history with food.

Some snacks are provided on the tour, though if you’d like additional food, you will have to pay for yourself.

This tour is great for all types of travellers, including solo travellers, couples, and families. Click here to read more about the tour.

food tour in cork

BEST DAY TRIPS FROM CORK

As one of Ireland’s major cities, Cork is in a great location for day trips. It’s close to so many of Ireland’s other gems.

Many of the day trips from Cork can be reached using public transportation because of how well-connected the city is to the rest of the country. You can, of course, also drive.

Here are some of the most popular day trips from Cork.

cobh day trip from cork

Cobh is only a 25-minute drive or train ride from Cork City. This town has a lot of rich history related to the Titanic and is, therefore, a popular place to visit for history buffs.

The small town of Cobh is very picturesque and should be at the top of your list if you have enough time to take a day trip.

While in Cobh, be sure to visit the Titanic Experience, join a walking tour of the town , and see the Cobh Heritage Centre.

best pubs in kinsale

Kinsale is known for being one of the most photogenic towns in all of Ireland and for good reason.

It was once a popular fishing port and is now a great place to visit for its prime location and beautifully-painted shops.

You can easily visit Kinsale by either taking a 50-minute train or driving for 30 minutes.

During your day trip to Kinsale, check out Charles Fort and Desmond Castle. If you’re driving to Kinsale, try to also stop at Mizen Head, which offers one of the best coastal views of the Emerald Isle!

rock of cashel ireland

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the whole of Ireland. It consists of a 12th-century chapel and a 13th-century cathedral atop a hill surrounded by walls.

Cormac’s Chapel is the real star of the show at the Rock of Cashel, which you can only see by purchasing a tour.

To get to the Rock of Cashel from Cork, you can either book a tour, drive, or take a bus. It takes 1 hour to drive there while the bus ride is closer to 2 hours.

WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT

As mentioned earlier in this guide, Cork is considered to be Ireland’s foodie capital! That’s reason enough to want to visit this lovely place.

Because it’s Ireland’s foodie hotspot, there are dozens of great dishes to try. A lot of Ireland’s best and top-notch restaurants are found in the city.

Plus, no matter when you’re travelling to Cork, you can find these amazing dishes and restaurants waiting for you.

Cork is well-known for its dairy products (cheese especially), produce, meats, and also black pudding. It’s located near the water, so there are also a lot of seafood dishes as well.

Now this isn’t necessarily a dish,  but you need to order something with cheese in it. Oftentimes, you’ll even be able to order a cheese platter from local Cork restaurants.

Some popular cheese flavours to keep your eye out for include St. Gall, Blarney Castle (yes, I  swear  it’s a flavour!), Dubliner, and Gubbeen.

If you choose to just purchase cheese from a grocery store, this will cost around €4 ($4.50), while a cheese platter at a restaurant would cost closer to €10 ($11.50).

cheese for sale in cork

Clonakilty Black Pudding

Clonakilty black pudding is made up of beef, onion, and blood. It might sound strange, but black pudding is a classic Irish dish.

It’s made locally near Cork City in a town called Clonakilty which is about an hour away.

If you don’t want to try it completely alone, try ordering a Full Irish Breakfast which will cost around €10 ($11.50). You could also purchase some at the store for around €3 ($3.50).

Tripe & Drisheen

This dish consists of beef tripe cooked with onions and drisheen which is a sausage made with sheep’s blood and beef.

The most popular place to order this is actually at The English Market.

Above the market is a little restaurant called Farmgate Cafe where you can order tripe and drisheen for only €5.50 ($6) or a large for €11 ($13).

coddle food in dublin

Best Restaurants in Cork

Greene’s Restaurant: This restaurant is located right in Cork’s Victorian Quarter. It’s known as being of the best places to get an Irish meal in the city.

Greene’s Restaurant is considered upper midrange to expensive when it comes to price. Click here to find it on the map.

Market Lane : Market Lane is a family-friendly laid-back restaurant in Cork’s city centre. The restaurant is most well-known for sourcing many of its ingredients from The English Market.

This is a mid-range restaurant, with most prices for lunch averaging €15  ($17) and dinner averaging closer to €17 ($19.50).

Make sure to order their chocolate and peanut butter caramel tart for dessert! Click here to find it on the map.

Good Day Deli: This deli is a sustainable restaurant near the city centre. You’ll be amazed at the unique atmosphere of this restaurant, from its wooden tables to its succulents and large open windows.

Most dishes on the menu cost around €15 ($17). Order the GDD Halloumi Stack for an excellent lunch! Click here to find it on the map.

BEST PUBS IN CORK

Cork has a lot of brilliant pubs that you won’t want to miss out on. Everyone in Cork goes to a pub once the sun goes down, and you’re sure to find some great live music at almost any pub in the city.

Below are a few of the best pubs in Cork.

people at bar in dublin

The Mutton Lane Inn

The Mutton Lane Inn is an 18th-century pub next to St. Patrick’s Street. This pub’s lighting is always quite dim which just adds to the atmosphere of the place at night.

The dim lighting makes this a very intimate pub compared to other places to get a pint in the city. It’s also a lot smaller than the average Cork City pub.

pubs in dublin

In Gaelic, Sin É  means  this is it because Sin É is one of the best pubs in Cork that will suit your every need. This pub has been in the same spot since the 19th century.

The basement gets crowded quickly, so try to get there earlier to ensure that you get a seat.

This bar is most known for its amazing trad music, so if you’re looking for a place to grab a pint and listen to some Irish music, Sin É is your place.

palace bar dublin travel

Fionnbarra Bar

This is a unique pub that’s unlike any other pub around.

This pub is known for having the best beer garden in all of Cork.

The atmosphere is very eclectic and different and everything on the menu was affordable. It’s not your traditional Irish pub, but if you’re up for a change, consider checking out Fionnbarra’s .

LIVE MUSIC VENUES

Cork is home to quite a few spectacular live music venues that you won’t want to miss out on. At most of these places, you can find some live music no matter what night of the week it is.

In addition to these few places listed below, you can also hop into almost any Cork pub and find that at least some sort of live music is playing.

Here are a few of the greatest live music venues in Cork.

beer in ireland

An Spailpín Fánac

An Spailpín Fánac is an 18th-century pub on Cork’s Main Street that is best known for its trad music! There is a different type of live music almost every night of the week.

While you enjoy your live music, be sure to grab some traditional Irish pub food. Their Irish stew is a top hit.

The Corner House

This venue is an Irish bar that has some fun live music. They’ve even dubbed themselves “Cork’s House of Music”.

To see a calendar of their live music events, be sure to check out their website. They tend to offer live music four to five times a week.

pub pouring beer

Crane Lane Theatre

Crane Lane Theatre offers live music every single day of the week. They’re even located in a former Gentleman’s Club in Cork’s city centre.

The music here covers a wide variety, including everything from DJs to country to even Burlesque!

This joint is also known for its beer garden, so if you’d like to sit outside while you listen to some of the best live music in Cork, be sure to visit Crane Lane Theatre.

FESTIVALS IN CORK

Cork is home to some pretty amazing festivals. A lot of them are held in either the spring or autumn, which are great times to visit Cork.

Below are a few of Cork’s most important and well-known festivals.

jazz festival cork ireland

Cork Jazz Festival

The Cork Jazz Festival is hands-down the city’s most successful festival. It’s been held annually since 1978 in October.

Since it’s the biggest jazz festival in Ireland, thousands of people come to attend every year.

Over the years, hundreds of different musicians have performed during the festival.

Tickets normally go on sale in early summer. Click here for details.

oysters in cork ireland

Oyster and Seafood Festival

This is a celebration of culture, music and of course, seafood! This relatively new festival (launched 2017), is one even non-seafood lovers can enjoy.

There’s the “Gourmet Trail” where some of the best restaurants in Cork showcase their dishes, and some amazing bands perform as well. 

But, the highlight has to be the oyster shucking contest. Click here for details.

folk music festival ireland

Cork Folk Festival

Running since 1979, this is one of the oldest traditional folk festivals in Ireland. The Cork Folk Festival is a singing and dancing extravaganza.

If you travel Cork in October, you won’t want to miss this festival. 

There’s always a great lineup of musicians and other artists, and many of the shows are actually free. 

A big parade, complete with music and dancing kicks off the event. Click here for details.

HIKING IN CORK

If you find that you have more than a few days in Cork City, then you’ll want to check out some of the nearby hiking trails.

Southern Ireland is known for having some amazing viewpoints that you won’t want to miss!

county cork travel guide

Sheep's Head Way

This hike is only about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Cork City and offers some unbelievable views of the sea.

It’s best for pro hikers since it’s a 57-mile loop — but, you can (of course) choose to hike just a portion of it.

On the hike, be sure to keep an eye out for some of the wildflowers that grow along the trail. The trail also goes all the way out to the beautiful Sheep’s Head Lighthouse which is a great viewpoint.

Keep in mind that this trail is safest when used between March and September. Click here for details.

Old Head of Kinsale Loop

This 4-mile walk is only 45 minutes away from Cork. It’s known for having some of the best coastal views of the Atlantic Ocean.

During the hike, you’ll see the Old Head Lighthouse as well as some ancient ruins from 100 BC!

The Old Head of Kinsale Loop is great for beginner and advanced hikers alike. 

old head of kinsale hike cork ireland

Ballycotton Cliff Walk

The Ballycotton Cliff Walk is 4 miles long and is only 40 minutes from Cork. Because it’s one of the more popular cliff walks in the area, it’s best to try to visit during the week if you can.

This cliff walk is safe for beginners and families. During the whole walk, you’ll get sweeping views of Ireland’s southern coast.

BEACHES IN CORK

Cork is located right next to the water in Ireland’s southern region, so it’s actually near quite a few great Irish beaches!

Keep in mind that you do have to drive or take public transportation to get to most of these beaches, but they are all 100% worth it.

A multitude of visitors travel to Cork in the summer just to visit some of the beaches to the west of the city. A trip to Cork isn’t complete without seeing at least one beach. Here are a few to get you started.

Inchydoney beach in cork

Inchydoney Beach

This beach is located about an hour’s drive south from Cork City and is considered by many to be the top beach in Ireland.

This beach is very sandy and calm compared to other beaches in the area. It’s a great beach for swimming and there are always lifeguards on duty during the summer months.

Inchydoney Beach is also a great beach for surfing!

While you’re in the area, be sure to visit the small town of Clonakilty which is a short drive from the beach.

garylucas beach cork travel

Garylucas Beach

Garylucas Beach is another beach located just an hour’s drive south of Cork City. The water at this beach is extremely clear and the sand is perfect for children to play in.

You can swim and surf at this beach, and also partake in other water sports.

It’s located right next to Kinsale, so you could make a whole day trip out of visiting this area.

county cork travel guide

Warren Beach

This is a beautiful beach that’s also only around an hour’s drive away from the city of Cork and therefore is great for a quick afternoon trip to the beach!

If you visit, you’ll find that this beach is very different from what you’d expect a typical beach to look like, as it’s surrounded by a lot of green hills.

It’s a great beach for swimming, especially in the summer months when there’s a lifeguard on duty.

COST OF TRAVEL IN CORK

Since Cork is the second-largest city in Ireland, it can be a bit more expensive to visit there compared to other places in the country.

However, if you’re willing to forgo some luxuries, it is possible to travel here on a budget. 

One night in a hostel dorm room will cost around €20 ($23), while a night in a hotel will average closer to €80 ($91) a night.

Airbnbs in Cork are also an affordable option, with some nicer places costing as little as €45 ($51) if you book well in advance.

An average meal will cost around €14 ($16), though this can change depending on if you choose to eat at more touristic areas of the city. Local restaurants are normally a lot more affordable!

Depending on where in the city you choose to stay, you’ll find that you won’t need to spend more than around €10 ($11.50) a day on public transportation. This is true of most cities in Ireland.

Budget €45 / Day

With a budget of €45 ($53) per day, you could spend the night in one of the cheaper hostel dorms in Cork.

You could eat out for about one budget-friendly meal a day (such as at a cafe) but mostly purchase food from the Tesco to make on your own meals.

Mid-Range €140 / Day

This budget would allow you to stay in a hotel or a nicer bed and breakfast in the city.

You’ll be able to eat at some of the pubs and restaurants for your meals and should be able to visit the attractions you’d like.

Top-End €270 / Day

By budgeting for €270 ($320) a day, you’ll be able to go all out and stay at a luxury hotel like the Hayfield Manor or Maryborough Hotel.

This budget will allow you to not worry about the price of any attraction, you could use taxis to get everywhere, and you’d be able to eat at luxury restaurants in the city.

Transportation

Getting around cork.

Since it’s a major city in Ireland, Cork has widely available public transportation. This makes travelling in Cork easy.

If you know that you’ll mostly be seeing some of the more major tourist sites within the city, you may find that you can walk pretty much everywhere.

Besides walking, you can take the public bus, especially to visit places like Blarney Castle & Gardens.

On average, you probably won’t spend more than €10 ($11.50) per day maximum on public transportation if you purchase a Visitor Leap Card .

  • Public Bus: The public buses in Cork are run by Bus Éireann and will get you around the city and to the surrounding areas. The bus is a great affordable way to travel Cork. One way on the bus will cost around €2 ($2.30).
  • Metro: Unfortunately, there are no metros in Cork.
  • Uber: Cork does not have Uber, but it does have taxis which are reliable and affordable.
  • Taxi: Taxis are easy to use in Cork city if you download the Free Now app on your phone. The taxis in Ireland work similarly to Uber; you order the taxi straight from your phone and you can even order it to come and pick you up at a specific time. If you're just travelling around the city, you shouldn't find yourself spending more than €20 ($23).
  • Cycling: Cork is safe for cycling and this can save you a lot of money. The best way to cycle around Cork is to take part in the Coca-Cola bike share system. There are 30 different spots around the city where you can stop and leave the bike and then pick it up again.
  • Walking: Cork is a very walkable city, you can pretty much walked everywhere except for when visiting Blarney Castle & Gardens. Once you're downtown, everything is quite close.
  • To & From The Airport: The main airport servicing the city of Cork is Cork Airport, which is conveniently located only a 12-minute drive away from the city centre. You could easily catch a taxi for €20 ($23) from the airport to the city centre, or take the 226 bus which costs about €6 ($7) to €8 ($9) depending on the time of day. Keep in mind that the bus will take closer to an hour to get you to the city centre because of the number of stops along the way.

IS CORK SAFE?

Like most places in Ireland, Cork is generally quite safe, even for solo travellers.

Keep in mind that the city’s south side is known for being safer than the north side.

However, that doesn’t mean that the north side is dangerous, just that you’ll want to pay more attention to your surroundings if you’re north of the river.

Just because Cork is safe doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise normal precautions that you would when travelling anywhere else.

Enjoy your trip to Cork!

Note: All images in this Cork travel guide are sourced from Shutterstock.com .

cork by the river on a weekend in the city

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Travelling King

Ultimate Travel Guide to Cork

Cork, Ireland - Crawford Art Gallery in Emmett Place in Cork

Found in the south-west of Ireland, Cork is the country’s second city, and a city that’s fast becoming a tourist destination to rival the capital, Dublin.

In fact, Cork is often seen as the cultural and culinary heart of Ireland, because this is a city that’s steeped in history and overflowing with excellent food and drink.

The city can trace its origins back hundreds of years, and over the centuries it’s grown from being a small settlement founded by monks, into one of Ireland’s most happening places.

While there is much to discover in Cork itself, from the delights of the English Market to seeing the historic local churches, there’s much more to do in the surrounding area too.

With Cork as your base, you can easily visit iconic Irish attractions such as Blarney Castle or Killarney National Park, making the city a great place to stay to explore more of Ireland.

This ultimate travel guide to Cork will show you all the most beautiful places in Cork, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Cork and things to do in Cork which will help you in planning a trip to Cork.

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Table of Contents

How to get to Cork

Cork is the largest city in County Cork, which is in turn part of the wider province of Munster in the south-west of Ireland. Being Ireland’s second largest city population wise, it’s a well connected transport hub in the region, and easy to travel to.

The city’s international airport is located just a few kilometres away from the city centre, and there are regular flights with low cost airlines to most major European cities, including the likes of London, Edinburgh and Amsterdam.

There are no long haul flights however, and if you are travelling further afield then you will need to use Shannon International Airport – which is 2 hours drive away, and is where you can catch flights across the Atlantic to the United States – or you will need to travel to Dublin, or connect in other European airports.

Overland, Cork is well connected to most major Irish cities. There are trains almost every hour to Dublin, a journey of just under 3 hours, while there are bus connections as far afield as Galway, and up to Northern Ireland.

Cork, Ireland - Cork International Airport

What to expect in Cork

Cork is a lively and friendly city, and it’s a destination that’s at the heart of contemporary Irish culture. It’s a city that’s proud of its independence, and you’ll find displays of Irish heritage across Cork, because this is a place that has historically been known as a rebellious city.

Locals are proud to show of their Irish traditions, and you’ll find that Cork is very welcoming to visitors, and is an incredibly safe place to explore. Everyone in Cork speaks English, although the local accent might seem fast paced if you are unaccustomed to the Irish dialect.

Like the rest of the Republic of Ireland, the local currency in use is the Euro , and you will find ATMs in the centre centre, as well as money changers – although many businesses will of course take cards too.

How to get around Cork

Cork might well be Ireland’s second largest city, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a difficult city to get around, and you’ll find the centre is particularly compact and easy to navigate on foot.

Many of the best places to visit Cork are well within walking distance of one another, so just grab a map and spend the day strolling from street to street when you first arrive in the city.

Cork Airport is connected to the city centre by local buses, and you can also find taxis waiting outside arrivals – although of course, public transport is much more cost effective. The local bus network extends across Cork from the city centre, and connects most of the suburbs and many of the communities that spread out into the nearby countryside.

You’ll also find transport to nearby towns such as Cobh, Kinsale and Blarney, is fairly regular and simple to use.

The best time to visit Cork

Cork can be visited anytime of the year, given the fact that it makes for a great city break destination, however, the weather can vary wildly depending on the season.

Ireland is well known for its cold and rainy demeanor, and for much of the year the weather can seem drab and dreary. Winters, from late October onwards, see lots of rainfall and low temperatures.

Summer is brief, but bright, and from June through to August, you can experience the best weather, with temperatures rising into highs above 30 degrees Celsius on rare occasions.

Summer is always the busiest time of year in Cork – especially in July and August, when there are school holidays – but it’s also the most eventful, as there are many festivals and cultural and sporting events in the city. To beat the crowds though, simply brave the colder weather outside of the summer high season.

Quaint street lined with vibrant colorful buildings in the Old Town of Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland

Things to do in Cork 

St patrick’s street.

When you first arrive in Cork, get your bearings by heading to St Patrick’s Street, which is quite possibly the most famous street in the city.

Named for Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick’s Street is one of the main thoroughfares in the city centre, and while it dates back to the 18th century when it was a bustling mercantile road, it was heavily refurbished in 2004 to become Cork’s most modern shopping and retail street.

From St Patrick’s Street, you can easily make your way to all of the best attractions in the city.

Cork, Ireland - : St Patrick Street in Cork. It is the main shopping street in the city

English Market

One of the best things to do in Cork Ireland, is to explore the fantastic English Market . This iconic covered market dates back to the 19th century, and today you can still find the original Victorian-era facades and interior in wonderful condition.

It’s a busy place, and you can find market stalls, cafes, shops and some of the best food and drink in the entirety of the city.

Cork, Ireland - English Market, a municipal food market in the center of Cork, famous tourist attraction of the city: table with jars of different jams.

Cork Public Museum

To learn more about the city’s fascinating history, then call into the Cork Public Museum , which is located within the beautiful grounds of Fitzgerald Park.

This local history museum is found in a heritage-listed Victorian-era building, and inside you’ll find a vast display of local archeological finds and exhibits.

You can trace the origins of Cork from its days as a simple monastery, through to Viking raids, medieval-era conflicts and more recent times within the Republic of Ireland.

Elizabeth Fort

For another interesting look at Cork’s history, then visit the extensive fortifications of Elizabeth Fort . The city has had numerous forts and walls built to protect it over the centuries, but the most lasting legacy of the conflicts and wars that have taken place here, lies in the shadows of the towers of Elizabeth Fort.

Dating back to 1601, the fort was built to both defend and to intimidate the people of Cork, and it was named for the English Queen, Elizabeth. The fort saw numerous battles in the following centuries, being involved in the Jacobite Wars and more recently in the Irish conflicts of the 20th century.

Cork cityscape featuring at the left Elizabeth Fort and on the right Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral Ireland (blue sky background)

Cork City Gaol

Another intriguing historical sight to see in the city, is Cork City Gaol. Here you can learn more about the darker side of local history, as it’s within this prison that many Irish political prisoners were held during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The fascinating museum tells the tale of many of the former prisoners, and gives visitors a unique insight into Irish history.

The old City Gaol in Cork. Republic of Ireland. Built in 1824. Former prison

St Fin Barre’s Cathedral

Cork has a number of religious sites, but one of the most well visited of them is St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

Two tall spires rise high above the city, providing an iconic addition to the skyline. This has been a place of worship since the 7th century AD, although the church you see today was built in the late 19th century.

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork Dublin

St Anne’s Church

St Anne’s Church is an equally famous place of worship in Cork, and visitors call by the church to see the legendary Shandon Bells in the tower and ring the bells!

The tower itself is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Cork, while the historic bells inspired a popular local song.

Aerial view of St. Anne's Church in Shandon Cork Ireland. Mountains and cloudy blue sky

Blarney Castle

Just outside of Cork, you can visit one of Ireland’s most famous historical attractions. Blarney Castle is an iconic destination for many tourists, and for centuries, visitors have flocked here in order to kiss the fabled Blarney Stone.

It’s this stone that is said to bestow upon the kisser the gift of the gab, and to give anyone that kisses it the ability to talk with charisma.

BLARNEY, IRELAND - Blarney Castle, a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland, and the River Martin.

What to eat in Cork

Cork has a legendary culinary scene , and if you’re looking for good eating then this is the city to visit when you are travelling around Ireland. For the best local eats and freshest local produce, then head to the English Market, where you’ll find an array of traditional dishes for sale.

Start the day with a hearty Irish Breakfast, complete with sausages, bacon, beans, eggs and more, before moving onto a sizeable portion of fish and chips or smoked salmon on soda bread for lunch. For dinner, the adventurous eater can indulge in a plate of Tripe and Drisheen.

Smoked salmon with slice of lemon and herb on a plate

Where to stay in Cork

Budget – Cork has a growing number of hostels to add to its name, and many offer a great experience for solo travellers, providing live music, bars and a chance to meet other backpackers.

One of the most popular hostels in the city is the Bru Bar and Hostel, where you’ll always find lots of travellers having a good time.

Mid-Range – For mid-range accommodation, one of the best options is to book in with a Bed and Breakfast. This gives you a more local experience in the city, and you can find many listings on AirBnB.

Other options for mid-range hotels include the likes of the Jurys Inn , a popular choice within walking distance of most major sights in the city centre.

Luxury – Cork also has a large number of luxury offerings, with lots of excellent four and five star accommodations to offer visitors.

Some of the best are located in historic, heritage-listed buildings and houses in secluded parts of the city, including the renowned Maryborough Hotel and Spa , which is found within an early 18th century manor house. Hayfield Manor Hotel , which is complete with spa facilities, is a popular boutique choice for tourists in search of style and comfort in Cork.

St Patrick's Quay on the north channel of river Lee. Cork City Ireland

Tours to do in Cork

Walking tour.

Join a walking tour of the city to learn more about the local history and culture. Led by passionate local guides, you can find all the hidden local spots and local eateries, while learning more about the city than you ever could on your own.

Spike Island

Spike Island is home to an old defensive fort that was built in the 18th century to defend Cork Harbour. You can take a boat trip along the River Lee to visit the fort, and to learn about how the island has been home to monasteries, prisons, castles and convict depots over the centuries.

Cobh, county Cork, Ireland - Spike Island Tours boat sailing alongside the Cobh coastline.

Day trips from Cork

Killarney national park.

Killarney National Park is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, and it’s found just one and a half hours drive away in County Kerry.

This is Ireland’s original national park, and within the extensive protected area you can find dense forest, wonderful woodland trails, and crashing waterfalls.

There are three lakes in the park too, and it’s here that you can find the imposing towers of Ross Castle on the banks of Lough Leane.

Dramatic scenery in Killarney National Park. Killarney National Park, near the town of Killarney, County Kerry, was the first national park in Ireland, created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932

Dingle Peninsula

Another highlight of the south-west, is a visit to the Dingle Peninsula . Here, you can find the most westerly point in Ireland and Europe at Slea Head, and you can discover secluded beaches, windswept cliffs and much, much more in this wild part of the country.

Road along the scenic coast of western Ireland. Slea Head, Dingle peninsula, County Kerry.

Along the south-west coast, just half an hour away from Cork, you can find the colourful town of Kinsale .

Found in a beautiful location, in Kinsale you can find ramshackle streets and local fisheries, while the surrounding cliffs offer some of the best hiking in the area.

KINSALE, CORK, IRELAND - Colorful houses in Kinsale. The historic streetscape is a famous holiday destination.

Recommended tours in Cork

  • Ring of Kerry Full-Day Guided Tour from Cork
  • Jameson Experience in County Cork
  • Dingle and Slea Head Tour from Cork
  • Private luxury tour Cork – Wild Atlantic Way, Kinsale, Timoleague Abbey & more
  • Cliffs of Moher Private Tour from Cork
  • Blarney Castle Tour from Cork including Cobh
  • Award-Winning Smoked Salmon Tasting and Private Smokehouse Tour with a Local
  • Cork Self-Guided Audio Tour

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Ultimate Travel Guide to Cork

Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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County Cork

County Cork

Do you know that Cork is the biggest county in Ireland, covering 7,500 square kilometres of rugged landscapes, rural seaside villages, bustling towns and the country’s second largest city? That means there are lots of things to see and do and lots of mileage to cover, so here are some of our favourite spots and activities for you to enjoy when you visit

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Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone is a rite of passage if you visit Cork; there’s nothing like hanging over a gap to fulfil an ancient tradition – and once you kiss the stone, you’ll be granted the gift of eloquence! Built almost 600 years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, this is a true Irish treasure, with stunning grounds including a poison garden, a fairy glen and the enchanting Rock Close. Check out the Wishing steps and see if you can manoeuvre them to make a wish come true. Steeped in history and legend, this is a must-visit attraction not far from the city.

Cobh County Cork

A must-visit for Titanic fans, this pretty little Victorian seaside town is where the titanic set sail; only 10km outside of Cork city, you can drive or take a train – the waterside rail journey is lovely and part of the experience. You can learn all about the ill-fated Titanic voyage as well as the Lusitania, trace your ancestors, delve into the story of Irish emigration, and immerse yourself in naval and military history at the Cobh Heritage Centre and shipping harbour. Housed in a Victorian railway station, it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Fota House & Gardens & Orangery

Fota Island

Fota Wildlife Park is a wonderful attraction for animal lovers, that combines a zoo with education and conservation, suitable for all the family. The beautiful grounds house thousands of both native and exotic animals and plants. The 100 acre park also boasts shows that entertain and inform, such as the exciting cheetah feeding run – daily times are available on the Fota Wildlife website. Visit the beautiful Fota House and its stunning gardens. There is also a top class golf course on the grounds of Fota Island Resort and spa, with exclusive treatments and luxurious accommodation, as well as a gourmet restaurant.

Fota Wildlife Park

The Wild Atlantic Way Drive

Rivalling The Ring of Kerry for its beauty, and still unmarred by hoards of tour buses, this beautiful drive stretches 2500km of the Atlantic coastline from Donegal to Kinsale. Boasting scenic vistas and gourmet food across seven counties, the West Cork section is an exciting and memorable road trip for all kinds of traveller. With 188 points of discovery along the whole stretch – and a unique ‘passport’ available to record those special memories – there’s something for everyone.

Kinsale

With its stunning harbour, award-winning restaurants, and intriguing history, Kinsale is a lively, cosmopolitan town with plenty to offer. Visit Garretstown woods, cycle the trails, try your hand at horse riding or pottery, or put your culinary skills to test in the Gourmet Academy. Watersports are also plentiful, with kayaking, sailing and scuba diving possible from the marina, and there is plenty to visit include James Fort and Dock Beach.

Clonakilty Visitor Attractions

One of the worst affected areas during the famine in the 1840s, Skibbereen is one of the most important towns in the country for famine heritage, and it is commemorated for visitors in the Skibbereen Heritage Centre. You can follow the famine Story App for a guided walk around the town, and get to know some Irish history. The Sky Garden in Lisaard House is a beautiful 40-acre woodland area for walking, with wildflower meadows and a special Sky garden landscaped by artist, James Turrell. Nearby Loch Hyne (5km) is a beautiful saltwater lake that’s great for kayaking and also studying marine habitats and species. Designated Europe’s first Marine Nature Reserve in 1981, the woods overlooking the lake on Knockomagh Hill are also worth a visit.

Schull Pier West Cork

Continuing on the Wild Atlantic Way, Schull is a small and friendly, yet cosmopolitan village that’s popular all year round, but busiest in the summer thanks to its mild climate, stunning scenery and excellent harbour. Known for its sailing and fishing, there are plenty of islands to visit nearby via ferry (summer only – Schull pier or Colla pier) or on your own boat, including Cape Clear, Sherkin, Castle Island and Long Island. You can also book a boat trip around some of the Hundred Isles or out to the famous Fastnet Rock lighthouse. There are some lovely marked walks for all abilities, such as the Foreshore Walk, Colla Ring and the Butter Road Walk, as well as many cycling routes. From Easter until October, there is an artisan market in the pier car park every Sunday and each May, visitors flock for the renowned Short Film Festival which showcases incredible short films and offers a range of filmmaking workshops with some of Ireland’s top directors, writers and producers. Hackett’s bar is a favourite haunt for a pint with locals and visitors alike, and often offers live music. Blue Flag Barleycove beach, with its stunning sand dunes and long stretch of sand and floating bridge, is also nearby.

Baltimore Beacon West Cork

Offering ferries to Sherkin, Heir and Cape Clear year-round, Baltimore is known for its day trips to the local islands, but the pretty village is also worth a visit in its own right. The lovely walk to the Beacon (also known as ‘pillar of salt’ and Lot’s wife) gives stunning views over the Atlantic. Sailing, fishing and watersports are popular activities here, and scuba diving has also grown increasingly popular due to the number of shipwrecks in the locality. Another highlight is the annual Fiddle Fair; a four-day music festival that features world-class national and international artists in intimate settings as well as workshops and sessions. There is also a unique wooden boat festival every May and an annual regatta, with yacht races, market stalls, music and fun for all the family.

Baltimore West Cork

A short journey from Schull or Baltimore, Cape Clear boasts beautiful walks, stunning scenery, great bird watching, lively bars and an infamous storytelling festival. Accommodation is plenty and varied, from camping to cottages to friendly B&Bs, and if you’re an adventurous sort or looking for something different, you can even stay in a luxury yurt complete with stove – a great choice for a small family. On the first weekend of September, the Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival is an annual highlight, attracting an avid audience of serious storytelling enthusiasts year after year, catering for all ages, with plenty of opportunity to join in.

Mizen Head Bridge

Mizen Head, the 'land's end' of Ireland and the country’s most South-Westerly point, is a signal station and visitor’s centre overlooking the wild Atlantic. Cross the iconic bridge, learn about the life of lighthouse keepers, and scan for dolphins and whales from this incredible vantage point.

Garnish Island Glengarriff

A favourite for walkers, visit Barley Lake and Glengarriff woods in the famed nature reserve for some great walks and excellent views over the stunning local landscape. The bamboo park welcomes visitors year round for walks in their tropical garden, complete with over 30 types of bamboo as well as palm trees and other tropical plants. And if you’re looking for fun for all the family, don’t miss out on the amazing Sculpture Garden (open summer only – outdoors). A unique mix of nature and art, walk the grounds and discover a hidden world of incredible, and often amusing, or interactive, art – a real gem for any age and certain to be a memorable visit. You can also see seals and visit Garnish Island via ferry from Glengarfiff pier; the gardens sheltered by woodland were designed by Annan Bryce and Harold Peto and boast a unique microclimate that allows exotic species to flourish. As well as beautiful landscaped gardens, the island also boasts an historical Martello Tower, an Italian temple and an Italian Tea House. A short drive from here is stunning Gougane Barra, with its pretty St Finarr’s Oratory, friendly bar and hotel, and beautiful National Forest Park.

Eyeries West Cork

Beara Peninsula

You might be forgiven for thinking you’ve left Cork county when you head to Beara, because of the distance, but trust us, it’s worth the drive. Perfect for those looking for peace and quiet, there are plenty of villages and towns to explore, such as; Ardgroom, boasting the tallest (17 foot) Ogham inscribed standing stone in Europe, sleepy but stunning Eyeries with its own renowned Anam Cara Artists and Writers Retreat, the copper mining village of Aillihies, and the working fishing port Castletownbere. The Healy Pass is a jaw-droppingly beautiful drive, and the Dzogchen Beara Buddhist retreat offers the perfect sanctuary for some guided meditation or quiet reflection.

Cork City Gaol

Cork City Gaol

An interactive experience, gain a fascinating insight into the lives of 19th century prisoners, from pre –famine times to the foundation of the state, as you learn about the personal histories of the inmates. You can also take a night tour, for something a little different if you’re not easily spooked.

Shandon Bells Cork City

Shandon Bells & Tower, St Anne’s

Climb 132 steps (to 120 feet) to see the lovely views across Cork City from the top of St Anne’s Church; built in 1722, this is one of the oldest churches in the city. And for something a little different, you can ring the 18th century Shandon Bells from the first floor. You can also view the six tonne bells and the internal workings of the clock - and there’s a nice little traditional sweet shop nearby to replenish some much-needed energy after all those stairs! The bells are easy to find – just look for the goldfish in the sky!

Crawford Gallery Cork City

Crawford Gallery

For art lovers, this small but perfectly formed art gallery houses over 2000 pieces of sculpture, art, glass and video, with regular contemporary exhibitions. Make sure you also check out the magnificent wood-panelled library – it’s not open all of the time so ask a member of staff to view it if it’s closed.

Triskell Arts Centre

An exciting venue for cinema, live music, theatre, arts and festivals, with an excellent and reasonably priced bistro including a list of excellent wines, this is a buzzing spot for students, musicians, artists and visitors alike at all times of day and night. The room for performances is stunning – it’s a converted 18th century church and you can take a peek when it’s not in use.

St Fin Barre's Cathedral Cork City

Dating from 1863, built on a site of religious worship since the 12th century where the patron saint of Cork founded his first school and church, this cathedral is a stunning example of gothic architecture, with impressive stained glass, sculptures, mosaics and metal work designed by William Burges.

The English Market

English Market

An iconic market selling excellent food produce in the heart of Cork City, you can buy everything you want in a single visit – expect local artisan cheese and charcuterie, fresh fish and meat, handmade chocolates and ice cream. There’s also the excellent Farmgate Café upstairs, serving delicious food using the market’s produce; it’s a great spot for people watching when you sit along the balcony.

Cork Opera House

Cork Opera House

As well as opera, the programme includes a variety of top entertainment, both Irish and international, including comedy, ballet, classical, pantomimes and contemporary music. Check out the programme – but also try the café for some delicious eats at reasonable prices.

Lewis Glucksman Gallery UCC

University College Cork

University College Cork

The Midsummer Festival is Cork’s biggest multi-disciplinary arts festival, with an incredibly eclectic line-up for all ages including theatre, puppetry, photography, dance and literature. Established in 1956, the Cork International Film Festival (CIFF) is Ireland’s first and largest film festival and a local, national and international celebration of cinema, running annually in November each year in venues in Cork City and online nationwide via its Digital Festival Platform. CIFF's mission is to present Ireland’s most exciting, diverse, and ambitious annual film festival, connecting and stimulating audiences and artists through a carefully curated selection of the best films, to create a unique shared cultural experience, rooted in Cork, open to the world. The 66th edition of the Festival takes place 4 - 14 November 2021. Also a long standing institution, every October since 1978, the Cork Jazz Festival brings some of the world’s best jazz musicians to the city for a variety of shows, open mics, and sessions.

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Cork Travel Guide

Last Updated: August 23, 2023

along the river in Cork, Ireland

Breathtaking all year round, Cork is one of the more popular cities in the country (it’s the second-largest city in Ireland ). Many travelers come here to kiss the Blarney Stone for good luck, hike around Gougane Barra, and bask in the postcard-perfect coastal landscapes around Mizen Head.

The city also boasts historic castles, art galleries, museums, water activities, vibrant festivals, and day trips galore to charming towns and scenic landscapes.

In short, Cork has something for everyone and you should definitely visit it when you come to Ireland.

This travel guide to Cork can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in the beautiful destination!

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Cork

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Top 5 things to see and do in cork.

The famous Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland

1. Kiss the Blarney Stone

Built nearly 600 years ago, Blarney Castle is now in partial ruin. However, at the top lies the Stone of Eloquence, more commonly known as the Blarney Stone. Here visitors hang upside down to kiss it for good luck. Numerous legends surround the stone and its power. Some believe that it was brought to Ireland after the Crusades, or that Cormac Laidir MacCarthy (a 15th-century Irish chieftain) was told of its power after saving a witch from drowning. Others believe that the stone absorbed the magical tears of a fairy queen as she wept for her beloved. Either way, for 200 years people from around the world have made the pilgrimage to receive the stone’s luck — including Winston Churchill, Sir Walter Scott, Mick Jagger, and Ronald Reagan. While the stone is neat, I personally think the gardens are the real prize here where you can stroll along the paths through 60 acres of pristine gardens and admire plants from around the world.

2. Tour Bantry House

Dating to 1730, this historic manor (originally known as Blackrock) is known for its art collection and tapestries. Probably one of its most redeeming features, however, is the fantastic view over Bantry Bay as well as its lovely gardens. The luxurious décor and gorgeous natural setting make this an ideal place to spend an afternoon, and perhaps even overnight as several of the stately rooms have been converted into B&B accommodations. On a sunny day, you can visit the Bantry House Tea Room and purchase a takeaway picnic with wine to enjoy in the extensive gardens. Admission is 14 EUR.

3. See Mizen Head

Ireland’s southernmost point, Mizen Head is the tip of the peninsula near Cork. It’s an iconic stopping point along Ireland’s famed Wild Atlantic Way and is located along an important transatlantic shipping route. Over the years, Mizen Head has served as the first sighting of European land for many sailors. Make a point of climbing the 99 steps and walking the suspension bridge to enjoy the crashing Atlantic as it smashes against this stunning landscape. Once you cross the bridge you’ll find a lighthouse, a weather station, and a signal station. The old signal station now serves as a museum commemorating the Mizen Head’s historical importance.

4. Wander the English Market

Dating to 1788, this is one of the oldest covered markets in Ireland (and Europe ). In its earliest days it functioned as a meat market, but the original building was lost in a fire. The building that houses the English Market today dates to the mid 19th century and is celebrated for its Victorian-inspired design, stained glass windows, archways, and a central cast iron fountain. Besides offering a wide array of world foods to sample, the market also plays host to boutiques and department stores as well as a handful of restaurants and cafes. If you’re cooking some of your own food, the market is an excellent place to shop for fresh local produce as well as traditional cheeses and baked goods. Locals travel for miles to shop for the best seafood and meat in Cork.

5. Hike around Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra is a settlement and protected forest near Gougane Barra Lake at the mouth of the River Lee. There’s a beautiful loop around the lake that you can hike as well as an old monastery on a small island. Legend says the original structure was built in the 6th century by Saint Finbarr. More recent ruins from a hermitage built by a priest named Denis O’Mahony remain on the island. During the Penal Laws period (a time of religious oppression), the area became a retreat for Catholics to celebrate mass. Now, a more modern chapel with a beautiful interior sits close to the ruins. The area has been reforested in recent years and you can enjoy 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of hiking trails through woodland with over twenty species of native and non-native trees.

Other Things to See and Do in Cork

1. visit baltimore fishing village.

This charming fishing town is located 90 minutes from Cork. It started as an English colony in 1600 but was eventually sacked, devolving into a haven for pirates for almost two centuries. Today, Baltimore is a lovely place to relax with its colorful houses, quiet streets, and coastal views. You can explore local pubs, go fishing, whale watching, or scuba diving around shipwrecks in the bay. If you have time, take the ferry to one of the nearby islands. Cape Clear has prehistoric and Neolithic archaeological sites and Sherkin is known for its Franciscan friary, arts, and handicrafts.

2. See the Cork Butter Museum

At this unique museum, you can learn about all things butter. You’ll learn how butter was first made in Ireland, how they used to preserve butter in bogs, and how the commercial butter trade blossomed here into a huge industry. While it’s a quirky museum it’s also super informative and unlike any other museum you’ll visit! Admission is 5 EUR.

3. Visit the Church of Saint Anne Shandon

Shandon, meaning “Old Fort” in Gaelic, was one of the original settlements in medieval Ireland. Located just across the River Lee, this church was completed in 1726 on the site of an even older church that dated back to the 12th century. You can climb the 132 steps to the top of the church’s bell tower to take in the view (it’s one of the best in Cork). You can also ring the church bells when you get to the top (though this is currently on pause due to COVID). Admission is 5 EUR. Be sure to dress respectfully as this is a place of worship.

4. Learn about (and sample some) whiskey

If you’re a whiskey fan, take a tour of the Jameson Distillery and see how Irish whiskey is made. Jameson is one of the oldest whiskey companies in Ireland and is the best-selling Irish whiskey in the world. On a tour, you’ll visit the main buildings and learn how their whiskey is made and how the company got started. There are several different tours, but the Jameson Distillery Experience tour is the best value at 23 EUR. It’s 75 minutes and includes a whiskey sample.

5. Escape to Doneraile Wildlife Park

This park has over 400 acres of deciduous trees, herds of deer, and numerous walking paths. There are canals and ponds too. Located within the park is Doneraile Estate, an early 18th-century manor built by Arthur St Leger, the 1st Viscount of Doneraile. The grounds are well-maintained and resemble historic landscaped parks from the 18th and 19th centuries. From April-October, guided tours of Doneraile Court are available for 8 EUR. It’s just 45 minutes north of Cork by car.

6. Visit the Lewis Glucksman Gallery

Located on the University College Cork campus, The Glucksman is an exquisite gallery housed in an award-winning building made of limestone, timber, and steel (it won Ireland’s ‘Best Public Building’ design award in 2005). The gallery has three display areas, all with rotating exhibits as well as a basement café with surprisingly delicious food. Admission is free (suggested donation is 5 EUR). Check the website to see what exhibitions are on during your visit.

7. Explore the Cork City Gaol

This was a jail until the early 20th century when prisoners were moved and the gaol was left empty. The jail was considered the finest in the country when it was built and looks like a small castle. It remained empty until 1927 when Cork’s first radio station, 6CK, began broadcasting in the main building. The radio station remained at the jail until the 1950s. In 1993, the jail was reopened as a tourist attraction. Admission is 10 EUR.

8. Attend a festival

Cork comes alive in the summer with all kinds of festivals and events. Midsummer Festival, an arts festival with music, theatrical performances, and artwork, is held every June/July. In September, the Cork Oyster Festival is a succulent treat, and the Cork Folk Festival and Cork Jazz Festival both take place in October. In November, the Cork Film Festival showcases both national and international films. In short, there are always tons of events and festivals happening so be sure to check with the Cork Tourist Information Centre on arrival to see what’s happening during your visit.

9. Go stand-up paddle boarding

One of the most unique ways to explore the city of Cork is by stand-up paddleboarding on the River Lee. Tours are organized by Cork City SUP and include 90 minutes of SUP on the river. You’ll cover around 3 kilometers and see several historic bridges and landmarks. Tours are scheduled during high tide when the current is smoother and gentler so no experience is required. The tours cost 40 EUR.

  For more information on other cities in Ireland, check out these guides:

  • Dublin Travel Guide
  • Galway Travel Guide

Cork Travel Costs

The lush, sprawling landscapes of County Cork, Ireland

Hostel prices – A bed in a dorm with 4-6 beds costs around 28-40 EUR per night. There’s no real difference in prices between summer and off-season. Private rooms start at 65 EUR. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels here have self-catering facilities.

For those traveling with a tent, camping is possible outside of the city. A basic tent plot for two people without electricity starts at 14 EUR.

Budget Hotel prices – Budget hotels start at 99 EUR in the peak season and 75 EUR in the off-season. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi, a TV, and a coffee/tea maker.

Airbnb is available around the city with private rooms averaging around 40 EUR per night. You can find entire homes starting around 80 EUR. Expect prices to double if you don’t book in advance.

Food – Ireland is very much a “meat and potatoes” country. Potatoes have been a common staple since the 18th century and seafood has been a staple for as long as people have lived here (it’s an island after all!). Cod, salmon, and oysters are some of the most popular seafood options, with other staple dishes being shepherd’s pie, black pudding, bacon and cabbage, fish and chips, and meat stews.

A traditional meal costs around 15 EUR. For a multi-course meal with a drink, expect to pay at least 35 EUR. Fast food (think McDonald’s) starts at 9 EUR for a combo meal.

Pizza costs 13-15 EUR for a medium while Chinese food costs around 12-14 EUR for a main dish. Fish and chips can be found for around 10 EUR. Beer is 5 EUR while a latte/cappuccino is 3.50 EUR. Bottled water is 1.50 EUR.

If you want to cook your meals, expect to pay 40-60 EUR per week for groceries that include basic staples like pasta, rice, produce, and some meat or fish.

Backpacking Cork Suggested Budgets

On a backpacking budget of 65 EUR per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook all your meals, limit your drinking, take public transportation to get around, and do free and cheap activities like kissing the Blarney Stone and wandering the parks and markets. If you plan on drinking, add another 10-20 EUR to your daily budget.

On a mid-range budget of 140 EUR per day, you can stay in a private hostel room or Airbnb, eat out for most meals at cheap fast food places, have a couple of drinks, take the occasional taxi, and do more paid activities like stand-up paddleboarding or visiting the gaol.

On a “luxury” budget of 245 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out anywhere you want, drink more, rent a car for day trips, and do as many tours and excursions as you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in EUR.

Cork Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

While there’s nothing here that really costs a ton of money, you do need to watch your spending if you’re hitting the pubs. Here are some tips to help you save money in Cork:

  • Eat the pub food – Eat at the pubs for hearty Irish food that won’t destroy your wallet. It won’t be healthy, but it will be affordable!
  • Skip the pub drinks – Ireland’s strong pub culture can hit your wallet hard. Temper the cost by visiting happy hours, drinking at home, nursing your beer, or skipping drinks altogether.
  • Use student discounts – If you have a student ID, ask for discounts. Most attractions offer them and you can save a ton of money on activities.
  • Get the Leap Card – With a Leap Card, you can travel on Bus Éireann for less than the cash fare. Cards can be purchased at shops throughout Cork, as well as online.
  • Get an OPW Heritage Card – If you love to tour heritage sites, pick up one of these cards. It guarantees free access to many attractions around the country, including tons of castles. The card costs 40 EUR for adults. This is a must for people visiting multiple cities in the country.
  • Stay with a local – Couchsurfing connects you with locals who can give you a free place to stay and teach you about their city. I love this service a lot and highly recommend you try to use it to meet people!
  • Eat early – Many restaurants have budget dinner options if you eat early (usually before 6pm). You won’t have as much variety since it’s a set menu, but it will be cheaper!
  • Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.

Where to Stay in Cork

Cork doesn’t have a lot of hostels so you’ll need to book early to secure a spot. Here are my suggested places to stay:

  • Bru Bar & Hostel
  • Sheilas Cork Hostel

How to Get Around Cork

One of the many relaxing, green parks in Cork, Ireland

Public transportation – Cork’s bus network is run by Bus Éireann, which has good coverage throughout the city. A single fare costs 1.55 while a day pass costs 4.40 EUR. You can also buy a day pass for 4.50 EUR or a week-long pass for 18.60 EUR.

Taxi – Taxis in Cork charge an initial fare of 4.50 EUR, then 2.22 EUR per kilometer after that. The bus covers pretty much everything though so skip the cabs if you can — they add up fast!

There are no ridesharing apps like Uber here.

Bicycle – The city has a bike-share program with 32 stations and 330 bikes. A security deposit of 150 EUR is required and a 3-day subscription is 3 EUR. The first 30 minutes of each ride are free. After that, it’s 0.50 EUR for the first hour, 1.50 EUR for two hours, 3.50 EUR for three hours, and 4.50 for four hours. Every hour after that is a 0.50 EUR increase. However, if you return the bike every 30 minutes you won’t have to pay the hourly fee.

Car rental – Car rentals here can be found for as little as 25 EUR per day for a multi-day rental. You won’t need a vehicle to get around the city, however, they can be handy for exploring the region and doing day trips. Renters need to be at least 21 years old. Also, keep in mind that they drive on the left in Ireland.

When to Go to Cork

Cork’s temperate climate makes for a good destination to visit year-round, keeping in mind that you’re likely to encounter lots of rain throughout your visit (especially in the fall and winter).

In winter, temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the average high sits around 5°C (49°F) per day. Expect brisk, windy weather with lots of rain. Unless you’re planning to just visit museums and stay indoors, I’d avoid visiting during the winter. The weather is tolerable, but it’s far from ideal.

The summer (June-August) is the warmest and busiest time to visit. Average temperatures hover between 15-20°C (59-68°F) and can climb up to 25°C (77°F). The city is lively and fun during this time, though you’ll want to book in advance since the hostels are few and far between and can fill up.

Shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October) are excellent times to visit as the temperatures are still mild and the city isn’t busy. While rain is common, the weather is still nice enough for hiking and exploring on foot. Just be sure to book in advance if you’re coming for St. Patrick’s Day as the city fills up fast. Bring a rain jacket too!

How to Stay Safe in Cork

Cork is very safe and the risk of violent crime here is low. That said, scams and pickpocketing can occur on crowded public transportation and at busy bars so always keep your valuables out of reach.

If you’re going out to the pub at night, only bring the cash you need. Leave the rest locked up in your accommodation.

Scams here are rare, but if you’re worried about getting ripped off you can read about common travel scams to avoid here .

If you rent a car, don’t leave valuables inside the vehicle overnight. While break-ins are rare, they can still occur.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.).

If you do experience an emergency, dial 112 or 999 for assistance.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Cork Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • HostelPass – This new card gives you up to 20% off hostels throughout Europe. It’s a great way to save money. They’re constantly adding new hostels too. I’ve always wanted something like this and glad it finallt exists.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
  • Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
  • FlixBus – Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, a free checked bag.
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

Cork Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Cork and continue planning your trip:

The 7 Best Hotels in Dublin

The 7 Best Hotels in Dublin

The Best Walking Tours in Dublin

The Best Walking Tours in Dublin

The 5 Best Hostels in Dublin

The 5 Best Hostels in Dublin

Where to Stay in Dublin: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Dublin: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

The Best Tour Companies in Ireland

The Best Tour Companies in Ireland

My Love Note to the Irish

My Love Note to the Irish

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Cork Tourist Information and Tourism

(cork, county cork, republic of ireland), cork tourist information and tourism: top sights, more cork information / fast facts and orientation.

  • Country: Republic of Ireland
  • Location: south-west coast, County Cork / Munster
  • Status: city
  • Area: approximately 14 square miles / 37 square kilometres
  • Population: approximately 120,000
  • Language: Irish / English
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Time zone: Western European Time (WET) / UTC, Summer Irish Standard Time (IST) / UTC+1
  • Country dialling code: +353
  • Telephone area code: 021
  • Religion: mainly Catholic
  • Average daily Cork January temperature: 7°C / 45°F
  • Average daily Cork July temperature: 18°C / 64°F

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St Patrick’s Quay on the River Lee, Cork.

A local’s guide to Cork, Ireland: top 10 tips

The Republic’s second city may be small but it packs a big punch when it comes to the arts, food and having a good time

Best of the black stuff

There’s a pub on George’s Quay called Callanan’s . It’s one of my favourite places to take someone who’s from out of town to have a pint of Beamish and watch the old men playing rings in the back room. I’ve taken Steve Reich there, and Aidan Gillen and Camille O’Sullivan. We use it in the Sounds From a Safe Harbour festival for some of the acoustic shows on the music trail we run through the city. It’s real, unpretentious old Cork. The family who run it live upstairs, so when you go to the loo you feel like you’re going through their house. And it does the best Beamish in the city: the atmosphere adds to the taste. 24 George’s Quay, on Twitter

Cafe and culture

Bobo Café at the Glucksman Gallery.

The Glucksman gallery is a stone’s throw from the southern arm of the River Lee, and it’s always nice to have brunch at the Bobo Café there and then go up and peruse the exhibitions. It’s part of University College Cork, where I studied, so I have a real connection with the place. They often make an academic context for their exhibitions and a dialogue between the artwork and the campus – a recent one was called Circadian Rhythms: Contemporary Art and Biological Time , and it brought together artists and designers such as Suki Chan and Maarten Baas with the university’s microbiome research centre. The brunch menu at Bobo has dishes like homemade granola with yoghurt and fruit (€6.50), shakshuka, and chilli tempeh with beans and patatas bravas (both €9).

A night at the opera

Cork Opera House

There are great venues all over Cork: the Opera House , the Everyman , Live at St Luke’s , the Kino … You’re never short of work to go and see. I was chief executive at the Opera House for five years. So many people said it was a poisoned chalice but I have zero regrets, and it’s how I ended up doing what I’m doing now. It’s 165 years old (rebuilt in 1963), the largest venue in the south of Ireland but still an incredibly intimate room, with 1,000 seats, and not a bad one in the house – wherever you are, you always feel close to the action. And acoustically it’s beautiful. I used to love standing in the room after a show, when the atmosphere was still hanging in the air.

Morning coffee

Soma coffee shop.

The Sounds from a Safe Harbour festival was created in the Soma and Filter coffee shops; I didn’t have an office when I started, so I used to settle myself in one of them each day, put my headphones in and work. Filter is the long-established coffee house in Cork and stocks coffee from roasters such as 3fe in Dublin and Square Mile in London. Soma roasts its own coffee: it also has a wine licence and serves lunch, brunch and evening tapas. Filter, 19 George’s Quay, on Facebook . Soma, 23 Tuckey St, somacoffeecompany.ie

Michelin-star Japanese

Chef Takashi Miyazaki at Ichigo Ichie restaurant.

Chef Takashi Miyazaki started with a tiny Japanese takeaway, Miyazaki , in 2015 before he opened the more upscale Ichigo Ichie , and within months he had won himself a Michelin star . He’s always there, cooking in front of everybody. Originally from Fukuoka in southern Japan, he trained in fusion teppanyaki cooking and moved to Ireland in 2008. The original takeaway is on a residential street and daily specials might include lemon ramen, hake hotpot and sweet and sour cod nanban don (from €13.50). Ichigo Ichie seats 25 and offers a set 12-course kaiseiki menu (€120 a head), where dishes might include pistachio tofu with beetroot miso, apple blossom and gold leaf; Bantry Bay sea urchin; and Asian pear with sanshō in rosé wine and nasturtium with “shiso fluff”. Miyazaki has also won a string of awards and participated in food festivals across Cork. I used to programme the Mitchelstown Cave concerts, about an hour outside of Cork, and he cooked at a pop-up there. Miyazaki, 1A Evergreen St, on Facebook . Ichigo Ichie, 5 Fenns Quay, ichigoichie.ie

River and park walk

Young woman walks past the fountain in Fitzgerald’s Park Cork

A beautiful walk follows the northern arm of the River Lee from town to Fitzgerald’s Park . It’s a special place for me – we used to live in a house right on the park, and there’s a massive big old tree there that my mother used to say was a fairy tree (she used to run ahead and put presents in it for us kids to find). There’s a stage in the park now that’s used throughout the summer. I did one event there where we used GPS to install Music for Wood and Strings, by Bryce Dessner, the American composer and guitarist with rock band the National – as you walked through the park the music would evolve.

Famous food market

The English Market in Cork, County Cork, Republic of Ireland

The covered English Market in the city centre has been trading since 1788. It was given this name to distinguish it from the St Peter’s Market, which once stood nearby. We go here every single day – I pick the kids up from school and we go and get stuff for dinner. There’s a different stall for everything: red meat here, chicken there, fish from the other end. You can buy “duck” loaves (tapered at both ends), local raw milk and fresh oysters. I recommend the cured, spiced joints of beef from Tom Durcan – they are really good for slicing up at Christmas. englishmarket.ie

Veggie paradise

Cafe Paradiso in Cork

Cafe Paradiso is one of Europe’s best vegetarian restaurants, founded by chef Denis Cotter. He used to be a banker, set up the restaurant in 1993, and is now the author of several cookbooks including Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me . Cafe Paradiso is known for using seasonal, local produce and cheeses, working closely with Gort-Na-Nain Farm, near the coast south of the city, and the current menu includes celeriac and crozier blue dauphinoise, and rosemary set custard with figs and damson port (three courses €46.50, starter and main €38.50). In 2017, the festival put on a secret gig: audiences had to follow signs written in chalk along the pavement to reach the venue, where there were performances by Lisa Hannigan and David Kitt, and dancers led by Jessica Dessner, followed by Denis Cotter serving you a plate of food. 16 Lancaster Quay, paradiso.restaurant

Happy hour … any time

River Lee Hotel, Cork, Ireland

Visit the River Lee Hotel for a pre-anything cocktail. Before breakfast even. This year they made us a Safe Harbour cocktail for the festival. I can’t remember exactly what went into it – things that shouldn’t go well together, like rum, Guinness and lime. It was a dirty brown colour. But I tried it on the Thursday night with Jon Hopkins and it tasted fantastic. Western Road, doylecollection.com

Classic clothing

My wardrobe’s full of Miss Daisy Blue , an incredible vintage shop off one of the market arcades, curated by Breda Casey. It’s small, but has two floors – upstairs is more evening wear. We once did a fashion show in the market called Fable and all the clothes were from Miss Daisy Blue. Irene Buckley composed the music, there was poetry from Doireann Ni Ghriofa, and we brought dancers instead of models. They finished with a performance by the dancer Stephanie Dufresne around the market fountain. Unit 12-14, Market Parade, on Facebook

An impromptu performance for the public on Grand Parade during the Cork Jazz Festival.

Cork hosts festivals aplenty, and as it’s a relatively small place, the whole city buzzes when one hits town. Just three of the highlights are the Cork Harbour Festival (5-24 May 2020), a celebration of Ireland’s maritime heritage in the second largest natural harbour in the world; the Cork Jazz Festival (22-26 October 2020); and the Cork Film Festival in mid-November.

Where to stay The historic Metropole Hotel (doubles from €98 room-only), on trendy McCurtain Street, has had a tasty makeover. The city’s newest hotel is The Clayton (doubles from €98 room-only). The Vienna Woods Hotel (doubles from €98 room-only) on the outskirts of town has plenty of old-world charm and is in a lovely woodland setting.

Further information at purecork.ie

Mary Hickson is the director of Sounds From a Safe Harbour festival

Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips

  • Cork holidays
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