A big friendly welcome to Cork! One of the largest of all the Irish counties in the South West of Ireland, Cork is considered to be one of the top cities in the world to visit. This University City is full of variety, colour and culture with plenty to do for all ages.
An island within Ireland, Cork’s centre spans both banks of the River Lee and is connected to the sea by the enormous Cork harbour, so be prepared to cross many bridges as you explore it’s many watery channels. There’s so much to see in the centre of the city, but you can’t ignore the beautiful coastline. As you discover beautiful golden sand beaches dotted with rocky peninsulas and secret bays and coves carved out by the Atlantic, you won’t believe you’re only 1 1/2 hours from Southampton Airport.
Aer Lingus Regional offer direct flights from Southampton to Cork Airport. There are great public transport connections to the city centre as well as facilities tor hiring a car if you are travelling further afield. Iarnrod Eireann (Irish Rail) is the national train company and connections to all major rail-linked towns and cities in Ireland can be made from Kent Station. Kent Station and Cork city, are only about 8km away from the airport and therefore easily accessible from the Airport by taxi and bus.
Top things to see and do
Cork’s English Market is branded as a gem of a find. This Victorian market with its beautifully ornate vaulted ceilings and columns has such a variety of vendors selling their artisan goods, with everything you could ask for all under one roof. You’ll be swept up in the atmosphere of sounds, sights and smells and whisked off to foodie heaven.
You can see two of Cork’s main tourist attractions in one here and the walk to them from the city centre is also a treat. However, it could be a moving visit to this former prison as you experience what life was like for the poverty stricken people in the 19th Century, many of them sentenced to hard labour for stealing bread to eat. The audio tour takes you around the restored cells where lifelike figures and sound effects will transport you back to quite an awful life of a prisoner.
It will be entirely up to you to decide which of the legends to believe about how the Blarney Stone came to be, but 300,000 people travel each year to kiss the Blarney Stone with the hope of gaining more eloquent speech! You have to be a bit of a contortionist to get into position to pucker up and try not to think about the number of people who have been there before you unless you have the immune system of an ox. However, while you are there, Blarney Castle is worth a look around and the views are breathtaking.
Off the beaten track
Back in the 1860s, Cork was the world’s largest butter market and has continued a long tradition of butter manufacturing since. At the Cork Butter Museum, you can learn all about the history of the Cork Butter Exchange and the craft of traditional butter making when it was all done by hand. There are some terrific reviews of this place, so if you’re faced with a rainy day, it’s worth popping in for some butter to make you feel better.
If on your travels, you just want to find a good traditional pub, with a fantastic atmosphere, live music and some local craft beers then look no further. Sin É (meaning ‘that’s it!’ aptly named because of the funeral parlour next door) is full to the brim with non-pretentious good Irish fun, time will just fly by.
This Wildlife Park appears at the top of many ‘must do’ lists. As a joint project between the Zoological Society of Ireland and the University College Cork, this isn’t just a tourist attraction. The main objective of this park is to protect some of the worlds’ endangered species and help to restore others. You’ll find everyone’s favourite animal here and you could find yourself a lot closer to them than you would think, as the residents roam freely around the park. Top tip – there are twice daily feeding times which are always fascinating to observe.