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It is the largest county in Ireland by some distance, but its vast hinterland of dairy farms, agricultural fields and low mountains play second fiddle to a coast jam-packed with beaches, secluded inlets and coves and charming old fishing towns and villages. It is also home to the buzzing metropolis of Cork, affectionately referred to by locals as “the real capital of Ireland”.
Ireland’s second city, Cork is known for its culture, electric atmosphere, entertainment and ever-changing selection of pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants, which set the country’s culinary standards.
The compact and attractive centre is surrounded by pretty waterways, an island full of impressive Georgian parades, 17th century alleyways and modern attractions. The main shopping area is centred in and around St Patrick’s Street, with many of the city’s best pubs and eateries to be found at either end.
There are some fabulous attractions, a mixture of old and new, to explore. The English Market in Princes Street is unmissable, with vendors selling tasty local produce under an ornate vaulted ceiling. Grand St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Bishop Street is lavish both inside and out while the imposing Cork City Gaol graphically reveals how tough life was for 19th century prisoners. Cork Opera House also warrants a visit.
The stretch of coast running west from Cork city to the lively town of Skibbereen is full of inlets and hidden coves, with some lovely sandy beaches and a relaxed atmosphere making the area popular.
Divided by Roaring Water Bay, vibrant Baltimore and the buzzing little arts hub of Schull attract a cosmopolitan crowd. Baltimore is the archetypal maritime village, with life centred around a busy little port and holiday homes filled with anglers and visitors heading for the nearby islands of Cape Clear and Sherkin.
Kinsale, with its handsome harbour, lively bars, great restaurants, independent little shops and sheltered bay guarded by an impressive fort, is another popular port of call.
There are five giant fingers of folded rock running along the coast between Cork and Kerry, all offering stunning views of each other and the wild Atlantic Ocean. They include Mizen Head, Sheep's Head and the Beara Peninsula, a stunning landscape made even more dramatic by the backdrop of Glengariff’s dark mountains.
Kinsale and the city of Cork, in particular, have much to offer when it comes to sightseeing, but the county is packed with fascinating attractions.
The charming hill town of Cobh was the final port of call for the Titanic, a fact commemorated in a museum opened in 2012 to mark the centenary of the stricken liner’s only voyage. Subtropical plants thrive on Garnish Island, where a miraculous Italianate garden has been created on the rocks, while Blarney Castle, Bantry House, the Mizen Head Signal Station and Drombeg Stone Circle are all well worth a visit.
This family-friendly Fota hotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Barryscourt Castle, Fota Wildlife Park and Fota House Arboretum and Gardens. Titanic Trail and Cobh Golf Club are also within 6 miles (10 km).
Located in Victorian Quarter, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Everyman Palace Theatre and Cork City Hall. Bells of Shandon and St. Anne's Shandon Church are also within 15 minutes.
This family-friendly Cork hotel is located on the riverfront, within a 10-minute walk of Granary Theatre, Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral and University College Cork. Bells of Shandon and St. Anne's Shandon Church are also within 1 mile (2 km).
This family-friendly Kinsale hotel is located near the airport, within 1 mi (2 km) of Mount Long Castle and Kinsale Rugby Club. Charles Fort is 1.4 mi (2.3 km) away.
Situated in Cork, this spa hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Cork County Hall and University College Cork. Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral and Bells of Shandon are also within 2 miles (3 km).
Located in the heart of Cork, this spa hotel is within 1 mile (2 km) of Custom House, Cork City Hall and Bells of Shandon. St. Anne's Shandon Church and Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral are also within 1 mile (2 km).
Situated in Douglas, this spa hotel is 0.7 mi (1.2 km) from Douglas Golf Club and within 3 miles (5 km) of Cork City Hall and Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral. Pairc Ui Rinn and Christ the King Church are also within 3 miles (5 km).
Located in Victorian Quarter, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork City Hall and Bells of Shandon. St. Anne's Shandon Church and Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral are also within 1 mile (2 km).