Welcome to Cork, Irelands second city, the largest county in the land and home to some of Irelands loudest and proudest personalities. It is close to the beginning of The Wild Atlantic Way. The locals or ‘Corkonians’ as they like to be known frequently refer to their homeland as ‘the People’s Republic of Cork’ with Cork city at the centre of the action. It’s true though, things work a little differently down south, the accent is stronger, the tempo is slower, the weather is ‘better’ and the craic mightier. As a once upon a time local myself and an honorary Corkonian, here are some of my secret insider tips on how to spend your 24 hours in the southern capital. With so much to see and do as well as the city being a gateway to the beautiful West Cork and Wild Atlantic Way, it’s unlikely one day will be enough in this vibrant but friendly city.
24 hours in Cork, here’s my recommendations….
‘The early bird, catches the worm…’, we are all familiar with this early morning jingle, but when we have so much to do in such little time, you will thank yourself you started early. After a filling Irish breakfast, you will be ready for whatever the day throws you.
Mornings in Cork can be simply glorious, the deserted city streets can be all yours as you ascend the famous St Patricks Hill. This highly recommended 10-minute climb from the centre of the city offers almost San Francisco like views of the city below. Sit for a few moments and watch the sun rise as the city below begins to stir.
If you haven’t heard the familiar Shandon Bells chime and ring out over the city yet, you can ring them yourself. Climb the impressive 132 steps, look out over the city, check out the inside workings of the ‘four faced liar’ (a troublesome clock, which deceives many a tourist) and pull on the ropes to ring the 18th century bells in the belfry high above.
Feel like an academic as you explore the beauty of University College Cork, established in 1845 and former home to the famous mathematician George Boole (developer of the algebra and one of the people to thank for modern day computer programming).
Meander through the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, learn the rich history of the campus and get your photo taken in front of the iconic quadrangle where you will feel as if you are on the set of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts (a pure delight for both young and old).
Lunch Time 1pm
You’ll be only wanting some brain food after your excursion to the University, so what a better place to go than the English Market. Located in the centre of the city, you won’t have too far to walk to get here. From cheeses to chocolates, fruit and veg to fish, this one-of-a-kind destination and proudly takes its place among the best food markets in Europe.
Early Afternoon 2pm
For such a compact city, Cork truly packs its weight in terms of things to see and do for all ages. Depending on your mood and interests you can choose between the following recommendations, all are within a relative stone throw of the city.
Take a short bus trip to beautiful Blarney Castle, nestled just to the north of the city and gaze up in awe at the wonderful castle and gardens. Built over 600 years ago by one of Irelands great chieftains, the castle is home to the blarney stone or the more impressive mythical stone of Eloquence, to kiss it is said to grant the giver the famed gift of the gab. You will never be stuck for words again.
If you’re looking for something out of this world, take the bus to Blackrock (not mars) and visit the Observatory of the same name. Explore the cosmos in the new award-winning exhibition and learn all about the wonders of the solar system and beyond. The night-time sky that you once knew will never be the same.
If you or your little ones have an interest in exotic wildlife, take a short hop on the train to visit the fantastic Fota wildlife park. Walk amongst animals from all over the world here at one of Cork’s top tourist attractions.
Less than 10 minutes further from Fota (again on the train line) is the harbour town of Cobh, home to the beautiful Cathedral and famed as the last port of call of the ill-fated Titanic. The town is now home to both a memorial garden for the 1,503 victims and a world class visitor centre where you can learn all about life onboard, once the largest ship on the seas.
If these seem like a little too much exertion, why not wander the narrow pedestrian streets of the Huguenot quarter (called after the wave of persecuted French protestants who settled here in the 17th century). Grab a coffee, and feel time fly as you people watch on the wide sweeping main thoroughfare of Patrick Steet, locally referred to as ‘Pana’. Before you know it, you will have fallen in love with Cork.
After such an eventful day, your tummy is sure to be rumbling once more. Cork is one of the most gastronomic locations in Ireland and you are sure to find something here for all tastes and palates.
I bet you didn’t expect that Cork is the proud home to the voted best vegetarian restaurant in Europe- Café Pardiso. If you are feeling pretty adventurous, check out the traditional food offerings of Spiced beef, Drisheen or Tripe.
If you wish for an even more artisan authentic local Corkonian experience, choose between KC’s or Lennoxs, both of whom take the humble spud as so much more and turn it into something fit for kings. The queues are testament to my every word in relation to this. Everyone has their favourite (I’m going to keep mine to myself) but trust me you will want to check out one of these two historic, solely Cork establishments.
As night closes in, on this southern Capital, the streets come alive. The city has always had a rich and colourful cultural scene and this has only grown more since the city played host to the European Capital of Culture in 2005.
Be it theatre you’re after, check out the line-up for the Opera House or the Everyman. For live music, your best bet will be Cypress Avenue. For some local brews, it’s worth checking out the Franciscan well or Rising Sons micro-brewery with its great variety of local craft beers.
For a night that turns into the early morning, a personal recommendation would be the Crane Lane. Here you will meet some of the most colourful and friendliest people ever to meet on a night out. Just remember your real outdoor cycling adventure begins tomorrow….but don’t let that stop you, you can always add one more day!!! I told you one would unlikely be enough. ?
For more information on Cycling in West Cork, the Wild Atlantic Way or any other of our hiking or cycling routes in Ireland, don’t hesitate to get in touch.