County Cork is the epitome of everything that makes Ireland so popular, a beguiling combination of vibrant cities and towns, a spectacular coastline, beautiful countryside, warm hospitality and amazing cuisine.
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”.
A City to RememberIreland’s second city, Corkis 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.
Corking CoastlineThe stretch of coast running west from Corkcity to the lively town of Skibbereenis 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 Baltimoreand 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 Cobhwas 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.