I recently spent a weekend exploring Ireland’s second biggest city, also known as Ireland’s real ‘capital’, Cork. Bustling with brilliant shops, bars and tourist attractions. Not to mention the deadly seafood, picturesque streets and of course that interesting Cork accent and sense of humour.
Things to do in Cork Ireland
Visit the English Market
You can’t go to Cork without visiting the famous 18th-century English Market.
The market is open from 8am- 6pm, Monday to Saturday and is packed full of vendors selling homemade goods and local produce. Make sure you visit Maki Sushi Rolls stall for a sushi roll while you shop.
Ring the Shandon Bells
Visit St. Anne’s Church which is home to the Shandon Bells. The church is downstairs and you you can go up the tower for a fee of €5 per adult, it has four clocks, with different times, earning it the nickname ‘The Four-Faced Liar’. Inside, the tower you will find the original 18th century eight bells which have been retained, the heaviest of which is a staggering 1.5 tons.
The name Shandon comes from the Irish, Sean Dun, which means Old Fort.
Make your own butter
I loved The Cork Butter Museum, which delves into the history of Irish Butter trade from prehistoric to present day and the huge impact it had on the city, It also took in some of the many exhibits and machinery used to produce butter in the early days. I loved the compact size of the museum and friendly staff.
The Museum hosts a butter making class every Saturday at midday.
Enjoy panoramic views
We drove for 30 minutes and reached out next destination Kinsale’s Charles Fort. This star-shaped military fortress was constructed between 1677 and 1682, to protect the town and harbour of Kinsale in County Cork.
Enjoy Live Music
Our taxi driver recommended pub Sin-e (pronounce as shin-AY, Irish for “That’s It” on Coburg St. Luckily there were chairs available and we were able to sit down and enjoy the live traditional music. The place gets busy but the service was amazing, I’d go back!
Red Abbey Tower
Built in the 13th century, this is Cork’s oldest surging structure that only remains from the medieval past.
Kiss the Blarney Stone
My weekend in Cork was sealed with a kiss after exploring the gardens and going to the top of the Blarney Castle.
Located in Blarney Village, about 8 km northwest from Cork City in the south of Ireland, you will find the Blarney Castle and Gardens. Built by Cormac Laidir, Lord of Muskerry. It started off as a wooden structure built in the tenth century, then was replaced by a stone structure in 1210 A.D.
After that was demolished, it was resurrected in 1446. Blarney Castle is the third structure to be built on this site.
We arrived at the nearly vacant Blarney Castle at around 10am on a Sunday. This was a great time to visit as there weren’t a lot of people walking around the expansive grounds.
It cost €18 per adult and we each received a little map and entry ticket.
Things to do at Blarney Castle & Gardens
1. Cross the bridge by River Martin
2. See The Seven Sisters
Picture by Aerial Photography
Legend tells of a famous King of Munster who once ruled these lands. He had seven daughters and two sons. His rival was also a powerful clan chief and the time came when the king had to defend his lands.
One fateful day the army rode out to battle with the king and his two sons at the head of it. Although victorious, it came at a great cost, as both sons were killed in the fighting. The army marched back to the castle, on route passing the ancient druid’s stone circle that had stood for millennia.
The king dispatched a contingent of men to the sacred site and in his grief he instructed them to push over two of the nine standing stones. This would forever commemorate his two fallen sons. The seven sisters remain standing to this day.
3. See the Fern Garden and Waterfall
In the heart of the castle gardens you will find a limestone cliff overlooking ferns and a dramatic waterfall on one side to add to the ambience. There are over 80 varieties of ferns including a 5m high Dicksonia antarctica which happens to be the tallest of its kind in ireland.
4. The Rock Close and Water Garden
If you follow this trail, it will lead you through a leafy canopy of ancient yew and oak trees where you will find two flowing waterfalls. It’s a mystical place where you will find the “wishing steps” which the story has it, if you walk down these backwards with your eyes shut, all your wishes will come true.
5. Learn about poisonous plants at the Poison Garden
Hidden behind the castle, you will find the infamous poison garden with a collection of poisonous plants from around the world including the Wolfsbane and the Mandrake from Harry Potter’s there is Information about their toxicity, traditional and modern day uses.
5. Go to the top of the castle
The stairs in the castle are steep, windy, slippery and narrow. Some sections have a rope that you can grab, but most do not so you need to be very careful. I’m not quite sure if I’d want my child to do this but it’s all up to the parent.
6. Kiss the Blarney Stone
For over 200 years people from all over the world have kissed the Blarney Stone with the hope of gaining the gift of eloquence. To kiss the Blarney Stone, you actually have to lean backwards and grab the iron railing. There is a man there to hold you and keep the line moving.
7. Enjoy magnificent views
From the top of the castle you can take in breathtaking views of over 60 acres of sprawling parklands which includes gardens, avenues, arboretums and waterways.
8. Visit the Stable Yard
It used to be a stable yard now it’s been turned into a Café but you can still walk through the stables or visit the horses graveyard on the property.
9. Get inside a cave
According to legend, three passages lead away from Badger’s Cave: one to Cork, one to Kerry, and one to the lake at the edge of the property. The castle garrison used this cave to escape from Cromwell’s general, Lord Broghill, in 1646.
10. Visit the Blarney House
Just 200 yards south of the castle, this family home was built in 1874 and it is beautifully situated overlooking Blarney Lake. It contains a fine collection of early furniture, family portraits, tapestries and works of art.
See wildlife at Fota Park
Spend the day in Cobh
Cobh Island is a charming waterfront town on a glittering estuary, dotted with brightly coloured houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral. The area is one of the most popular places to visit if you want to experience the unique combination of architecture, food and culture of county Cork.
Things to know before visiting Cobh
- Cobh is pronounced as “Cove” and means small Harbour.
- Cobh is located on the Cork Harbour.
- The Town was known as Queenstown from 1849 until 1920.
- Cobh was the departure point for 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950.
- Today Cobh is home to 13 000 people.
- Often described as the second largest Harbour in the world after Sydney, A recent report proved that this information is false.
- Cobh witnessed first-hand trauma and heartbreak in 1915 when 1,198 people perished when the Lusitania sunk off the Cork coast by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat.
- Condé Nast Traveler named Cobh as one of the 25 most beautiful European small towns of 2019.
Where is Cobh and how to get there
Cobh is reachable by car, bus, train or cruise.
How to get to Cobh from Dublin: The distance between Dublin and Cobh is 270 KM (approximately 3-4 hours depending on traffic). To get there using public transport will need to get a bus or train from Dublin Heuston Station and get off in Cork. An adult return ticket for a bus is €26 and €29 for the train. (These are the prices in September 2019 and they are subject to change).
How to get to Cobh from Cork: When you arrive in Cork station you will get another bus or train to Cobh. This will take approximately 1 hour.
Things to do in Cobh Ireland
Visit the Cobh Ireland Titanic Experience
On April 11, 1912 the Titanic made it’s last stop in Cobh before setting sail across the Atlantic. Today, the former White Star Line Ticket Office, which was the embarkation point for the final 123 passengers is known as the The Titanic Experience. For €9.50 per adult, visitors have an opportunity to travel in the footsteps of an actual passenger on that famous ship’s tragic maiden voyage. Only at the end will you discover if you were one of those who survived or was lost!
The Titanic Trail
Go on a guided walking tour that explores the town of Cobh which was the last port of call of RMS Titanic. This Irish heritage walking tour takes visitors through the historic town of Cobh where the buildings, streets and piers have not changed since the Titanic’s sinking over 100 years ago. The entertaining and innovative Titanic Trail has been operating every day since 1998. The one hour escorted tour, with specially trained guides, brings to life the story of Titanic, and the events in the town on the day Titanic left her last anchorage to sail into her icy fate in the North Atlantic. Cork historian, Dr Michael Martin, the creator of the Titanic Trail, offers a truly authentic Titanic experience. The Titanic Trail has been filmed by 20th Century Fox, National Geographic and many other travel documentaries.
Admire St Colman’s Cathedral
The Roman Catholic Cathedral took 47 years to build. Starting in 1868. In 1916 a Carillon of 42 bells was installed. The largest bell is 200 feet above the ground and weighs 3.6 tons. The Cathedral organ, by Telford and Telford, contains 2,468 pipes. Its 49-bell carillon is the only such instrument in this country and is the largest in Ireland and Britain.
- Saturday: 6.00pm
- Sunday: 10.00am, 12.00 noon & 7.00pm
- Weekday Masses: 8.00am & 10.00am
Take a ferry to Spike Island
If visiting old prisons is your thing then I’m sure you’ve heard of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin and the Cork City Gaol – both well worth a visit, as is a trip across the water from Cobh to Spike Island. Over the years Spike has played host to a variety of institutions including a monastery, a fortress and a prison, and these days it is open to the public as a visitor attraction. While exploring the extensive star-shaped fort, see the jail cells, walk the ramparts, marvel at the 360-degree views of Cork Harbour, see the huge gun that protected the harbor from attack, hear about the high-society artist Willam Burke Kirwan, convicted of the violent murder of his young wife, or John Power, a Waterford orphan who was so brutalized by the system that he ended up murdering a prison warder and the Young Irelander, John Mitchel after whom Fort Mitchel is now named. You can find tour details, prices etc on the Spike Island Website.
Say a prayer at the Lusitania Peace Memorial
A memorial for people who drowned when RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine just under 20km off the Old Head of Kinsale on May 7th, 1915. 170 of the 1200 who died were laid to rest at the Old Church Cemetery just outside of Cobh.
The Cobh Museum
Overlooking the Cork Harbor, the Cobh Museum has exhibitions that reflect the cultural, social and maritime history of Cobh and the Great Island. Formerly known as Queenstown, Cobh has a long maritime history and is known throughout the world for its association with emigration and was the last port of call for the RMS Titanic. The Museum holds the last written record for the RMS Titanic in the Pilot’s Log book. There is a small genealogical reference section in the museum where visitors can do their own family research. Families and groups welcome. The museum is open Monday – Saturday 11 – 1pm; 2pm – 5pm and Sunday 2.30pm – 5pm.
Ride the Cobh Road Train
The Cobh Road Train takes you through the town stopping at, a spectacular viewing point which provides an opportunity to view the inner and outer harbour and the historic Spike Island. Its the most relaxing, informative and fun way to view Cobh’s historic sites and beautiful sea views.
The Sirius Arts Centre
The multidisciplinary non-profit centre for the arts was founded in 1988 and dedicated to facilitating artistic expression in Ireland. The yearly programming raises artistic awareness, provides opportunities for participation in and enjoyment of the arts, this is achieved through visual arts exhibitions, an artists-in-residence programme, music concerts and community engagement programmes. The Sirius Arts Centre’s building, formerly the Royal Cork Yacht Club, provides the organization with a unique environment, and revitalizes an important architectural gem on the banks of Cork Harbour.
See the Annie Moore Statue
A commemoration to the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island. She departed from Cobh, County Cork, accompanied by her brothers Phillip and Anthony, aboard the steamship Nevada on January 1, 1892, her fifteenth birthday.
Learn about The Queenstown Story at the Cobh Heritage Center
Cobh Heritage Centre is located in Cobh’s restored Victorian Railway Station and is steeped in history. A fantastic place to visit with many things to do. Come have a cup of tea or coffee and a bite to eat in our café, followed by some shopping in one of our shops such as Christies Irish Store Gift Shop. After you have had a bite to eat and done some shopping you should then visit “The Queenstown Story” inside the Heritage Centre which dramatically tells the story of Cobh’s unique origins, history and legacy through a stunning multimedia exhibition. Cobh’s Heritage Centre is a family friendly attraction which has something for everyone.
Hotels in Cobh Cork
The best Places to stay in a walking distance to the Cobh Activities mentioned above:
Luxury: Commodore Hotel In Cobh
One of Ireland’s oldest purpose-built hotels, The Commodore Hotel overlooks Cobh Harbour. It offers affordable spacious rooms, a restaurant serving gourmet food, free Wi-Fi in public areas. Rooms at The Commodore all feature elegant bathrooms with hairdryers. They also include TVs, tea/coffee making facilities and many have sea views.
Bella Visa Hotel & Self Catering
The family-owned Bella Vista Hotel overlooks Cork Harbour. This luxurious Victorian villa offers modern rooms with free Wi-Fi, a traditional Irish Bar, restaurant and free parking. Cobh town centre is just a 5-minute walk away and fishing is available at the harbour. There are around 30 golf courses within a 30-minute drive. Bella Vista caters to fishing groups and is able to organise boat hire for fishing trips as well as fishing tackle and equipment.
Budget: Oakhurst House B&B
With free WiFi, Oakhurst House B&B and Self Catering is located in Cobh, 1.3 km from Cathedral of St. Colman. Free private parking is available on site. Done units feature views of the sea or garden. Some rooms have a shared bathroom.
Get Insurance before traveling to Ireland
Use travel insurance while visiting Ireland so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in Ireland, and it’s best to have peace of mind while swimming in the freezing Irish Sea, hiking and trying some of the best food in the world.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.