Cork, with the population of only around 120,000 is the second largest city in The Republic of Ireland. It's a perfect destination for a few days, short break from Dublin, especially in the summer when the weather is better and the blue skies emphasize the clear waters of the beautiful coastline in the south of the Emerald Island. You will be surprised how many hidden, spectacular cliffs, beaches and coves the area can boast. The countryside is absolutely stunning, perfectly lush green, with little villages dotted here and there. On a sunny day you might get the impression that you are in a way more exotic place than Ireland!
How to get to Cork and how to explore the area
It's very easy to get to Cork. There are many connections by both: public bus and train from the Irish capital, Dublin. The distance is 260 km (160 miles) and the journey takes around 3 h and 40 min by bus (an hour less if you drive or take a train). The price varies - the bus is the cheapest option - as low as 25 EUR for a return journey. The train fares vary from 30-50 EUR. Note, that the bus departs from Busaras station in Dublin's city center but the train leaves from Heuston Railway Station, not from Connolly Station (which is right beside Busaras). You can get easily from Connolly/Busaras to Heuston by Luas - Dublin's light rail. It will take around 15 mins. You can check timetables and prices for buses here, and for trains here. Alternatively, some airlines offer direct flights to Cork from quite many European destinations.
It's pretty simple to travel between large cities using public transport in Ireland. However, if you want to explore more remote places, you'll have a problem. The thing is that, in Ireland, some absolutely stunning, amazing and off the beaten track sites, like for example: the cliffs of Old Head of Kinsale described below, the most beautiful beach in the country in Achill Island, spectacular Abbey Island, impressive Skellig Cliffs or outlandish Benbulben Mountain are virtually unknown to a potential visitor. 90% of travelers head straight to the Cliffs of Moher - Ireland's main landmark. And the Emerald Island has so much more to offer! There are daily tours to Cliffs of Moher but none to those amazing places I've mentioned above and the public transport connections are very poor. If you travel with friends and want to save time and money and discover something new and unknown, the best thing to do is to rent a car and drive.
What to see in Cork
Cork is a small, but interestingly pretty city, easy to walk around in one day. For me, it's cozier and more colorful than Dublin. The name of the city is derived from a Gaelic word Corcaigh which means 'marshlands'. While walking around the city center, you will encounter typical Irish, Gothic architecture - beautiful stone churches and cathedrals. Lavishly decorated, 19th century St. Fin Barre's Cathedral is the largest in Cork.
Trinity Presbyterian Church is located within the city and my favorite is the Holy Trinity Church which has a pretty original facade with large arches.
Along the River Lee, you'll find many cafes, bars and restaurants. You're in Ireland, so of course you'll be able to choose from enormously wide rage of lounges and pubs! The heart of the city - St. Patrick's street is nicely colorful and has probably the most original street lamps in Ireland.
The best time to visit Cork is the summer, when the days are long and it's bright until almost 11pm. You'll also have a much better chance to enjoy nice, sunny weather.
The Old Head of Kinsale
Dublin has Howth and Bray, Cork has The Old Head of Kinsale which is a peninsula located around 40 km/25 miles (1 hour drive) straight down south of the city. Surrounded by beautiful coastline and beaches with clear waters, it's truly breathtaking. However, you'll hardly ever find it in the leaflets or tourist offices presenting Cork and the area. Me and my friends came across this beautiful spot by sheer coincidence traveling towards the Ring of Kerry!
The cliffs at the Old Head of Kinsale are original and different than those you can find at Cliffs of Moher or Howth. They are very sharp, rough and look as if they were built from Lego blocks. The sea around is surprisingly clear, and it contrasts amazingly with the silver-black rocks. Truly spectacular sight!
At the tip of the peninsula is a privately owned Golf Club. Unfortunately, you have to be a member to enter the premises and you won't be able to see the lighthouse. Having said that, the most spectacular view of the cliffs is from the side which is open to public. There's also a little trail around and you can enjoy the nature while having a picnic with one of the most spectacular views you can imagine.
The area is completely off the beaten path, literally free from any kind of tourists, most of the people you'll see there will be locals and those, like us, who found it by coincidence.
Cork is often visited as a stopover to further destinations in Ireland. If you plan to stay longer in the are, why not discover one of the most beautiful parts of the island?
Killarney National Park (85 km/52 miles from Cork) is located right beside Killarney. The town itself is nice and cozy and it's a good starting point to explore the National Park which is forested unlike the rest of Ireland and boasts numerous waterfalls, hills and lakes. You can hike many trails, enjoy the idyllic scenery and admire unspoiled nature. Killarney is also a great place to start the famous Ring of Kerry - a loop route along the coast and into the mountainous areas.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry, (a part of Wild Atlantic Way) is one of the most spectacular routes in Ireland. Breathtaking cliffs, mighty mountain peaks, multiple lakes, perfect beaches with turquoise waters (something you wouldn't expect to find in Ireland!), old monasteries and castles, beautiful little towns and idyllic countryside - you can find all this within this seemingly small area. Have a look at the full, detailed article I've written about.
Skellig Islands (160 km/100 miles from Cork) - Little Skelligs and Skellig Michael are the most underrated tourist attraction in Ireland. Hardly anyone knows anything about them but they deserve more recognition than the Cliffs of Moher! It's the only place in Ireland where you can witness such great abundance of wildlife - literally thousands of puffins come to Skellig for the summer - they are not afraid of visitors and seem to pose for the photos! What's more, Skellig Michael boasts over 1500 year old monastery - sometimes called "Irish Machu Picchu". I will soon post an article describing Skellig Islands in detail.
Check out "Related Posts below to find out more.
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