Trip idea: 3 days from Cork City

Cork city
Driving Driving
378 Kilometres
3 days

County Cork will keep you on your toes as you explore its landscapes east and west of the city

Here's how to see the best of County Cork –  or “The Rebel County” as it’s referred to in Ireland, due to its support for a 15th-century pretender to the English throne – in just three days. You may even learn how to master the accent!

Cork city

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Cork city

Day one: Cork City

A friendly port city, Cork is the mouth of the south, populated with charming Georgian buildings and proud locals who just love to show off their homeland

A driving
The English Market
The English Market

Tasty treats and local delicacies

If the way to the heart is through the stomach, Cork's English Market will have you falling head over heels in no time. The oldest covered market in Ireland, this is where you'll find the finest in local and artisanal produce. From fresh fish stalls, to craft butchers, bakers and chocolate-makers, the sights, smells and sounds of this market have been a mouthwatering mainstay of Cork since the 1780s. You'll find a lot of your favourite bites here, but if you're feeling brave enough, try some tripe and drisheen: a local delicacy made from cow's stomach and sheep's blood.

If you have more time:

Lunch at The Farmgate, suspended on a mezzanine above the market floor, is a rite of passage in Cork. Not only is the food fantastic, but the bird's-eye view of the bustling thoroughfare below allows you to feel like you're in the thick of it all.

B walking 10 mins
St Fin Barre's Cathedral

Walk in the footsteps of Cork's founder

St Fin Barre's Cathedral is without doubt one of the city's loftiest landmarks. Cork can trace its foundations to the monastic settlement established by Fin Barre himself in the 6th century, and the cathedral that stands today was built on the footprint of his monastery. Designed by renowned Victorian architect William Burges, St Fin Barre's Cathedral is a model of 19th-century magnificence, adorned with over 1,200 sculptures and topped with three spires. Local legend has it that the golden statue of an angel on the roof of the sanctuary will blow its trumpet at the end of time… watch this space!

If you have more time:

A choral recital accompanied by the cathedral's 19th-century organ is an unforgettable experience.

C
Cork city gaol

Legend and lore all locked up!

More like a castle than a prison, Cork City Gaol sits above the city, looking for all as though it were built for a lord and lady. But behind the magnificent masonry lies 200 years of history: some horrid, some harrowing, some heart wrenching. Known at the time of its construction as "the finest [gaol] in three kingdoms", it was nonetheless an unwelcoming place to its prisoners, some of whom were sent there for crimes as simple as the use of obscene language. Visitors today can tour the cells as they would have looked in the 19th century, and seek out the ghosts said to still occupy them.

If you have more time:

If you're a fan of craft brews, pop into the Franciscan Well for a beer and a bite on the banks of the River Lee.

Kinsale, County Cork

Day two: the Wild Atlantic Way

You don't truly know Cork until you've stepped outside the city and immersed yourself in the wild and wonderful west

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Kinsale, County Cork

Kinsale: cool, cute and quirky

For a small seaside town, Kinsale packs a punch! The first stop on a trip west along the Wild Atlantic Way, a visit here promises good food and friendly locals, in a walkable town with an eclectic style. While you can stay right in the centre and enjoy strolls along the pier and trips to a 12th-century church or the local wine museum (in a castle, of course), venturing a little further really pays off. At the top of a hill, on the water's edge, star-shaped Charles Fort has guarded the harbour since the 1670s. Despite siege and skirmish, it has stood strong for centuries and remains Kinsale's most recognisable attraction.

If you have more time:

Tapas and a glass of wine at The Black Pig or dinner at Finn's Table are a given – but you simply can't miss a visit to KoKo, where chocolatier Frank Keane hand-crafts artisanal chocolates with unique flavours.

E driving 1 hr 25 mins
Bantry House & Gardens

Beara Peninsula: all things bright and beautiful

The Beara Peninsula is the place to go if your heart yearns for a simpler time. Though long, the drive out here is worth it for the scenery alone: narrow, winding roads require a slower pace that allows you to drink in the cinematic landscapes. Tranquil and unspoiled, this stretch of West Cork is dotted with tiny towns, sparkling seas and fields so green they look like the contrast has been turned up too high. While you're here, take the time to ride Ireland's only cable car out to Dursey Island, where there are more sheep than people, as well as sunsets no camera could ever capture.

If you have more time:

Take a detour to 18th-century Bantry House, spend the night, and wake up feeling like royalty.

F
Garnish Island, West Cork

Garnish Island: green and gorgeous

It takes a lot to tempt visitors away from the breathtakingly beautiful town of Glengarriff; but just a few minutes' ferry ride from the pier brings you to Garnish Island, a little slice of heaven on earth. Thanks to a series of natural peculiarities, the island sits in its own little microclimate, which allows countless rare plants to flourish. Secluded at the heart of Garnish sits the only house on the island, where the family who created these lush gardens once lived. Only 10 visitors are allowed entry at a time, making this an exclusive experience and one that will be cherished long after you've left.

Cobh, County Cork

Day three: Ireland's Ancient East

Stretching eastwards from the city is a spellbinding side to Cork that you won't want to miss

G driving
Cobh, County Cork

Cobh: a town of new beginnings

Before that tragic voyage across the Atlantic, Titanic made her final stop at a harbour that has both welcomed and waved goodbye to millions of people over the centuries. In return, the humble town of Cobh has made sure that her story, as well as those of the 123 passengers who boarded here, will never be forgotten. One of those passengers, Jeremiah Burke, threw a message in a bottle overboard as he stepped onto the ship. Today, that message can be seen at Cobh Heritage Centre; while, just down the street, Titanic Experience Cobh traces the stories of all the other passengers who took that fateful journey in 1912.

If you have more time:

St Colman's Cathedral dominates the town's skyline with grandeur and elegance and is well worth a visit.

H driving 27 mins
Jameson Distillery, Midleton

Midleton: a taste sensation

A short drive or train journey from the city, Midleton has established quite the name for itself as a foodie destination. From the lively weekly farmers' market; to nearby hero of the slow food movement, Ballymaloe House; to the yearly East Food Festival, you won't go hungry here. And when it comes to thirst, you'll be safe, too: Jameson whiskey is produced right here in Midleton, where distillery tours take place every day.

If you have more time:

Grab a bite at Sage, where all produce is sourced within 12 miles of the restaurant.

I
Ballycotton, County Cork

Ballycotton: a natural heartthrob

Ballycotton is a merry little fishing village that doesn't have to work hard to charm its visitors. Making your way along the 9km Looped Walk, which snakes around sheer cliffs and winding roads, you'll soon fall in love with its raw, natural beauty. A short ferry journey will take you out to nearby Ballycotton Island. Previously inaccessible, these days tour guides can take you inside one of only two black lighthouses in Ireland, where you can enjoy views over Ballycotton Bay.

 

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