Ireland’s second city, located in the beautiful south, is a city of charming contrasts. There are numerous attractions both within the city itself and in the surrounding countryside, so pick up your Avis car hire from Dublin airport and head south – here are five top tips for your visit to Cork.
1. Don’t Upset the Locals
Did we say that Cork is Ireland’s second city? We did? Sorry. You may want to avoid that phrase when conversing with the city’s inhabitants. With a reputation for pride and rebellion, they may remind you – playfully, of course – of that rebellious legacy with their quick jests towards the country’s capital. The people of Cork are known for their wit and their warmth, their ability to captivate and to charm, and this is all part of the city’s attraction. Modern Cork is a vibrant mix of tradition and contemporary sophistication.
2. Take a Wander
Cork is small enough to be navigable on foot, so if there’s a sunny day – or not – put on your walking shoes and go out and explore. Historic attractions include the medieval Red Abbey, St. Mary’s Cathedral and the old St. Finbarre’s Cathedral, as well as the Church of St. Anne in Shandon, City Hall and Elizabeth Fort. Other places of interest include the University College Cork, the County Hall Tower and the Elysian. The River Lee, of course, is the perfect backdrop for an afternoon stroll.
3. Go Shopping
Grand Parade, St. Patrick’s Street and surrounding streets is the city’s main shopping locale and also contains some interesting historic buildings. Delve in and out of the side streets and alleyways, exploring quirky fashion boutiques, vintage shops and stores selling handmade crafts, as well as second hand bookstores and music shops. Or dip into the English Market, a tourist attraction in its own right and a longstanding market of fresh fish and meat as well as other foodstuffs, including many items from around the world. Look out for local specialities such as spiced beef and drisheen, a type of black pudding.
4. Stop for a Drink
When the weather turns brisk, pop into one of the city’s many fine cafes for a hot or cold beverage. Farmgate Cafe in the English Market is a popular spot for coffee, while the Franciscan Well Brewery has its own microbrewery. You might want to linger indoors as the evening closes in – live folk music can be found in many of the city’s pubs. Or if you’re after something more upmarket, then head to Cafe Paradiso, a Cork institution and vegetarian restaurant with outstanding reputation. Try the Pavilion for some mellow evening of music without the fiddles.
5. Get Out into the Countryside
Cork is fantastic – but there’s more to the region than the city itself. Attractions around the city include The Warren and its award-winning Blue Flag Beach (also a Natural Heritage Area) – it’s the perfect spot for a morning stroll with the brisk sea breeze in your hair. Visit the National Monument of Knockdrum Stone Fort, located 1 km from Castletownshend, or Drombeg Stone Circle in Glandore, the midpoint of which lines up at the Winter Solstice. Or take the ferry across to natural wildlife haven Whiddy Island, where you can spend time rambling, bird-watching or simply soaking up the atmosphere at the Bank House, the island’s only pub. However you want to spend your time in the countryside, you’ll be spoilt for choice.