Cork, also known as ‘the rebel city’ from their past support of Warbeck, is one of Ireland’s main tourist destinations, behind Dublin, of course. However, if you’re looking for something a bit closer to that true Irish feeling and something that’s a bit nicer to your bank account, Cork is it.
1. Blarney Castle
Do I even need to elaborate? The Blarney Stone is a well-known attraction that, when kissed, is said to bestow “the gift of eloquence”. To properly kiss & receive this gift, one must lean backwards and basically kiss the stone upside down. What most people don’t know, however, is that the Blarney Stone was once the deflector stone at the bottom of a toilet… Pucker up!
2. Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel, also known as the Cashel of Kings or St. Patrick’s Rock, was the kings of Munster’s traditional seat and is said to be one of the most remarkable pieces of medieval architecture. This historic site is also composed of a few different buildings. The oldest of them is a 90-foot-tall Round Tower that was built using the dry stone method back in c. 1100.
3. Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a 179km-long scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in true Ireland. A It takes about 3.5 hours to drive the Ring of Kerry without stopping, however I’m not sure how one could go all of that way without making some pitstops. Along this drive is Skellig, a major destination point that might quite honestly be closed off to the public soon, so be sure to check it out while you still can!
4. Cliffs of Moher
From Cork, you can easily head to Cliffs of Moher for a day trip. As you can see above, these cliffs really need no introduction. If you’re getting a sense of deja vu…it may be because Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (that Horcrux scene in the cave), The Princess Bride, AND Into the West were all filmed here. In fact, it’s probably one of the most famous fill-in spots in Ireland.
5. Fota Wildlife Park
Yes, there are tigers in Ireland! Well….sort of. Fota Wildlife is a 100-acre wildlife park that opened back in 1983. This not-for-profit park is home to many free-ranging animals, so keep your eyes peeled.
6. The English Market
The English Market is an 18th-century covered market that sells all sorts of organic and locally-produced food. Come here with high expectations to get fed.
7. Cork City Gaol Museum
The Cork City Gaol Museum was, as you might imagine, a former prison. Now, a museum since 1993, this place is open most days from 10:00AM until 4:00PM and hosts decades of history.
8. Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral
Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a Gothic Revival three-spire cathedral belonging to the Church of Ireland. Built in 1879, this site had been a place of Christian worship since the seventh century. The church invites all those who visit Cork to attend their services.
9. St. Patrick’s Street
St. Patrick’s Street is the main shopping street of Cork, located in the heart of the city. Called “Pana” by locals, this landmark has been bustling since the late 18th century.
10. Fitzgerald Park and Cork Museum
Fitzgerald Park and the Cork Museum are located in the Mardyke area of Cork and showcase the archaeology and history of the area. Built in 1845 by the Beamish brewing family, the Cork Museum often hosts temporary exhibits such as the Irish Experience during World War I or Irish Traveller culture.
11. Shandon Bells, St. Anne’s Church
Built between 1722-1726, St. Anne’s Church overlooks the River Lee, making itself an important landmark in Cork. The church is famous for its 8 bells, which were featured in the song “The Bells of Shandon” by Francis Sylvester Mahony.
12. Ballycotton Cliff Walk
The Ballycotton Cliff Walk is suggested for anyone visiting the beautiful country of Ireland. The whole walk is about 3.5 km in each direction (meaning if you went from one end to the other and back, it would be 7). This coastal walk boasts great views, but make sure you’re prepared for whatever the weather throws at you.
13. Crawford Art Gallery
The Crawford Art Gallery is a public art gallery and museum that’s informally known as the Crawford. In 2006, this hotspot became designated as a ‘National Cultural Institution’ and now leads over 200,000 visitors through its hallways each year.
14. Rising Suns
Rising Sons is Cork’s only Microbrewery, Brewpub, Pizzeria and Sports Bar all wrapped in one. Considered a must-stop by many, this is a great place to relax after walking up Ballycotton.
Cobh is a town located in Cork city’s harbor. This seaport was formally known as Queenstown from 1849-1920 and most well-known for being the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912. Now, you can head to Titanic Experience Cobh ( a themed attraction) to take a walk through time.
16. Spike Island
Spike Island, also known as “Ireland’s Alcatraz”, is an island off the coast of Cork that you’ll need to take a boat over to. Back in the day, this strategically located land mass was used for defense and as a prison, leaving its mark behind with Fort Mitchel.
17. University College Cork
University College Cork was Ireland’s first 5 star university. Founded in 1845 as one of three Queen’s Colleges, this is a gorgeous campus to take an afternoon stroll through.
18. Elizabeth Fort
Elizabeth Fort is a 17th-century star fort that was originally built as a defensive base. As time went on, Elizabeth Fort also served as military barracks, a prison, and a police station. A visit to this area is free, but, for a small fee, you can get a guided experience which is highly recommended as the background information truly elaborates the experience.
19. Lewis Glucksman Gallery
The Lewis Glucksman Gallery is an art gallery located in University of College-Cork. This establishment has won an extensive list of rewards, some of which are ‘Best Public Building in Ireland’ by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and a UK Civic Trust award.
20. Nano Nagle Place
Nano Nagle Place is a community building that celebrates life the way that Nano Nagle would through education, empowerment, inclusion and spiritual engagement. If you are unfamiliar with Nano Nagle’s story, I highly recommend that you take the time to read this–she’s an incredible woman!
21. Red Abbey
The Red Abbey is named after the red sandstone that was used to built it during construction in the 14th century. Today, only the central bell tower remains of this church, however, this bell structure is one of the last remaining visible structures dating to Cork’s medieval history.
22. Triskel Christchurch
Triskel Christchurch is an auditorium within the arts centre. This place always has new and fun events going on like the Cork Film Festival, so be sure to check their website to see what’s going on while you’re in town.
23. Mizen Head
Mizen Head is the most Southwestern Point of Ireland. Here, you can visit the Mizen Head Signal Station to explore the cliffs surrounding the viewpoint, spot whales and dolphins and cross the Iconic Bridge high above the gorge to watch for seals and this pups. Note: Access to the bridge may be restricted during harsh weather conditions, but the beauty of Mizen Head will drop your jaw no matter the season.
24. Nohoval Cove
Nohoval Cove is a little-known cove with steep cliffs near the village of Novohal. However, though breathtaking, it’s important to note that some of the surrounding property (cliffs and all) is private property…
25. Charles Fort
Charles Fort is a star fortification located right on the water. You can feel free to wander around or opt for a guided tour to gain some more knowledge about the history of the structure.
26. Farmgate Cafe
Farmgate Cafe is a yummy cafe located inside of the English Market. Serving Irish and European style breakfast and lunch, there’s a little something for everyone. It’s a great place to stop for coffee & people watching.
27. Cork Ghost Tour
There are a few different ghost tours in Cork, seeing as it does have quite an extensive history. Most of these start at 7:00PM and last about an hour. The cost for tickets are 15 Euros or 12 if you are a student/OAP/child. For more information, head to the Cork Ghost Tour website.
28. Kayak Through the Dark in Lough Hyne
In Lough Hyne, West Cork, tour groups run starlight/moonlight kayaking trips throughout the year (weather permitting, of course) in the only salt water lake in all of Europe. These expeditions cost about 50 euros per person, last 2.5 hours and begin about an hour before darkness, giving you a chance to catch the sunset as well. The Atlantic Sea Kayaking group also runs a special ‘Starlight Serenade’ trip once a month that will include food and music, if you happen to time your passing through right!
29. Stargaze at Blackrock Castle Observatory
If kayaking is not your thing, never fear, you can still catch a great view of the sky at Blackrock Castle Observatory. The castle is open daily from 10:00AM until 5:00PM and viewing the exhibits takes about an hour. For more information about ticket pricing and to see what events are happening now, click here.
30. Surf at Inchydoney Beach
Inchydoney Beach is a very picturesque location, showcasing Cork’s true natural beauty. It’s no wonder Inchydoney was voted Ireland’s best beach. Here is also where you’ll find some great (though chilly) waves to ride.
31. Adopt a Donkey in Liscarroll
Liscarrol is a village within Co. Cork and is also home to the Donkey Sanctuary! It’s here where you can ‘adopt’ a donkey for one year at the small price of 25 euros. This adoption includes an official certificate, a pencil drawing, a bio sheet and a twice yearly update from your furry friend. This money then goes to taking care of these donkeys who were neglected and abandoned.
32. Camden Fort Meagher
Camden Fort Meagher is recognized internationally as being “One of the finest remaining examples of a classical Coastal Artillery Fort in the world”. Originally built to defend the city, just as Fort Mitchell was, Camden Fort Meagher now open to the public for visitations or events. If you don’t have time to stop by the fort, make sure you take a look at their virtual tour.
33. Gougane Barra
Gougane Barra, Irish for “the rock of Barra” is a settlement that dates back to about 1700 in Cork. It’s a beautiful, serene and normally vacant area with plenty of magical trails and hikes surrounding the tranquil lake.
34. Cape Clear Island
Cape Clear Island is the southernmost inhabited part of Ireland, with the population of a mere 100 people. Take a ferry out and meet the blind goat farmer who makes hand-made ice cream from his goats.
Nash19 is a restaurant, gallery and food shop located near The English Market. They’re known for having some of the tastiest entrees made from the freshest ingredients. To keep things interesting, their menu changes daily, so make sure to head to their website to see what’s on the docket for today.
36. Catch Some Trad at Sin E
Trad, also known as traditional music, is a huge part of the Irish culture. If you’re looking for a cozy place to get cultured, Sine E is it. However, I’d recommend to get there a little earlier than you planned on, as it tends to fill up quite fast.
37. Cork Opera House
The Cork Opera House is always showing the latest and greatest of the theatrical world. To see what’s going on lately, head to the Cork Opera House website.
38. Franciscan Well Brewery
The Franciscan Well Brewery is a vaulted medieval pub equipped with a beer garden, serving up brews from their very own micro-brewery. If you’re ready for a snack after the beer tour, their wood fired pizza is always a great idea.
39. Mutton Lane Inn
The Mutton Lane Inn is a hidden gem for drinking like a fairytale, as well as probably one of the oldest drinking establishments in the city. If you get a chance, ask about the pictures above the bar; each have their own stories. Mutton Lane Inn is absolutely a necessary stop for anyone crossing through Cork.
40. Village Hall
Village Hall is a vintage shop, coffee bar and arts venue located in St Patrick’s Quay. The perfect pitstop for a hipster.
41. Vibes and Scribes
Vibes and Scribes is a cute bookshop for the old and for the new, as well as an arts and craft store. Vibes and Scribes has been described as ‘an artist’s idea of heaven on earth’.
42. Cork Butter Museum
I know; this actually exists. Churn up the history of Cork’s most important food export at the world’s largest butter market. At the museum, you can learn all about the history of butter production and sale in County Cork. It’s a pretty small place, so you really only need to plan for about 30 minutes for a stop here.
43. Idaho Cafe
Idaho Cafe is another great place for foodies to check out. Serving traditional Irish food for breakfast and lunch, the menu will get your mouth watering just by looking at it.
From delicious cafes to mystifying viewpoints and interactive history lessons, Cork really has something for everyone.
What’s on the top of your Cork itinerary?