Discover the Drama of Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast

Between Belfast and Derry, and some 120 miles long, Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route takes in natural and manmade attractions such as Carrickfergus Castle, Torr Head, Giant’s Causeway and Magilligan Point. This stunningly scenic route is visually arresting and culturally immersive.

Where to Stay

The Causeway Coastal route is ideal if you plan a self-catering, holiday cottage break, because you have the freedom to set your own itinerary.

There is plenty of variation when it comes to holiday cottages in Northern Ireland, including areas conveniently located close to the Causeway Coastal route.

Belfast and Derry

These two cities bookend the route, and both are ideal places to either start or finish your journey.

The only remaining walled city in either Northern Ireland or the Republic, Derry is richly historical but also dynamically contemporary. With a calendar full of events and festivals, the city feels like it wears its history well.

Attractions include the Siege Museum, the Tower Museum and the civil rights-themed Museum of Free Derry. Derry also has the contemporary Void art space and Warehouse Gallery. There are several bus and walking tours, taking you along the walls, and visiting sites of political interest.

Also, as a thriving cultural centre, Derry has a great selection of restaurants, bars and pubs.

Belfast is home to the Titanic Belfast attraction, where you can explore the shipyards and take a walking tour to experience the Titanic story up close.

The Titanic Studios are where the iconic Game of Thrones series is filmed, and there are a variety of tours which take you to the outdoor locations where key moments of this unfolding saga have been shot.

Like Derry, Belfast has a lively entertainment and arts culture, with plenty to see and experience, including restaurants, pubs and attractions.

Castles on the Causeway Coast

Standing high on the cliffs of the North Antrim coast, the ruins of Dunluce Castle bear witness to centuries of conflict. The MacQuillan Family built the castle in about 1500, and became the sought-after prize in conflicts between warring warrior clans.

Glenarm Castle is the ancestral home of the Earls of Antrim, the McDonnells. Its famous walled garden is one of Ireland’s oldest, and originally supplied the castle with all its fruit and vegetables. Now it is purely decorative, with rich displays of herbaceous plants and bright and rare specimens of flower.

Not far from Belfast, Carrickfergus Castle is one of Ireland’s best preserved medieval constructions, and it continued to play a military role right up until 1928. You can easily explore the castle using the information on site, and get a feel for medieval life by visiting the restored banqueting hall.

Giant’s Causeway and Torr Head

The Giant’s Causeway is a natural geological wonder. Consisting of some 40,000 basalt columns interlocked with one another, it provides an organic, sculptural landscape feature.

Visitors can climb the Shepherd’s Steps cut into the hillside and hike along the clifftop for a panoramic view of the coastline.

A short detour off the main coastal route, the trip to Torr Head takes you along a narrow stretch of winding road. But you’re rewarded with awesome views of the coastline, including the coast of Scotland, which is only 13 miles away.

 

Other Attractions and Landmarks

The Causeway Coastal Route is unfeasibly packed full of places to see and things to experience, which could mean some hard choices when it comes to making the most of your time.

There is the Old Bushmills Distillery, Ireland’s oldest, where you can enjoy tutored whiskey tastings; and, along the Antrim Coast, the sandy beaches of Whitepark Bay to stroll along. Walk beneath the natural occurring archway of intertwining beech trees at the Dark Hedges; or visit the Cornish-styled, charming coastal village of Cushendun – the work of Clough Williams-Ellis, who also designed Portmeirion in North Wales.

Food Tips for Your Holiday Cottage Break

A self-catering break in a holiday cottage can free up your schedule, and your budget, but, obviously, you do need to consider the catering part of the equation: plan your food, including what you’ll need to take with you.

Eating In or Out?

So, on the one hand your holiday is a break from your normal daily routine, but on the other it requires a routine of its own. And a big part of this is eating.

Of course, it’s fun to eat out, but on a self-catering, holiday cottage holiday part of choosing self-catering is to do just that.

Some of this comes down to location. If your holiday cottage is in a remote area, or a small village, then beyond the village chippy and pub, your nearby options for eating out might be limited.

Also, if one of the reasons for choosing self-catering was to do with your budget, eating out, or even takeaway food, all the time, will soon eat into it.

So, if you’re eating your own food, what do you need to consider?

Reach for Your Recipes

Be prepared, as the old scout motto goes. So, if you have favourite family recipes, take them. Do a bit of recipe research for things like handy, one-pot meals.

Keep it simple though – unless you’re going armed with the contents of your kitchen cupboard.

And on this subject, if there are certain key ingredients you don’t think you can do without, then do remember to take them with you.

Think Local

Do you know what local shops there will be when you get to your holiday destination? Research your location, check for local amenities. And if you’re arriving late at night, have immediate food supplies with you.

Emergency meals are always a handy standby, particularly breakfast items such as cereal, tea-bags and instant coffee.

Don’t do a massive weekly shop on arrival, as if you were at home, because you’ll only end up having to chuck things away.

Your Holiday Kitchen

It might not always be clear exactly what you’ll find supplied in the kitchen in your holiday cottage, such as the size of the cooker, and what cooking implements are to hand.

It makes sense, therefore, to take a few essentials with you, such as a sharp vegetable knife, a tin opener and a corkscrew, along with some key items of cutlery. Don’t take your entire kitchen, but be mindful of what you might need.

Your holiday is an adventure, but while you should be adaptable, you don’t want to feel too restricted.

 

And Relax…

This is the most important point to remember. You’re going on holiday to relax. You’ll need a degree of forethought, planning and organisation, but don’t get carried away.

When self-catering you want to feel happy about your meal choices and, as much as possible, calm in your holiday kitchen.

Avoid feeling pressurised by having to prepare and cook food, and try and combine planning with a degree of spontaneity. Don’t overthink your self-catering.

How to Survive a Group Holiday Cottage Holiday

Of course, it’s great to go on holiday with friends and family, but sometimes it’s not always a case of the more the merrier. You should consider carefully where you choose to go, and how you manage one another’s company when you get there.

A break in a holiday cottage can be a great way to spend extended time with friends, and family, but be sure to take necessary precautions so you don’t all fall out.

Choose Wisely

What do you all want out of your holiday? If some people in your group want to just relax while others want all-out activity, how are you going to reconcile these different expectations?

One way is by location – choose a holiday cottage near to civilization but also the countryside and links to other areas.

If there are a lot of kids in your group, be sure you’ll have enough for them to do, regardless of age range.

Also, think of the accommodation itself. Will there be enough rooms for those who don’t want to share, and is there good mobile phone and internet reception – it’s a brave set of parents who expect their children to go tech-free while holed up with them in a holiday cottage.

Who Does What?

Obviously, with self-catering holidays, there are tasks and responsibilities involved, so it’s best to get these sorted out early on, otherwise you risk festering resentment if certain members of your group perceive that they are doing far more than others.

It may be that you don’t want to get too official with a rota, but at least be aware if someone seems to be bearing too much burden of responsibility for certain tasks, such as cooking meals.

Other People’s Kids

When it comes to their own, and other children, people have different ideas about rules and discipline, so respect one another’s boundaries, and if things do appear to be getting out of hand, try and have a quiet word first, rather than launching all-out war.

No one likes their parenting skills criticised, and you want to avoid a breakdown in relations while you’re all under one roof. Diplomacy is the key.

Perhaps jointly agree some house rules at the outset.

Valuable Me Time

Just because you’ve gone on holiday together as a group doesn’t mean you must do everything together.

It makes sense for your group to split into smaller parts to get some time to themselves if this is what people want.

Remember, the whole point of going on holiday is to enjoy yourself, and not everyone will enjoy doing the same thing at the same time.

When in doubt, give people the space they want, and don’t get obsessed with too many small details, such as who’s had more helpings of that nice cake you got from the local farmers’ market.

You’ve come on holiday because you all get on. Try to keep it that way.

Are Holiday Cottages a Good Green Option?

Your holiday can be as virtuous as you want it to be, but for many people, green holidays are becoming a priority. And as demand increases, so it becomes easier to organise a greener, more environmentally-friendly holiday.

Staying in a self-catering holiday cottage can be a green option, and here are the reasons why.

 

Bringing it all Back Home

The UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has called 2017 the year of sustainable tourism. Their focus is on how to make your holiday abroad greener. But in fact, a greener holiday can be something you achieve more easily when holidaying in the UK.

Some of the same guidelines apply: pick areas where you can walk or cycle, and visit local conservation projects. But you can do this on a self-catering holiday in a holiday cottage.

While an all-inclusive break abroad has its attractions, a self-catering break puts you firmly in control. This flexibility is great for going green, because you can choose exactly the kind of accommodation to suit you, and when you’re there, you can plan your holiday according to your needs and values.

Think Local

For your holiday to be a green experience, you need to be able to get the most out of the area you choose to be in. This means planning your stay around what’s on offer for things to do. And if you can be close to local shops and amenities, and help sustain them as part of your break, then all the better.

When it comes to getting about think about your options: are there plenty of things to do within walking or cycling distance?

Take it further and base your entire stay around walking or cycling.

You can also find out about local walking and cycling events held in specific areas and make these the focus of your holiday.

Plenty of holiday cottages are within easy reach of nature reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). You can lend these conservation efforts your support by visiting them as part of your holiday cottage break.

 

Travelling to Your Holiday Destination

Obviously, this can prove a bit tricky: if you’re motoring hundreds of miles to your holiday cottage then you’re hardly limiting your carbon footprint.

However, many holiday cottages are located within easy distance of public transport links and networks. You might take the train, or combine your train journey with cycling to get to your destination – which would make even more sense if you make cycling the theme of your self-catering break.
Visit the Holiday Cottages website to find your ideal, green, holiday cottage holiday.

How Norwich Combines the Medieval and Modern

Norwich proudly displays its historic heritage. You can still see the original walls that guarded it in some parts, and there are plenty of intriguing buildings from the city’s rich cultural heritage, including the striking Norman cathedral.

The city also has a contrastingly modern dynamic, reflected in its striking riverside and forum development, and in its well-earned reputation as an individual and attractive shopping destination.

Norwich sits in the heart of beautiful countryside, close by to the Broads, making it a great place to visit if you want a wide choice of things to do on your self-catering, holiday cottage holiday.

Two Cathedrals

The Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist is regarded as one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Britain. This 19th century building contains fine carvings and stained glass and provides vivid views of the city from its tower.

The much older, Anglican Norwich Cathedral is a stunning example of early medieval architecture, dating from the Normans, with the largest monastic cloisters in England. It also has a spectacularly high spire, the second tallest in the country. Strangely, because of the layout of the surrounding streets, the cathedral can appear almost hidden, which makes it feel like a real reward when you come upon it.

Norwich Cathedral has a licensed restaurant attached to its cloisters, and it hosts choral and orchestral concerts as well as lectures.

Norwich Castle

This imposing Norman building is a central landmark of the city, standing squarely on a hill, it was built as a royal fortification and is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Survey.

As well as its impressive Norman keep, the castle includes a museum and two galleries. Here you’ll find ceramics, jewellery and textiles on display, dating back as far as the Ancient Britons. There is also a gallery housing paintings from the 17th century to modern, contemporary artists.

There are also interactive and digital displays and models that help tell the story of Norwich Castle.

Shopping in Norwich

Norwich has a deserved reputation as a major shopping centre. With its two contemporary malls – Chapelfield and the Castle Mall – and numerous independent and specialist shops, it has pretty much something for everyone.

Visit the medieval Norwich Lanes for a whole range of unique shops, cafes and bars.

Norwich Market is the largest open air market in the country, selling food, clothing, flowers, accessories and household goods.

In the Market Square in the Victorian Old Skating Ring Gallery building, Country and Eastern is a vast treasure-trove of oriental rugs and textiles, antique furniture, clothes, accessories and decorative objects. The high-ceilinged, arched wooden building is an attraction on its own.

Cultural Attractions

Norwich is a year-round cultural destination. It is the first ever UNESCO City of Literature, making part of a network of 20 cities worldwide. The city has a programme to help young writers develop and helps fund and promote literature-associated events.

There are several festivals held in the area throughout the year, including the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (showcasing performing arts and literature) a Food and Drink Festival and a Science Festival.

The city has various museums and art galleries, such as the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, part of the University of East Anglia. Here you’ll find Henry Moore sculptures, paintings by Picasso and Degas and one-off exhibitions and special events.

The 14th century Strangers’ Hall is a fascinating period building in the centre of Norwich. This was the home of mayors and merchants in the city’s heyday. It is a beautifully preserved, impressive set of rooms.

Finally, for lovers of condiments, there is the Colmans Mustard Shop & Museum, celebrating over 200 years of Norfolk-made mustards.

Water, Wildlife and Wonder on the Norfolk Broads

The Broads are a manmade national park in Norfolk, comprising 125 miles of waterways set in beautiful countryside, punctuated by towns and villages full of character. Here there’s plenty of opportunity to make your holiday experience rich and varied one, in the unique setting of the Norfolk Broads.

Norfolk is an ideal part of the world for self-catering holiday cottage accommodation.

The Broads by Canoe

Canoeing along the Broads means you combine being on the water with getting close the environment and its wildlife. There are plenty of canoe hire centres to choose from and there is a Boards Canoe Network which ensures quality and safety standards.

Because of the layout of the Broads, using a canoe gets you into parts that you would otherwise miss.

You can choose from a variety of canoe trails, including:

  • Wayford Bridge and Sutton Staithe;
  • Salhouse Broad;
  • Norwich to Rockland;
  • Rockland to Loddon; and
  • Bungay to Geldeston Lock.

There are plenty more canoe trails to explore, and, if you want, you can choose to have a guided canoe tour, which can be handy if you’re a canoeing novice.

The local canoe hire centres will be able to advise you on routes according to your ability and how adventurous you want to be.

Wildlife on the Broads

The Norfolk Broads is the UK’s largest wetland area, attracting a large variety of bird species and other wildlife.

Many of these are rare, such as the swallowtail butterfly, which is unique to the area. You might also expect to see otters, grey seals and water deer.

The Broads are dotted with nature reserves, which are the perfect starting point for observing wildlife while enjoying your natural surroundings. The Bure Marshes Nature Reserve lies at the heart of the Broads. Here you’ll find a wide range of habitats, from woodland to open water.

Bird species include the bittern and marsh harrier, while the waterways and fens are home to insect species such as Norfolk hawker dragonflies.

Strumpshaw Fen is a family-friendly conservation area run by RSPB, and a haven for birds and, if you’re lucky, you might spot an otter or two.

The naturalist Ted Ellis created Wheatfern Nature Reserve before his death in 1986. It’s a lovely quiet and contemplative place. You can see marsh harriers and Chinese water deer and walk along the river and over wild fenland.

Ants Broads and Marshes is officially a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), incorporating the Medieval peat digging of Barton Broad and its rich peatland habitat is home to various species of wildfowl and rare insect life.

There are many more nature reserves of varying sizes on the Broads; enough to keep you occupied, engaged and relaxed during your holiday cottage break.

Boat Trips on the Broads

If you’re less inclined to take the activity route of a canoeing or walking holiday, you can still appreciate the beauty of the broads from the comfort of a larger vessel on an organised or self-hire boat trip

Norfolk Broad cruisers are ideal for this. These small electric boats are available for hire from a whole range of boatyards and small towns, such as Horning, Wroxham, Beccles and Stalham.

You’ve got the added benefit of plenty of charming riverside pubs where you can break your trip for refreshments and meals.

We’ve only touched on the attractions of the Norfolk Broads, but with a great choice of self-catering accommodation, there’s plenty of opportunity to explore this uniquely charming area of the English countryside.

Choose a Walking Holiday for the ideal Holiday Cottage Break

Walking holidays offer relaxation, exercise and a choice of contrasting locations throughout the UK. Taking a break in a self-catering holiday cottage provides a great base from which to explore the surrounding area, giving you the freedom to plan and enjoy your holiday at your own pace.

Here is a selection of great walking holiday routes and locations.

Explore the Pennine Way

Obviously, you might not expect to explore the entire Pennine Way on your walking holiday, given that it runs a total of 268 miles, stretching from Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders.

However, you can focus your holiday activity on selected parts of the Pennine Way, in different regions of the UK.

The Peak District National Park is great walking country, and at Edale you can access the Pennine Way, where it crosses Kinder Scout at the highest point in the Peak District.

Holiday cottages in the Peak District offer a choice of locations, from small towns and villages to more remote areas.

As the Pennine Way makes its way through the Yorkshire Dales, you can explore the country of the Bronte sisters, at Howarth, in the South Pennines, and the limestone landscapes of the spectacular Malham Cove. The Dales area provides a wide variety of holiday cottages from which you can choose your ideal base.

Further north, and the Pennine Way reaches Hadrian’s Wall. This is rugged country indeed, marked by distinctive crags and some of the most well-preserved sections of the Roman wall itself. The end of the Pennine Way is at the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the Scottish Borders.

Choose your holiday cottage in Scotland, or Northern England to explore this part of the world.

Walking in the Lake District

The Lake District is England’s largest National Park, covering 912 square miles. For the walker, it offers many different terrains and levels of exercise; from scenic lakeside ambles to adventurous climbs up high ridges. The choice is yours.

There are accessible, easy walks, what the Lake District calls its Miles Without Stiles routes. These take in areas such as Pooley Bridge, Bowness and Grasmere. These total 48 routes overall.

There are also the routes made famous by the fell walker Alfred Wainwright, some of which can involve climbing up crags and covering rugged terrain.

Walking distances can range from under three miles to seven miles or more, depending on your ambition, and energy levels.

Lake District holiday cottage accommodation offers a wide choice, from 18th century oak-beamed cottages to converted barns.

Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path

At Holme-next-to-the-Sea, two trails come together to form Norfolk’s section of the National Trail.

The total trail is 93 miles in length, following the north shoreline through Sherringham and Cromer, and passing inland via Swaffham. With this expanse covered, you can choose different parts of the trail to explore, from the forest, heath and low river valleys of the Brecks, to tidal saltmarshes and harbours and villages of the North Norfolk coast.

It is a quite magical area of the country, from the mysterious beauty of the heathland along the Peddars Way to the wild remoteness of the coastal path.

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to holiday cottages with character in Norfolk, giving you somewhere comfortable and welcoming to come back to after a great day out.

Choose Your Holiday Cottage for the Ideal Cycling Break

A self-catering break in a holiday cottage is ideal for a cycling holiday. Staying in your own space gives you full control of your itinerary, allowing you to make the most of your time for adventure, and relaxation.

Here we look at some of the UK’s best holiday cycling routes and their surrounding areas.

The Camel Trail in Cornwall

Stretching some 18 miles from Padstow to Bodmin Moor, the Camel Trail follows the route of a disused railway line that makes for an ideal cycling route, as it’s both arrestingly scenic and largely traffic-free.

Cyclists access the route by following the Camel Estuary before going into the wooded Camel Valley and joining the route there. The trail takes you inland, to the edge of Bodmin Moor, finishing close to the pretty village of Blisland.

The Camel Trail is great for a family cycling holiday as it’s both safe and easy to access and ride on. There’s plenty of opportunity to stop off at charming seaside towns and enjoy the beaches and wildlife.

Holiday cottages in Cornwall provide the ideal base from which to explore the area by bike.

picture by Suzy Dubot

Cader Idris, Snowdonia

Some of the best cycling in Snowdonia is around Cader Idris, in the southern part of the region. This is mountainous country, a lot less sedate than Cornwall’s Camel Trail, but with its own rewards in what you can see and experience.

The scenery takes in high peaks, beautiful, tranquil lakes at Cregennen, and charming villages and towns, like Dolgellau, sheltering under Cader Idris mountain. Other points of interest to take a break from your cycling to see include the tranquil Dysnni Valley, the dramatic Birds’ Rock (or Craig-yr-Adern), and the ruins of Cadtell-y- Bere.

There are plenty of holiday cottages in or near to Snowdonia, offering you a choice of accommodation where you can relax after a day’s cycling in the mountains.

The Jurassic Coast, from Devon to Dorset

This huge stretch of coastline, some 95 miles, isn’t necessarily something you’d tackle in its entirety on a cycling holiday, but it offers plenty of opportunity to explore selected areas of natural beauty and charm.

The coastline between Exmouth and Swanage is particularly good for cyclists, as you explore its narrow seaside lanes. It is hilly in parts – Peak Hill is a designated National Hill Climb – but there are also plenty of beaches for when you want to take a break.

Navigation is easy, if you keep the sea right next to you by following the roads that keep it in sight. There are plenty of lovely towns to explore, including Lyme Regis and Sidmouth.

Choose a holiday cottage in Devon or Dorset, load up your bike, and get ready to explore.

The Yorkshire Dales Cycleway

If you want a holiday with a real cycling challenge, then consider the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway, with its 130-mile circular route that takes in a large area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The idea is to start and finish in Skipton, but in fact you can choose different sections along the route, depending on your fitness level, and how much energy you want to use. You can explore the Yorkshire Dales at a relaxed pace by only covering, say, a section of the route a day.

There are challenging, hilly climbs offset by exhilarating descents; quiet country lanes and charming towns and villages.

There is an excellent range of places to look at when choosing your holiday cottage in Yorkshire, where you can relax after your days out in the saddle.

Wexford and Wicklow: Ireland’s Ancient East

In the province of Leister, County Wexford is the centre of Ireland’s Ancient East, a gateway to 5,000 years of history. Further north up Ireland’s east coast is Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland, a walker’s paradise, surrounded by valleys and mountains.

The east of Ireland is an ideal part of the world for a self-catering holiday in a holiday cottage, and both Wexford  and Wicklow  offer plenty of choice.

Exploring Along the Norman Way

The Norman Way is a heritage trail running along the south coast of County Wexford, where you can lose yourself in the magic and history of the region. It passes through medieval sites and picturesque seaside villages.

Intriguing and interesting landmarks along the Norman Way include: the Norman castle and tower on Lady’s Island; the medieval church of St Iberius; Sigginstown and Ballyhealy castles; and the Tacumshane Windmill, also dating from Norman times.

The Norman Way is suitable for both walkers and cyclists, and there are pubs and tearooms along the route to keep all travellers refreshed.

The Hook Lighthouse and a Haunted Hall

At the tip of the Hook Peninsula, this 13th century lighthouse is one of Ireland’s top attractions. The Hook lighthouse is more than just an artefact however, because it is the world’s oldest operational lighthouse.

The lighthouse balcony offers spectacular views, following a climb up its 115 steps, and there are guided tours of the lighthouse tower. There’s also a café and art workshops.

Further up the peninsula is Loftus Hall, said to be Ireland’s most haunted house. It has played host to numerous paranormal investigations and visitors can experience its full dark and troubled history on a guided tour.

Castles and Abbeys

Wexford has more than its fair share of historic buildings, including the imposing Dunbrody Abbey, Tintern Abbey – home to the Clodagh Walled Gardens – and the early Anglo Norman Enniscorthy Castle. Here you can also access the roof of the castle for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Later, gothic architecture is on glorious show at Johnstown Castle, while Ferns Castle has a uniquely intact circular chapel.

For an immersive experience in Ireland’s ancient history, visit the Irish National Heritage Park. This outdoor museum is a detailed recreation of Ireland’s heritage, with ancient homesteads amid 35 acres of woodland. There are plenty of activities held here to leave your kids happily exhausted, while you enjoy the scenery, or join in.

Wild Wicklow

Wicklow is a walker’s paradise. The 131 kilometre Wicklow Way takes you up mountainous trails and through glacial valleys. It begins south of Dublin, in Rathfarnham, and takes you to the uplands of County Wicklow, finishing in the small village of Clonegal.

The full trail takes eight to ten days, but your time is rewarded with a sequence of varied and stunning scenery, from forest trails and parkland to mountain landscapes and deep, rolling hills.

The Glendalough Valley

Known as the valley of two lakes, Glendalough is home to a world famous, 6th century monastic site, a collection of ancient religious buildings including a cathedral, priests’ house, several churches and a round tower. It is a beautiful place, full of natural detail and a pervading sense of calm.

It’s a great centre for walkers and rock-climbers, with its network of trails and high, granite cliffs.

Ireland’s Ancient East manages to maintain an air of mystery while being widely accessible, combining great natural beauty with intriguing, manmade historical structures.

 

Captivated in Cork City and County Cork

The biggest county in Ireland is Cork, in Munster province, to the south. Cork City is Ireland’s second city and it’s a lively, cosmopolitan destination. Visit County Cork and you can combine the dynamism of the city with the charms of the county’s vivid landscapes and places of historical interest. And County Cork has plenty of self-catering, holiday cottages to choose from.

 

City Life

The ornate ceilings and columns in the grand Victorian setting of the English Market make this a must to visit, even if you don’t buy any of the wonderful local produce on sale there. You’ll find plenty of takeaway food on offer too, and various cafes and delis.

Another notable 19th century building is the Cork City Gaol, where you can take a tour of this imposing structure and get a vivid sense of what life would have been like for its inmates – in the days when you would be sentenced to hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread.

For all its grimness, the gaol is an outstanding example of historical architecture, full of Georgian and Gothic character.

Both whimsical and dramatic, St Fin Barre’s Cathedral is an elaborate construction dating from that virtually batters your senses into submission with its over-the-top grandeur.

If you want a break from sightseeing in Cork City, then there’s a wealth of places offering food and drink, from modern Irish cuisine and contemporary vegetarian to local bistros and fine dining. You’re also never too far from excellent artisan coffee and independent cafes.

When it comes to working off all that good food and drink, there are a number of Cork Walks you can take in the city centre. These heritage-themed trails take in various places of interest, from medieval to modern, while providing an immersive experience of the city.

Cork also has several key art galleries, showcasing Ireland’s vital, contemporary art scene. These include the Crawford Art Gallery, the Lewis Glucksman Gallery with its award-winning architectural design, and the Triskel Art Centre.

Countywide Adventures

Outside the city, the county of cork has a wide variety of attractions and some stunning scenery. Visit Blarney Castle and gardens. The castle dates to around 1210 AD, with its original wooden structure then supplanted by a stone construction, before being rebuilt a third time in 1446.

Explore the castle’s battlements, dungeons and grounds, its labyrinth passages and enchanting estate. While you’re there you must kiss the legendary Blarney Stone – supposed to bestow eloquence on the kisser!

In East Cork you’ll find plenty of blue flag beaches, at Youghal and Garryvoe. Youghal also has an iconic clock tower, dating from 1777. Youghal Clock Gate is on the site of the former Trinity Castle and you need to book a guided tour to visit it.

On the shore of Cork Harbour, the town of Cobh provides a captivating combination of heritage and contemporary culture, from restaurants and bars to museums, studios and galleries. You can reach Cobh on a direct train from Cork City.

Mizen Head, at the end of the Mizen Peninsula, is Ireland’s most South Westerly point. Here you get stunning views of the coastline and a real sense of the elemental force of the Atlantic Ocean. Visit the Signal Station for a truly exhilarating encounter with Ireland’s natural elements.

There are numerous attractions in Cork, both city and county, whether you want outdoor adventure, inspiration from the arts and Ireland’s diverse heritage, or just to relax, eat and drink and enjoy the scenery.