County Cork is located in the Southwest of Ireland. It is Ireland’s largest county in terms of area and contains the island’s third largest city, Cork City. The county is home to over half a million people, while Cork City itself counts 210,000 in its population. Much of County Cork is dominated by the Atlantic Ocean. Cork is easily accessible from the rest of Ireland and by ferry and air with Cork Airport outside Cork City and Shannon Airport outside Limerick City accessible via the N20 route.
Its residents sometimes call their native county the People’s Republic of Cork, and Cork City, the Real Capital — and with good reason: they are proud of a city that can rival anything that Dublin has to offer, whether arts, culture, food or anything else.
By virtue of its size, the county offers almost the complete Irish visitor experience. In the west of the county, Cork’s three peninsulas into the Atlantic offer a magnificent coastline with lively seaside villages. The east of the county allows the tourist to experience the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Cork city’s social and cultural scene, and Cork’s historic past.
Development over the past couple of decades in Cork city have produced some of the best new buildings, bars and arts centres in the country, while at the same time maintained the traditional cosy pubs with live music sessions, mouth-watering artisan produce in an ever-expanding list of restaurants, and the genuine welcome from the locals.
Top Attractions in County Cork
Allihies Copper Mine Museum – Beara, West Cork, Allihies – Museum dedicated to the history of the copper mines in the Allihies area.
Bantry House and Gardens – Bantry – The Hutchinson family built a mansion on the shore of Bantry Bay c1740. The house was enlarged in 1765 by the White family. Many treasures can be viewed, extensive art collection and tapestries.
Blarney Castle – Blarney – Blarney Castle was built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, and has been attracting attention beyond Munster ever since.
Blarney Woodland Farm – Blarney – Set in picturesque River Martin Valley. There is a Nature Trail along the top of the valley overlooking meadow, woodland and wilderness. Silka deer, goats, fowl and general farm animals on site.
Blarney Woollen Mills – Blarney Woollen Mills, Blarney – Visit the Blarney Woollen Mills store in Blarney, Cork or shop online for Irish gifts and gifts from Ireland. As stockists of Irish sweaters, Aran Sweaters, Claddagh Celtic Jewellery, Waterford Crystal Gifts, Irish Belleek and a whole host of traditional Irish gifts.
Church of Saint Anne Shandon – Church Street, Shandon, Cork City, cork-city-centre – Visit the Church of St. Anne Shandon, play the famous Bells of Shandon, view our city from our viewing balcony and look at our selection of Ancient Books. Take some time out to relax Body, Mind and Spirit in our Old Church (1722)
Cobh: The Queenstown Story – Cobh Heritage Centre – Cobh Heritage Centre, Cobh Harbour, Cobh – Between the 1840s and the mid-20th century, close to 6 million people emigrated from Ireland – 2.5 million of those left via Cobh. The Cobh Heritage Centre tells the history of Cobh and of those who left Ireland’s shores from this important port town.
Cork City Gaol – Convent Avenue, Sunday’s Well, Cork City – This prison housed 19th Century prisoners, often in wretched conditions. Furnished cells, amazingly lifelike characters, sound effects and fascinating exhibitions allow the visitor to experience day to day life for prisoners and gaoler.
Cork Museum – Fitzgerald Park, Cork City – Located on the Mardyke, the Museum at Fitzgerald Park houses a collection of some of the memories of Cork’s commercial, political, historical, ancient history, old glass, coins and general local memorabilia.
Doneraile Wildlife Park – Doneraile, Mallow – Doneraile Wildlife Park is a landscaped park dating to the 18th century of approximately 166 hectares in size. There are a number of walking routes and paths throughout the park, the longest circuit measuring around 5km in length. Deer and other wildlife.
English Market – St. Patrick’s Street, Cork City – Situated in the heart of Cork City, the English Market is a roofed food market and has been trading since 1788. Developed and still owned by Cork City Council, the Market is one of the oldest municipal markets of its kind in the world.
Fota Wildlife Park – Fota Island, Carrigtwohill, Fota – Fota Wildlife Park is an ideal family day out. Come face to face with over 90 species of exotic wildlife. Appreciate endangered animals such as cheetahs, oryx and lion tailed macaques in tranquil surroundings and see conservation in action.
Schull Planetarium – Schull – Spectators can see an amazingly realistic and accurate reproduction of the star studded night sky.
Skibbereen Heritage Centre – Old Gasworks Building, Upper Bridge Street, Skibbereen – Skibbereen Heritage Centre, located in the beautifully restored Old Gasworks building features two main exhibitions. The Great Famine Exhibition commemorates this period of Irish history using the latest in multimedia technology.
The Cobh Museum – High Road, Cobh – Cobh Museum is housed in former Scots Presbyterian Church on the main road into Cobh from Cork. Its many exhibits relate to Cobh’s long maritime history. Artefacts include grim reminders of the Lusitania disaster, model boats and ships, and mementos of a Cobh lady of the early 19th century.
The Mizen Head Signal Station Visitor Centre – Goleen, Mizen Head – ‘The Mizen Vision!’ Visitor Centre in the Keeper’s house and the Engine Room, the famous suspension bridge, the 99 steps and the views up the South and the West coasts, combined with the exhilaration and excitement of the wild atlantic waves and ancient tortured rocks, guarantee a unique and authentic experience.
The Old Midleton Distillery – Distillery Walk, Midleton – A tour of The Old Midleton Distillery is a journey through the story of Irish whiskey via an audio-visual presentation which is available in six languages. Follow the old distillery trail through mills, maltings, corn stores, stillhouse, warehouses and kilns.
Timoleague Abbey – Timoleague – Stands picturesquely at the waters edge in Timoleague. It was founded in 1240 during the reign of Edward III for the friars of St Francis.
Titanic Experience Cobh – White Star Line Building, 20 Casement Square, Cobh – Titanic Experience Cobh is a new permanent visitor attraction in Cobh. Titanic Cobh is situated in the original offices of The White Star Line, the location marks the departure point for the last 123 passengers who boarded the Titanic.
West Cork Heritage Centre – Bandon – This is housed in the former Christ Church on North Main Street in Bandon. A unique exhibition in which visitors are transported through time to experience Bandon town as it was in times past.
West Cork Model Railway Village – The Station, Inchydoney Road, Clonakilty – The West Cork Model Railway Village is the first of its kind in Ireland. It allows the visitor to experience the sights and sounds of life in West Cork during the 1940s. Situated beside the picturesque Clonakilty Bay, the Model Village depicts, in miniature, life and industry in West Cork as they were 50 years ago.
Youghal Heritage Town – Tourist Information Centre, Market Square, Youghal – Youghal, where the past meets the present at the mouth of the River Blackwater. It is one of the best examples of a Norman walled port in Ireland today, combined with a modern seaside resort.
Events and Festivals in County Cork
West Cork Chamber Music Festival: The West Cork Chamber Music Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2020 and welcomes a stellar line-up including four great Quartets, Pacifica, Signum, Doric and Dudok, violinists Vadim Gluzman, Alina Ibragimova, Nurit Stark, Rosanne Philippens
The West Cork Literary Festival is a week-long festival in July that welcomes a star-studded cast of writers to Bantry, Co Cork.
Main Destinations in County Cork
Cork City is the country’s second city and has always been an important seaport. Today, the River Lee flows through the city in 2 main channels, so that you find yourself constantly crossing bridges. Some of the main streets are built over channels where ships nuzzled their anchor chains a century ago.
Other Towns and Villages in County Cork
Bantry is a mecca for visitors with its well laid out square. Its attraction lies in its beauty and location and its variety of hotels, restaurants, craft shops, hostels and pubs. Breathtaking views of the bay urges one to pause and admire one of the most beautiful and historic areas of West Cork.
Baltimore is a maritime port with glorious breath-taking scenic views, fishing, sailing, sea-angling and relaxation. Take a stroll around this charming village or take the ferry to Cape Clear Island or Sherkin Island, only a short distance away.
Blarney is situated six miles from the city, this was once a thriving manufacturing village, but now survives mainly on the tourist trade. Blarney castle was built in the middle of the 15th Century by Cormac McCarthy.
Clonakilty is a busy market town located near to several popular seaside resorts such as Inchadoney and Owenahincha. Fine 19th century mill buildings have been adapted for modern use, and now house the town library and County Council offices.
Cobh is seated on the ancient island called Barrymore, but now the Great Island. It is built on a hill and the pyramid effect of the houses rising one above the other, produce a most appealing appearance. There are truly wonderful views of the harbour from the hills above the town.
Kinsale, with its Georgian houses and gourmet restaurants, is a perfect example of how an Irish town can represent both historical and modern Ireland. In its chequered history it was invaded by both the Spanish and the British.
Macroom, a market town, was quite famous as the home of the hooded cloak, a mode of local dress.
Mallow, a thriving and prosperous market centre, is the largest town along the lovely Blackwater Valley, and a good centre from which to explore that river and many interesting locations in the neighbourhood.
Midleton is the home of Irish Distiller’s and Jameson Heritage Centre where the world famous Jameson is distilled. A fine thriving town with excellent shopping and restaurant/bar facilities.
Rosscarbery is a little town nestling snugly on the side of a hill and openly showing its welcome with its neatly designed town square and the genuine welcome from its inhabitants. After strolling through the town, you might like to visit one of the many beaches.
Schull‘s internationally known sailing centre is an attraction which serves to bring visitors from all parts, there are regular weekend races for cruisers and dinghies. There are local restaurants serving the best in fresh seafood dishes and a variety of craft shops and pubs.
Skibbereen is a bustling market town well worth visiting. Its varied pubs, restaurants, shopping and craft outlets combine to make your visit a most interesting and memorable experience.
Youghal, once a busy textile centre, is now one of Cork’s most popular seaside resorts. It is one of the most historic and interesting towns in Ireland being situated at the mouth of the Blackwater. There is a promenade leading to a magnificent 8 km beach.
Popular locations to stay in Co. Cork are Adrigole (1 place to stay), Allihies (2), Ballycotton (1), Ballylickey (2), Baltimore (3), Bandon (1), Bantry (10), Blarney (5), Carrigaline (2), Castletownbere (5), Castletownshend (1), Charleville (1), Clonakilty (9), Cork City (16), Dunmanway (1), Durrus (2), Eyeries (1), Fermoy (2), Glengarriff (6), Innishannon (2), Kilbrittain (2), Kinsale (14), Little Island (1), Macroom (4), Mallow (3), Midleton (2), Monkstown (1), Rosscarbery (1), Schull (1), Shanagarry (1), Skibbereen (6), Timoleague (2), Tivoli (1), Union Hall (1), Youghal (6).
Other towns include Aghada, Ardfield, Ardgroom, Ballinacurra, Ballinascarty, Ballincollig, Ballineen, Ballingeary, Ballinhassig, Ballinspittle, Ballyclough, Ballydehob, Ballygarvan, Ballyhea, Ballymacoda, Ballyvolane, Ballyvourney, Banteer, Beara, Bere Island, Buttevant, Bweeng, Cape Clear, Carrigrohane, Carrigtwohill, Castlehaven, Castlelyons, Castlemartyr, Castletownroche, Cecilstown, Cloghroe, Cloyne, Cobh, Courtmacsherry, Crookhaven, Crookstown, Crosshaven, Doneraile, Drimoleague, Dripsey, Farran, Fota, Garryvoe, Glandore, Glanmire, Glanworth, Glenville, Glounthaune, Goleen, Inchydoney, Kanturk, Killeagh, Kilworth, Ladysbridge, Leap, Lissarda, Millstreet, Mitchelstown, Mizen Head, Newmarket, Ovens, Passage West, Rathcormac, Ringaskiddy, Riverstick, Shanballymore, Tower, Watergrasshill.
Getting Here and Around
Cork Airport is located 6 km south of the city centre, with scheduled flights to the UK and continental Europe. There is a regular bus service between the airport and city, and several car hire options at the airport.
The port of Ringaskiddy is 11 km south of the city, and offers limited ferry services to France. Rosslare Europort is accessible via the N25 route.
City bus services serve Cork City and much of its suburbs. There are also long distance bus services to most major cities and towns in Ireland.
There is an hourly rail service connecting Cork’s Kent station with Heuston Station in Dublin, with options to connect to services to Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Galway. There are also commuter services to Cobh and Fota Island.
More detailed information on getting to and around County Cork can be found in our Co. Cork Transport Guide.