Ten Amazing Things To Do in Cork

Ten Amazing Things To Do While In Cork

As Ireland’s third largest city behind Belfast and Dublin, the city of Cork and the surrounding area is well worth spending a day, or depending upon your length of stay in Ireland, several days, or even a week.  Here are ten amazing things to do in Cork.

Visiting Cork

Cork boasts variety and culture, along with castles, elegant mansions and nearby rugged cliffs as scenic as any in Ireland.  While the area has much more ancient roots, the site of the current city of Cork dates to the founding of a monastic settlement by St. Finbarr in the sixth century.  The city grew into a trading port upon the arrival of the vikings in the ninth century and was later occupied by Normans from the 12th century.  Parts of the medieval city walls, primarily the gates, remain to this day.

While the city of Cork is traditionally Protestant, and the surrounding countryside Catholic, Honan Chapel, situated on the campus of University College Cork, stands as a tribute to traditional Irish nationalism and Catholicism.  The chapel was funded from the estate of Isabella Hogan, whose family made their fortune in the butter trade and boasts 19 stained glass windows, including three tall windows found own the western wall of St. Brigid, St. Patrick, and St. Columbcille.

Speaking of the butter trade, who would ever imagine a butter museum?  You can find one right in Cork on the site of the old Butter Exchange dating from 1770 where you can experience butter making demonstrations, and exhibits on the butter making process and storage from earlier times to modern methods.  

Not to be missed is the Cathedral of St. Finbarr, currently an Anglican cathedral built in 1879 upon the site of the original monastic settlement.  The Cathedral is built in the Gothic revival style has three spires and intricate carvings on the exterior.  

Over in the Shandon district, you will find St. Anne’s church overlooking the city.  For quite some time, the clock tower displayed slightly different times on each side.  If you do visit the church, be sure to climb the tower to ring the famous Shandon bells.  

Nearby Cobh is a deep harbor town and in the harbor you will find Spike Island, once the largest prison in the world and the largest ever in Britain or Ireland.  Many Irish convicts sentenced to transportation to Australia were housed beforehand on the notorious Spike Island.  Just a 12-minute ferry ride, Spike island offers over a dozen museums to explore.

Other small towns in County Cork include Kinsale, a foodies delight where an annual Gourmet Festival is held each year, Bantry, and Clonakilty, where a visit to the Michal Collins House and museum is a must see.

1 - Jameson Distillery Middleton 

Jameson is arguably one of the most famous Irish whiskies in the world and no visit to Ireland should go without at least one Irish whiskey experience.  Skip the line at this old distillery, portions of which date to 1795, where your guided tour will take you on an experience tracking the ingredients from field to bottle.  See the kilns, mills, whiskey warehouse and so much more including a tasting experience and a Jameson signature drink. Slainté!

2 - Cork Guided Historical Walking Tour

Visit Cork’s main monuments and learn about the city’s maritime past.  On this one-hour tour through the city center with a local guide, you will learn about Cork’s history as a trading hub for both the transatlantic and the European trade.  Your tour ends at Cork’s famous English Market an important part of the food culture of Cork.

Ten Amazing Things to Do in Cork

©Tourism Ireland

3 - Mizen Head and West Cork

As Van Morrison sang, “from Bantry Bay to Derry Quay” and beyond, Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way stretches 1600 miles and the southwestern portions are every bit as spectacular as the western and northern stretches.  This tour takes you on a scenic experience along this epic route in southwestern Cork to Ireland’s most southwesterly point of Mizen Head.  You will visit the oldest national forest in Ireland, Gougane Barra where you visit the stunning, 19th century Finbarr’s Oratory.  Your day has stops in the vibrant town of Bantry, as well as Clonakilty where you can stroll, shop, visit the pubs or take in a museum.  When in Clonakilty, one museum worth a visit is the Michael Collins House, dedicated to the Irish hero and patriot.

Mizen Head

©Tourism Ireland

4 - Fastnet Rock Lighthouse and Cape Clear Island

Cape Clear Island is Ireland’s moth southerly inhabited island and Padt of the Gaeltacht, the shrinking Irish speaking part of Ireland where you can still find native speakers who speak Irish as part of everyday life.  After a ferry ride across beautiful waters, and arriving on Cape Clear Island, continue by coach to the Cape Clear Heritage Center to learn about the island’s history and rich heritage, including the history of Fastnet Rock.  After enjoying lunch, rebound your ferry to circumnavigate Ireland and Britain’s tallest and widest rock lighthouse, often called the “teardrop” of Ireland; the last glimpse of Ireland so many emigrants saw as they departed across the Atlantic for new lives in America.

Courtesy Yvonne Gordon

5 - Blarney and Cobh from Cork

Home of the Blarney Stone, one of Ireland’s most legendary attractions, no visit to Cork and vicinity can be complete without stopping at Blarney Castle.  Your experience allows plenty of time to explore the castle and gardens, as well as to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone.  Or, take in some shopping next door at the Blarney Woolen Mills, situated in one of Ireland’s oldest and most authentic mills.  Continue on to Cobh, the embarkation point for millions of Irish emigrants where you have free time to explore the town, including a visit the Cobh’s Titanic Experience.

Courtesy Blarney Castle and Gardens

6 - Cork Fab Food Tasting Tour

Satisfy your inner foodie on this three-hour walking tour of Cork’s foodie hotspots where you will experience local Irish cousins as well as pubs.  Your guide takes you off the usual hotspots to meet local producers, visit farmer’s markets, and experience at least six stops with food tastings.

Courtesy Resolute Photography

7 - Cork City Cycle Tour

Discover the evolution of Cork for a Christian settlement to a viking stronghold own this three-hour cycle tour with a local guide who will share much of Cork’s history, heritage, and contributions to the rest of Ireland.  This is a very peaceful cycle ride through parks and green areas and even stopping at a few churches and cathedrals.  

Courtesy of Finn Richards

8 - Titanic Trail Walking Tour

Cork harbor is rich with heritage, among them being many locations directly associated with the Titanic.  As the final stop to pick up passengers before departure across the Atlantic, Cobh is home to a Titanic Experience museum as well as the Cobh Heritage Center that tells the tale of millions of Irish emigrants who departed for America and beyond.  Your guide leads you along many streets and buildings associated with Titanic all while sharing interesting facts about the Titanic and her history with Cobh.

© Tourism Ireland

9 - 3-Hour Cultural Tour Plus of Cobh

Enjoy two experiences in one on this tour.  Your price includes entrance to the Queenstown Heritage Center at any time during the same day, along with joining the Titanic Trail walking tour departing at either a late morning or early afternoon time slot. The Heritage Center is an experience you will not want to miss and traces the history of emigration to America the age of transatlantic liners, and the history of convict transportation to Australia

©Tourism Ireland photographed by Chris Hill

©Tourism Ireland

10 -  Cobh Experience Titanic

Imagine yourself as a passenger on the Titanic as you immerse yourself in the Titanic Experience.  Cobh, known then as Queenstown, was the final stop to pickup passengers before her ill fated journey across the Atlantic.  Stand on the remaining portion of “heartbreak pier” where so many Irish emigrants departed their homeland, never to return.  Experience what life aboard the Titanic was like, depending on your class of passage, and re-live the sinking.  Will you be one of the survivors?  Book your tickets early and online for the best selection of times to visit. 

Other Options

While Cork is best experienced over several days to fully appreciate the area, you can still visit Cork on a day trip from Dublin which delivers of what Cork has to offer. On this first class rail tour departing from Heuston station to Cork where you meet your coach to visit the famed Blarney Castle, followed by a visit to Cobh and the Cobh Heritage Center.