Next to Dublin and Belfast, Cork is Ireland’s 3rd largest city and lies on the south coast, connected to the sea by the Cork Harbor and Passage West channel. The original city is an island enclosed by two arms of the River Lee. Locals are set in their beliefs that Cork is the ‘real capital’, which means it has a lot in store for visitors.
Top Attractions in Cork
Blackrock Castle Observatory
The restored Blackrock Castle dates back to 1828 and it’s yet another postcard picture you might have seen of Ireland. The observatory and visitor’s center is really impressive, set alongside the River Lee where it meets Cork Harbor; the scenic surroundings just complete the picture. The observatory is great for families and science enthusiast.
The tranquil oasis on the outskirts of Cork City, Fitzgerald Park is where you’ll find some escape from the city’s buzz. Make sure you see the original pavilion and the old ornamental fountain that dates back to the time of Edward Fitzgerald, the city’s Lord Mayor back in 1902. The gardens of the park comprise of the Cork Public Museum, a great Café, impressive sculptures, a skate park and a beautiful water-lily pond.
Kildare Street is where you’ll find the Irish Parliament House, a grand Georgian mansion that’s a sight not to be missed. Just across the street you’ll find the National Museum of Ireland, an archeology museum with some amazing permanent exhibitions on Ireland’s Gold, Prehistoric Ireland and the Treasure which houses the splendid Ardagh Chalice. In the vicinity you could also visit the National Library if you’re a bookworm of sorts.
The historic port of Cobh can be reached with a 25 minute drive southeast of Cork. This is where the Titanic was docked before it made its maiden voyage in 1912, and the dock is still used by cruise liners across the globe today. St. Coleman’s Cathedral mainly dominates the town, but you can also explore the Titanic Trail with a 60 minute walking tour, enjoy the Titanic Experience, the Cobh Museum and the Queenstown Story Heritage Centre.
The English Market
The English Market is marked by the fountain that sits at its center and the iconic roof that covers the quirky food market. It’s been trading since 1788, and as such is one of the world’s oldest municipal markets. You can find everything and anything food here; from artisan breads and fresh fruits to fresh seafood and delectable snacks on the run, the market is brimming with tantalizing treats. The Farmgate Restaurant is a very popular spot where you can feast on some authentic local cuisine or just pick up a cup of coffee on the go.
Fota Wildlife Park
The 70 acre Fota Wildlife Park opened its ‘doors’ in 1983 and is located just 17km east of Cork. The animals are mainly left to roam free so that you can observe them in their natural habitat. Some of the most frequently encountered animals are ring-tailed lemurs and the giraffes that wander around in the massive central enclosure. Fota is NOT a driving excursion, and you should take heed that the walk is lengthy, so to get the most of it set aside at least half a day.
St. Patrick’s Street
St. Patrick’s Street is Cork’s shopping hub, and dates as far back as the 18th century. You’ll find some great shops in the winding street like the upmarket department store, Brown Thomas for example.
Blarney Castle, one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions, can be reached with a 10km road trip northwest of Cork. This is where you’ll find the world famous Blarney Stone, said to give to those who kiss the Irish “gift of the gab”. The site was constructed more than 6 centuries ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, and attracts millions of visitors annually. The stone off course can be found on top of the tower and the stunning gardens that surround the castle are well worth kicking back in once you’ve completed your tour.
If you take the road or roughly 30 minutes south of Cork, you’ll find the deep-sea fishing and yachting town of Kinsale, the gateway into scenic West Cork. Kinsale was once a medieval fishing port and it’s one of Ireland’s most scenic resorts of the west coast. On offer here are some fabulous cafés and restaurants set amidst the breathtaking natural scenery. You might enjoy the Heritage Town Walks, the Wine Museum and the nearby Summercove with its 17th century Charles Fort.