Best things to do in Cork, Ireland – Insider Tour!
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We have been to Cork before, as part of a wider Ireland trip. Back then we were less impressed (most likely due the many flight commercials ‘overselling’ it). But as promised in my previous post we would return soon as we met a wonderful Irish family in Singapore (and later Dubai). So, this time, with the help of a local family, let me show you the great highlights of Cork!
How to get to Cork
As said, we already visited Cork before on an Irish road trip. Having a car is easiest, but Cork is also well connected with Dublin and the rest of the country via train and bus services. The easiest to travel internationally is via its very convenient Cork airport!
Being spoiled by our lovely hosts, we only had to arrive (and leave) from Cork Airport, complete with pick-up and drop-off and ‘country exploration’ services. Beautifully arranged by Ian & Joanne and the wider family!
Exploring the Cultural Highlights of Cork
Obviously, one of the key cultural highlights of Ireland is its pub scene! However, before we dive into the fun stuff, let’s get some of Cork’s key cultural highlights out of the way…
University College Cork
Centrally located just out of the inner city center, you will find the campus of University College Cork. It was founded in 1845 as one of three Queen’s Colleges located in Belfast, Cork and Galway.
We got a tour from Ian, an alumni of the university, offering various fun insights and student traditions (for example no student crosses the university square via the ‘inner lanes’). Even without your local tour guide, the university is easy to navigate and be sure to add this to your Cork visit.
Still on the University College Cork grounds you’ll find Honan Chapel. A small Catholic church with some nice artworks.
(For the insiders; this is where we hope to celebrate Ian’s & Nadia’s wedding soon!… already looking forward to this future Cork-adventure).
Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral
Making our way further towards Cork’s city center (yes, we can almost smell Cork’s Irish pubs already) we find Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral. We arrived just after closing time at this impressive gothic three-spire Church of Ireland Cathedral. Perhaps we will visit the inside next time! Located on the south bank of the River Lee this church is dedicated to Finbarr of Cork, patron saint of the city.
The River Lee
The River Lee rises in Shehy Mountains and flows eastwards through Cork, where it splits in two for a short distance, creating an island. It is on this island where Cork’s city center is built. It flows further to Cork Harbor on the South Coast forming one of the largest natural harbors in the world.
Top Tip: It will be a nice stroll along the riverbank between Fitzgerald Park and the “Playing Ground”.
Top Tip: Or be lazy, like us, and enjoy the views over the River Lee from the Kingsley Hotel. We went for an amazing afternoon tea and spa treatment. Part of the experience is to make use of the outdoor pool! Great insider tip, Joanne!
No need to go out of your way, but if you are potentially staying nearby, Cork Lough would make for a great stroll or morning exercise (walking your dog).
Going on an insider Pub Crawl in Cork!
Enough with the cultural sightseeing, let’s start focusing the part of Ireland’s culture it is is most famous for; its Irish Pub scene! And how better to explore Cork’s pub scene than with a local friend? Here are some of the best pubs of Cork… Cheers!…
Cork pub #1: Tom Barry’s
We started with Tom Barry’s, perhaps one of our favorite pubs in Cork, due to the nice outside seating area.
Cork pub #2: Ziggy
We made our way further into the city and came across Ziggy and various adjacent pubs. In case of nice weather have a beer here, a nice and lively outdoor street area!
Cork pub #3: The Castle Inn
A completely different type of pub is The Castle Inn. An ‘Old Men’s” pub how they call it, as it is very empty and it literally is a place to go and have a beer, either standing or sitting on a wooden bench. I have not come across anything earlier, so a nice experience! An additional especially interesting feature of the ‘historic’ Castle Inn is the ‘private drinking room’ in front of the bar. (A bit similar to the bar in the Peaky Blinders Series)
Cork pub #4: Mutton Lane Inn
A pub with again a completely different vibe is Mutton Lane Inn. A colorful alleyway leads you into a nice pub with black and white tiled floors.
Cork pub #5: Sober Lane
We had dinner in Sober Lane for a nice pub meal. Here we also met many of Ian’s friends with whom we continued to yet another place. However both my camera and my memory started to get slightly blurry… Enough to explore in Cork, that is for sure!…
Cork pub #6: The Woodford
On a separate night we went with the entire family to The Woodford. This place is slightly more focused on providing good meals, with lovely owners (friends of the family) that made for a memorable celebration of the newly announced engagement of Ian & Nadia.
Obviously, there are many more pubs in Cork, and be sure to also explore yourself! But with this diverse selection you will have a great starting point!
Bonus: Day-trip to Kinsale
From Cork it is a short drive to the idyllic town of Kinsale. Although small, there are quite some highlights to explore. There are the two 17th Century fortresses that overlook the River Bandon, there is the natural harbor, Kinsale beach, but most of all the very colorful quint shopping streets are worth a visit!…
We took a boat tour through the natural harbor. The tour takes about 45 minutes and sails along the fortresses and the beach.
Top Tip: Eat Fish & Chips enjoying your views over the Kinsale Harbor at Pier Road.
Top Tip: Drive towards Bulman pub. The road leading here, as well as the pub’s terrace, offer great viewpoints over the harbor. (A great alternative to the boat tour, to take into the stunning Irish landscapes).
And that brings an end to this amazing insider Cork tour. Fortunately, our Ireland adventure did not end here… We were spoilt even more by our favorite Irish family, as we went for a few days to their holiday home in Ballinskelligs, Kerry. (Read all about it in the separate post!).
Regarding Cork, the good news is that we plan be back soon for the wedding!… We are already looking forward to it. Thanks Brenda, Tom, Ian, Joanne, John & the wider family for a wonderful trip!…