Visiting County Cork? This part of the Irish Province of Munster
has a number of attractions you will not want to miss. Plus some interesting sights that are slightly off the beaten path. So why not take your time and spend a day or two in Cork when visiting Ireland? Here are some ideas to make it worth your while ...
1. Where Titanic Sailed and Lusitania Sunk
At Queenstown (today better known as Cobh
), two monumental tragedies are never forgotten - in 1912 this was the last port the Titanic
visited on her maiden voyage, cruelly terminated by a close encounter with an iceberg only days later. And it was to Queenstown where most survivors and scores of victims were brought after the Lusitania
was torpedoed off the Head of Kinsale during the First World War. Both tragedies are remembered by monuments, though today the Titanic seems to take prominence. Apart from these historical connections, Cobh is a pleasant place to visit, on some summer days almost exuding a Mediterranean atmosphere with its small, steep alleyways, colourful cafés and restaurants and cathedral towering above the town.
2. Get Wild at FotaFota Wildlife Park
is a great day out for families and amateur zoologists ...and some professionals too. The sprawling parklands play host to a huge number of species from all over the world. With a twist - many are free to roam the grounds, so you might become friendly with a lemur (replay your favourite "Madagascar" scenes, there are penguins as well), bump into a capibara (a sort of Texas-sized guinea pig) or pass by a kangaroo relaxing in the shrubbery. For those interested in wildlife preservation: Fota has a highly successful cheetah breeding programme. Which are not free to roam. Which is good news unless you can outpace Usain Bolt.
3. Explore the Beara Peninsula
The Ring of Kerry seems to be the thing to do in the South-West, but the Beara peninsula
jut one notch lower on the map has as much to offer. And maybe more. Start at picturesque Glengarriff with its seal colonies and the famed gardens on Garinish Island.Then make your way west to the fishing port of Castletownbere, home of McCarthy's Bar
, and take the ferry to Bere Island. A walker's paradise. Even further west, the uninhabited island of Dursey can be reached by cable car (not the San Francisco variety, but actually swinging on a cable over the sea) ... though you may find it all a bit overrated. Do not miss the old mines at Allihies and the drive from Lauragh to Adrigole, though ...
4. There's a Light ...The old lighthouse on Mizen Head is the end of the road ... literally for drivers, as you run out of Europe here and New York would provide the next streets ... figuratively for mariners who ignored the signal. A rugged coastline, steep cliffs, a dramatic bridge across a chasm, it was an inspired move to open the station to the public. A small but informative museum gives you the historical background, otherwise it is all about enjoying the view and nature. From Bantry, take the N71 south and then the R591 west, from Ballydehob take the R592 and then R591 west. Just keep driving.
5. Kinsale and Charles Fort
The old harbour town of Kinsale has carved out a reputation for good food ... though some critics remark that it lost a lot of charm on the way. Restaurants and cafés vie for the visitors attention (and, in most cases, quite a number of his Euros). Those looking for history will more than likely pass through and head for Charles Fort
, a staunch fortress that protected the harbour from invading forces (like the Spanish, who landed here in the 16th century). Kids will love to explore here, it is just like all the fortresses owned by dastardly governors seen in pirate movies. Minus the Caribbean sun.
6. Beaches and Moby Dick
Youghal (pronounced "y'all"), at the eastern end of County Cork, is an old-fashioned harbour town that turns into a tourist resort in summer. Parts of the old city walls still remain, a picturesque lighthouse overlooks the harbour and Youghal Bay and Whiting Bay (in County Waterford) provide massive beaches. For those with a cinematic interest - Youghal stood in for New Bedford in the epic "Moby Dick"
. You occasionally see whales
7. See Cork CityIt might play second fiddle to Dublin in many aspects, but certainly Corkonians are fiercely proud of their hometown ... find out more about Cork City on a day out.
8. All That BlarneyBlarney Castle and, most important, the Blarney Stone are an integral part of many a tour of Ireland ... that seems to have been planned by Plastic Paddy Inc. The castle is nice enough, but not really exceptional. And the ritual of hanging over a ledge backwards to kiss a much-beslobbered piece of rock is, frankly, bizarre. It is said that it will give you eloquence. Though "talking Blarney" actually refers to making excuses left, right and centre. If you need to go, by all means go. Buy a "Kiss me, I'm Irish" hat to go with your new verbal superpowers.
9. Moving On ... Beyond County Cork's Borders
Enough time spent in County Cork? Then carry on into the neighbouring counties:
10. More Information on County Cork and the Province of Munster