Touring East Cork

While most visitors to Cork head west from the city to places such as Bantry, Skibbereen, and Glengarriff, the county’s eastern towns such as Cobh and Middleton are well worth checking out as well.

Cobh

Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic and the main point of embarkation for the millions of Irish who emigrated to America during the 1800s and early 20th century. There’s also an impressive 19th century cathedral looming over the town.

The town was originally called Queenstown but believing that the name was too British, the authorities adopted Cobh (pronounced ‘cove’) after independence but the name doesn’t actually mean anything in Irish.

You’ll pass Fota Island, which features a luxury hotel, wildlife park, and arboretum on way to Cobh from Cork City.

How to Get Here

Follow the N25 towards Waterford before following the signposts south to Cobh where parking can be problematic due to lack of space for dedicated car parks and narrow streets. A train runs from Kent Station in Cork to Cobh and you’ll be able to enjoy better views of Cork Harbour than you would if driving.

Visitor Information

Cobh Tourist Office – Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, County Cork

Top Reasons to Visit

Cobh Heritage Centre – This museum explores the history of emigration through Cobh and the Queenstown Story in the old town railway station tells the story of the 2.5 million who left for the New World between 1848 and 1950. There are also exhibits on the Titanic and the Lusitania (one of the ships the Titanic was built to compete against) which was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7th, 1975 and most of the 1,198 people who died that day are buried in the town. You’ll find a memorial to their memory on the town quays.

Location: Old Railway Building, Lower Road, Cobh, County Cork

Fota House, Aboretum& Gardens – The original home here was built for the Smith-Barry family in the 1700s who owned the entire island and much of southern Cork. This house was then converted into a grand Regency style country estate by Richard and William Vitruvius Morrison which is carefully maintained to this day. In the gardens, you’ll discover an Italian garden, an arboretum, a Victorian fernery, an orangerie, and a wide variety of magnolias.

Fota gets its name from the Irish phrase ‘Fodte’ which translates as warm soil, a reference to the region’s unusual climate which allows for plants normally only found in the tropics to thrive.

Location: Fota Island, County Cork

Fota Island Wildlife Park – A 70 acre estate which is home to many types of animals such as cheetahs, wallabies, monkeys, zebras, emus, flamingos, kangaroos, and ostriches, and giraffes. The park has developed into an important breeding and conservation centre.

Location: Fota Island, County Cork

Saint Colman’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic) – Standing outside this neo-Gothic church of granite provides you with the best view of the town and makes the steep climb worth the effort. The cathedral was designed by British architect E.W. Pugin in 1869 but was not completed until 1919. There are scenes depicting the history of Christianity, principally Catholicism, in Ireland, starting with Saint Patrick’s arrival.

Location: Cathedral Close, Cobh, County Cork

The Titanic Experience Cobh 123 people left Cobh at 1:30 pm on April 11th, 1912 to board the Titanic from the White Star Line’s offices here which are now an interactive museum detailing the history of the doomed ship.

Location: The Promenade, Cobh, County Cork

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Where to Eat

Gilbert’s Restaurant and Townhouse – Near the cathedral and the waterfront, Gilbert’s is located in a home dating to 1824 and is a popular coffee spot for locals. There’s a café, bar, and restaurant which oozes continental style.

All of the ingredients used are sourced locally and is a good place for a light meal. The carpaccio of beetroot and goat’s cheese fritters or the smoked salmon with feta salad and avocado and honey mustard dressing make fine starters. The venison loin and prawn and mussel linguine are great main course while a good dessert is the white chocolate mousse as is the lemon tart.

There are five large guestrooms available upstairs.

Typical main: €20

Location: 11 Pearse Square, Cobh, County Cork

Midleton

Another town near Cork City (just 12 kilometres away), Midleton is most widely known for its school, Midleton College (which dates to 1696) and its distillery which opened in 1825 and was extensively updated in 1975. This market town is located on the estuary of the Owenacurra River and you’ll and many early 19th century houses throughout.

How to Get Here

The town is located on the N25 eastwards from Cork City and there are both buses and trains to Cork though the bus, a 30 minute journey, stops at the distillery, and are hourly. Trains are frequent, but a 25 minute walk from the distillery.

Top Reasons to Visit

Jameson Experience – The Old Midleton Distillery is housed in numerous impressive 19th buildings and a large waterwheel from that time is still operational today. The pot still is the world’s largest and can hold a massive 145,000 litres. You’ll have the opportunity to volunteer as a whiskey taster at the end of the tour and will even be awarded with a certificate once you’re done. There’s also a café and gift store.

Location: Old Midleton Distillery, Midleton, County Cork

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Accommodation

Castlemartyr Resort – This elegant home dates from the 18th century and includes a both a spa and golf course. There are also self-catering lodges available. A castle from the 1100s stands nearby.

The public rooms are large and gracious and the golf and spa facilities are top class. It is off the tourist trail however and is popular with wedding parties and conferences such as the American Ireland Fund’s 2012 event with guest of honour Bill Clinton.

Rates: €290

Location: Castlemartyr, Midleton, County Cork

Shanagarry

This village has strong Quaker roots with the Ballymaloe House, one of the oldest and most renowned Irish country hotels, the Ballymaloe Cookery School and Gardens, and Stephen Pearce gallery and shop all being run by members of that particular denomination.

How to Get Here

Shanagarry is located an hour from Cork City on the N25 and then the R632. From Midleton, it’s most easily reached on the R629. The bus to Ballycotton from Parnell Place bus station in Cork also passes through the village with the final bus of the day back to the city leaving at a quarter to five.

Top Reasons to Visit

Shanagarry House – William Penn (1644 to 1718) was born here and founded what is now the state of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Penn lived at this house in the centre of town and it remains a private residence. Marlon Brando lived here while he was filming Divine Rapture in Ballycotton during the summer of 1995.

Location: Shanagarry, County Cork

Shopping

Shanagarry Design Centre – This store is operated by the Kilkenny Design Centre and features a gallery, showroom, and café with quality homemade fare. The shop sells the best of Irish silverware, pottery, clothing, and handbags by the country’s top designers. Three artists sells their work from the basements studios.

Location: Shanagarry, County Cork

Stephen Pearce Pottery – Pearce began his career here and has since returned to reopen the pottery studio in Shanagarry where you can book tours in advance and take part in workshops. The earthen tableware is popular and naturally, is available for sale in the shop.

Location: The Old Pottery, Shanagarry, County Cork

Accommodation

Ballymaloe House – There are touches of Georgian elegance about the place which are neatly complimented by the modern Irish artwork hanging on the walls. Though essentially a farmhouse and family home, this hotel has a fantastic restaurant and welcomes kids yet generally remains calm. There’s a glorious sandy beach a short drive away but it’s a bit of a trek on foot, as is the village.

Rates: €230

Location: Shanagarry, County Cork

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