Cork county is certainly one of the most spectacular places in the world. With stunning beaches, rugged coastal scenery, quaint little towns and mysterious castles, it has so much to offer.
There are several tour companies that you can use if you prefer to have a guided tour, but you can also easily explore the area yourself as the transportation system is great in Ireland, with trains and bus routes available for most destinations.
Here are my top 10 places to see around Cork county:
- Blarney Castle
A must when in the Cork area! Located only about half an hour bus ride from the city, Blarney Castle is an imposing medieval structure dating back to the 15th century. Go up on top of the castle by the narrow spiral staircase, and kiss the famous Blarney stone, which is supposed to give you “the gift of gab”. Take my advice, do not wear high heels when going to the castle. You will regret it. I sure did! Don’t forget to admire the beautiful countryside while waiting for your turn. Then spend some time exploring the surrounding gardens which could take up a whole afternoon on its own!
To buy tickets, view more information and hours, visit Blarney Castle website: blarneycastle.ie
How to get here:
- On your own: take the bus number 215 from Cork Parnell Bus station and get off at Blarney.
- Tours: I highly recommend Paddy Wagon day tour that combines Blarney and Cobh, and includes the entrance fee to Blarney castle.
Postcard perfect, quaint coastal town that’s rich in history and culture. Check out the brightly colored shops, the picturesque marina, grab a pint in one of the traditional pubs, and be sure to make it to the historic Charles Fort! By the way, the admission to Charles Fort is free on first Wednesday of every month. You can also visit James Fort which is located directly across the harbour mouth from Charles Fort. If you fancy going to a beach, there are plenty in and around Kinsale, including The Dock, Garrylucas and Garretstown. Or if you want to go for a swim in the sea, Sandycove is one of the best swimming locations in Ireland.
How to get here:
- On your own: take the bus number 226 (but not 226A, as that one doesn’t go all the way to Kinsale!) from Parnell Bus station and get off in Kinsale.
- Tour: Paddy Wagon does a tour of Kinsale and West Cork.
3. Cobh and Spike Island
Cobh (pronounced as “Cove”) is a popular seaside town with beautiful promenade and an amazing hilltop cathedral. But the town is so much more than that. Cobh (or Queenstown as it was once known) was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic. It was also a major embankment spot for those deported to penal colonies such as Australia, as well as for many Irish trying to escape the famine by emigrating to places like America and Canada. You can learn about these historical moments at the Cobh Heritage Centre, Titanic Experience or Cobh Museum. Another option is taking the Titanic Trail walking tour or Cobh Road Train. Be sure to put your walking shoes on once again because while those steep hills make for wonderful photo ops, they are hell to climb! After exploring the town, take a 10 minute ferry ride over to Spike Island and visit the 200 year old Fort Mitchel, a star shaped Fortress which became a prison holding over 2300 prisoners and was in use as late as 1996. The views of Cobh waterfront alone are worth the trip!
How to get here:
- On your own: take Cork – Cobh/Midleton train from Cork Kent train station (leaves every hour on the hour), and get off at Cobh.
- Tour: Paddy Wagon offers day tour from Cork that combines Blarney and Cobh.
- Spike Island: Take a ferry from Kennedy pier in Cobh town. The price of the ferry includes a guided tour of the island. Note that you can only take the ferry back three and a half hours after arrival. It is recommended that you book the ferry in advance, visit their website for bookings, ferry schedule and prices.
4. Jameson Distillery, Midleton
Love Whiskey? Want to try some of the best Irish Whiskey and learn something along the way (if you are not too drunk, that is)? Then head over to the Jameson Distillery located in the town of Midleton. After all, like I always say, getting drunk while on a tour is not alcoholism, it’s expanding your horizons! There are several options available to explore the Distillery, pick the one that suits you best on their website.
- How to get here: you can take the train to Midleton from the Cork Kent station, however the Distillery runs their own bus that can be included in your ticket for a slightly higher price, which is a much better option as it will bring you directly to the Distillery.
5. Mizen Head
The Mizen Head is a spectacular location, with high rugged cliffs peering into the ocean. It’s the most Southwesterly point of Ireland, and houses an old signal station, a weather station, and a lighthouse. The Signal Station is on an island joined to the mainland with a beautiful arched bridge which also gives you access to the unparalleled views.
- How to get here: there is no actual bus or train route to the Mizen head, therefore you can either rent a car or take a tour. The tour I recommend is O’Brien’s Coach Tours. It gives you plenty of time to explore the Mizen Head on your own, and makes a few stops at some of the other beautiful spots along the way, including a 30 minute stop at Clonakilty on the way back to Cork.
6. Clonakilty and Inchydoney Beach
This is another pretty coastal town (yeah, there are many of those in Ireland!), which was voted the Best Town in Europe 2017 and is the home of the famous Clonakilty black pudding, which is not a dessert by the way! It’s a traditional Irish blood sausage, typically eaten for breakfast with some fried eggs, bacon, a fried tomato, mushrooms and baked beans, also know as a full Irish breakfast or fry up. You must try it, it’s amazing! Especially when you’re hungover after all those shots of Jameson whiskey you were enjoying at the Distillery! There are several stunning beaches around Clonakilty area, such as Inchydoney Beach (Blue Flag beach just a few miles from Clonakilty, which is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in West Cork), Long Strand (popular beach with surfers), Red Strand, The Warren and Owenahincha (those three are popular beaches for families). One of the fantastic activities to do around Clonakilty area is whale watching! Check out corkwhalewatch.com for more information on how to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures.
How to get here: Take the 237 bus (Cork – Clonakilty – Skibbereen – Goleen route) from Cork Parnell Bus station and get off at Clonakilty.
7. Fota Wildlife Park
Fota Wildlife Park is one of Ireland’s top ten visitor attractions. A perfect place to visit for people of all ages. Fota Wildlife Park is not an ordinary zoo! Animals are free to roam (wherever possible) and are not confined to cages. See their website for more information and bookings. Be warned that you might get stared down by an occasional curious lemur or have your food stolen by plentiful peacocks. But isn’t that the joy of it?
How to get here: It’s very easy to get to Fota, just hop on the Cobh/Midleton train from Cork Kent train station for a short 13 minute ride, and get off at Fota (the park has its own train stop).
Youghal (pronounced as “Y’all”) is a part of Ireland’s Ancient East, a truly unique place with miles of sandy beaches and rich medieval history. Visit Youghal Clock Gate Tower, and The Raleigh Quarter to learn more about town’s history and heritage. Then stroll along the many beautiful beaches, all within walking distance of Youghal town.
How to get here: Take the 260 bus (Cork – Youghal – Ardmore route) from Cork Parnell bus station. The bus rides takes roughly an hour.
Skibbereen is an amazing historical town, located in a stunning area that would require a few days to explore properly! Check out Lough Hyne, a beautiful salt-water lake situated just 5 km from Skibbereen town. The town is surrounded by quaint fishing villages, such as Baltimore, which is a gateway to Sherkin Island and Cape Clear (island where Irish language is spoken along side English). Skibbereen is the most important town in Ireland when it comes to Famine heritage, so be sure to visit Skibbereen Heritage Centre to learn more about this tragic part of Irish history.
How to get here: Take the 237 bus (Cork – Clonakilty – Skibbereen – Goleen route) from Cork Parnell Bus station and get off at Skibbereen.
10. Bantry House
Bantry House and Garden is a stately home situated on the Wild Atlantic Way overlooking Bantry Bay. It houses an important private collection of furniture and art. The Bantry House has been home to the White family since 1739 and was open to the public in 1946. You can explore the house and the garden, have tea in the tearoom or even stay the night in the B&B located in the East Wing of the house. The house and the gardens are absolutely beautiful, and the spectacular views alone are well worth a visit. See Bantry House website for more info and bookings.
How to get here: Take the 236 bus from Cork Parnell Bus station (Cork – Bantry – Castletownbere route) and get off at Bantry. The house is an easy 11 minute walk from where the bus drops you off.
So here we are guys, those are the Russian spy’s top 10 must visit places in Cork county (out of those that I managed to spy on). If you want to add any others that you think are an absolute must, feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me a message on my Facebook page (or leave me a comment anyway, even just for the hell of it!)
Russian spy out!