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.