Visiting Cork City

Cork may be Ireland’s second city but it is a distant second, with a population of just under 120,000 compared to 1,275,000 in Dublin. The city is a good base for exploring the whole region and is popular with weekend visitors from the continent. Cork has a distinguished pub culture and widespread music scene, both traditional and not, one of Ireland’s leading universities, and a top art gallery. Blarney lies not far away on the R617 where you’ll find the world famous Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone – this journey makes for an excellent day trip.

Cork was once known as the Venice of the north due to the volume or rivers and canals in the city but the vast majority, excluding the River Lee, have not been covered over. The name comes from the Irish for ‘marshy place’. The city dates to the 6th century when it was spread over 13 islands but Cork did not receive its first Royal Charter until 1185, from Prince John of England.

The city became a centre of the butter trade in the 17th and 18th centuries when many of the city’s most impressive buildings were constructed. Up to 1770 Cork’s main streets such as Grand Parade, Patrick’s Street, and South Mall were all submerged under the River Lee which was damned about 1800, creating the island where the centre of the city can be found today.

There are both traditional pubs with Gaelic sports and traditional music as well as clubs and bars catering to the LGBT community, hipsters, and locals all at once.

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How to Spend Your Time in Cork City

You can feasibly explore the main attractions of Cork in half-a-day but to truly appreciate the city, a full day’s exploration is better. The English Market and Crawford Art Gallery – both musts on any visit – are closed on Sunday.

How to Get Here

The journey from Dublin takes less than three hours on the M7 and M8 while it’s about two and a half hours to Shannon Airport with part of the route being motorway. Killarney is 90 minutes away.

Cork’s Bus Station at Parnell Place has services to most major towns and cities in Ireland as well as luggage storage facilities. Trains depart from Kent Station to Dublin Heuston every hour on the half hour and the journey lasts less than three hours.

The city is best explored on foot and if you have brought a car, it’s advisable to find a parking garage or multi-storey car park as street parking can be difficult to come by.

Local buses, such as the No. 8 from outside Patrick Street’s Debenham’s department store will bring you to the university and other locations around the city if you’d rather not walk.

Visitor Information

Cork City Tourist Information Office – Grand Parade, Cork

Top Reasons to Visit

Cork Vision Centre – Located in Saint Peter’s Church, a restored building dating from the 18th century, the Cork Vision Centre offers a look at the history and geography of the city and includes an excellent 1:500 scale model detailing how Cork has grown over the ages.

Location: North Main Street, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Cork City Gaol – This castle-like prison was heavily used to incarcerate those sentenced to deportation to Australia before the convict ship departed – the penalty could be enforced for crimes as simple as stealing bread. It saw many of Ireland’s most famous freedom fighters locked in its cells over the centuries and served as an all-female for a few years before being used as a jail for anti-Free State rebels during the Civil War. Life-sized wax models and sound effects in the cells help to evoke how grim the prison once was.

Following the prison’s closure, it was abandoned for a few years before it became a broadcasting station and the Radio Museum Experience in the Governor’s House looks back at the origin of radio, with artefacts dating back to 1923.

Location: Sunday’s Well Road, Sunday’s Well, Cork City, County Cork

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Crawford Art Gallery –Originally the city’s custom house, this building dates from 1724 and is now Ireland’s principal art gallery outside Dublin. There are permanent exhibitions by 18th and 19th century artists including William Leech Daniel Maclise, James Barry, and Nathaniel Grogan as well as space for visiting exhibitions. There’s also a quality café which is a great place for lunch.

Location: Emmet Place, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

English Market – The English Market is world renowned for a reason, it’s a veritable mecca for foodies who come from the organic fish, local farm produce and more exotic fare including olives from continental Europe and spices from India. The Farmgate café upstairs is excellent.

The market gets its name from the fact that it was built by the city’s Protestant Corporation at a time when Catholics were not allowed to hold public office. When Catholics did finally form a majority on the Corporation they established the rival Irish Market nearby, though that market is a club and bar these days.

During her first State Visit to Ireland in 2011, Queen Elizabeth toured the market and personally met some of the stall holders, some of whom were in turn invited to accompany Irish President Michael D. Higgins on his first State Visit to the UK in 2014.

Location: There are entrances on Grand Parade and Princes Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Patrick Street – Patrick Street runs from Grand Parade in the south to Patrick’s Bridge, which connects to a steep hill on the mainland. The street is Cork’s primary shopping thoroughfare and the focus is on pedestrians rather than cars. There’s everything from local, even unique boutiques to international chain and departments stores. Patrick Street saw some of the heaviest fighting during the War of Independence but there’s no sign of that troubled past here today.

Location: City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Patrick’s Bridge – Standing on the bridge allows you to take in the gentle curve of Patrick Street to the south and the tall yet narrow Georgian houses on Saint Patrick’s Hill to the north as well as the expanse of the River Lee. Steps have been cut into the pavement, such is the steepness of the hill. A redbrick shopping centre nearby recalls the warehouses which once stood in the area, when ships in the butter trade would dock at Merchant’s Quay.

Location: Patrick Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Paul Street – Paul Street runs parallel to Patrick Street and is the main shopping street in former French Quarter where you’ll find the best in contemporary Irish design including jewellery, fashion, and hand-blown glass. The area was originally settled by French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution but today it’s just as well known for the musicians and street performers in Rory Gallagher Piazza – which was named for the late guitarist as his family was from the area.

Location: City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Saint Anne’s Church – This church, with its four sided clock tower and gold-coloured salmon weather vane on top is visible from across the city. The reward for climbing the 37 metre tower is the chance to ring the church bells which were immortalised in the 19th century ballad, the Bells of Shandon. There’s a craft market and performance art centre nearby.

Location: Church Street, Shandon, Cork City, County Cork

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral (Anglican) – A small Gothic cathedral with three spires, the church was finished in 1879 and features a 3,000 pipe organ. Saint Fin Barre is said to have founded Cork near here in 650 CE.

Location: Bishop Street, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Triskel Arts Centre– This is a great place to catch up on the cultural happenings of the city. Several town houses and an old church have been converted for the centre which has demonstrations and events throughout the year.

Location: Tobin Street, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

University College Cork – The grand Doric gates of the university are about two kilometres from the centre of the city and has a student population of 10,000. This progressive institution is part of the National University of Ireland. The main courtyard dates to the 19th century and is modelled on Tudor-Gothic designs similar to many of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge in England.

Near the visitor centre are several Ogham stones still bearing the ancient Irish runes while the Crawford Observatory, which includes a telescope from 1860, has been renovated and is open to the public.

The Honan Collegiate Chapel which, while less than a century old (it was built in 1916), is modelled on early medieval Romanesque architecture such as Cormac’s Chapel at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. This church features Celtic revival stained glass windows, alter furnishings, and other artworks.

There are three modern buildings on the campus such as the Boole Library, named for George Boole – an English professor who taught here and created Boolean algebra, the bases for modern computer science in the 19thcentury, as well as the Boolean research method which is still in use today.

The Lewis Glucksman Gallery stands near the entrance and features art from the college’s own collection as well as contemporary art exhibitions but you’ll find examples of modern Irish art throughout campus both inside and outdoors.

Location: College Road, Western Road, Cork City, County Cork

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Also Worth Exploring

Bishop Lucey Park – This small green space opened in 1985 to mark the 800th anniversary of the awarding of Cork’s first Royal Charter. Part of the city’s original Norman wall was unearthed during construction and is now preserved near the arched entrance. Contemporary sculptures by local artists and displayed throughout the park.

Location: Grand Parade, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Cork Opera House – A fire destroyed the original Cork Opera House and its 1965 replacement is an ugly, concrete affair. Theatrical performances and operas are performed here along with lighter entertainment.

Location: Emmet Place, Lavitt’s Quay, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Court House – An impressive building right at the heart of the city, Cork’s Court House is fronted by a grand Corinthian column portico and was built in 1835, it is still in use today. The exterior has been refreshed and looks just as good as it did in the 19th century.

Location: Washington Street, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Fitzgerald’s Park – Another small park, this one lies along the northern branch of the River Lee to the west of the city. Within you’ll find the Cork Public Museum which is Georgian building now used for exhibits on the city’s origins and history – particularly its role in Ireland’s various struggles against British rule and during the War of Independence and Civil War.

Location: Western Road, Cork City, County Cork

General Post Office – Once used as an opera house, this Neoclassical building with imposing columns out front is by the far the most impressive structure on a street otherwise dominated by antique shops and jewellers.

Location: Oliver Plunkett Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Mardyke – A popular walk along the River Lee, Mardyke connects the city to Fitzgerald Park. As you pass along the path you’ll see a cricket field where games are played during the weekend in summer.

Location: Western Road, Cork City, County Cork

Where to Eat

Café Paradiso – This eatery fuses Mediterranean and Asian foods so well that even meat-lovers are willing to overlook its vegetarian menu. The risottos which come with seasonal vegetables and cheese-flavour pastries get rave reviews as do the homemade desserts while there are daily specials which can include couscous cake, feta, and pistachio. A café-style main dining room is trendy and regularly bustling with locals. There are two bedrooms upstairs if you’re looking to stay the night, rates start from €200 including dinner.

Typical main: €23

Location: 16 Lancaster Quay, Western Road, Cork City, County Cork

Farmgate Café – The Farmgate Café overlooks the English Market from its upstairs terrace and is both crowded and informal. The menu features items made exclusively with the ingredients bought in the market below and there are both self-service and full-serviced table dining options (booking is advised for the latter). Local specialities tripe and drisheen are always available while daily specials can include corned beef and colcannon (a seasoned cabbage and potato offering) and smoked loin of bacon.

Typical main: €14

Location: Over the fountain near the Princes Street entrance, English Market, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Fenn’s Quay – This restaurant is located in the heart of the city on the ground floor of a Georgian house nearly 300 years old. It’s very small but continually draws a reliable crowd of regulars including lawyers and the like from the nearby courthouse during lunch and theatre and moviegoers in the evening.

Fenn’s has somewhat plain décor with typically café-style red chairs but contemporary art on the walls adds character.

The chargrilled steak and chunky chips is incredibly popular and there are great fish options as well. The goat cheese soufflé is another fine option. For dessert, try the chocolate and toffee pots with hazelnuts.

Typical main: €23

Location: Fenn’s Quay, Sheares Street, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Flemings Restaurant – The kitchen garden on the large grounds of this extensive Georgian estate overlooking the River Lee supplies the restaurant where traditional French food is the name of the game. While local ingredients are used, the décor is decidedly continental with plush chairs, crystal chandeliers, and gilt framed mirrors recalling the France of Louis XIV.

West Cork black pudding is served with the pan-fried foiegras for starters – a popular dish with regulars. The grilled monkfish with basil oil dressing and red wine sauce is another speciality as is the beef fillet with wild mushrooms.

There are special rates available if you choose to stay here as well as dine.

Typical main: €28

Location: Silver Grange House, Lower Glanmire Road, Tivoli, Cork City, County Cork

Isaacs – There’s a fun and informal air to this spacious brasserie in a converted 18th century warehouse where you’ll find high ceilings, low jazz, and modern art on the walls. The food fuses Mediterranean and Eastern dishes using locally sourced produce which was a bold idea when Isaacs first opened in 1992.

Good choices from the menu include black pudding with potato pancake, crispy duck confit with potato puree and caramleised shallots, and king prawns tempura which comes with wasabi, eggplant, scallions, picked ginger, and soy sauce for dipping. It’s a good idea to book if you plan to visit on Friday or Saturday evening.

Typical main: €18

Location: 48 MacCurtain Street, City Centre North, Cork City, County Cork

Ivory Tower The grim exterior masks a delightful, eclectic restaurant with touches of Japanese and Mexican cooking. Top choices include the wild duck with jalapenos, vanilla, and sherry or the pheasant tamale. There are also innovative twists on Irish classics such as the monkfish and barley risotto. The rather bland décor is more than made up for by the food and the fact that American-born chef Seamus O’Connell frequently delivers his creations to your table personally.

An eight course €60 tasting menu gives you a great idea of the range and versatility of the menu.

Typical main: €60

Location: Princes Street, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Jacques – It’s easy to overlook this restaurant on a small side street even though it is one of the city’s finest places to dine. Though there’s no natural light, the eatery is warm and welcoming with a stylish art deco bar. All food served here is locally sourced and a great starter is the chicken with fennel and orange salad while the roast duck with apricot sauce, red cabbage, and potato stuffing makes for a superb main course.

There’s a two course dinner menu available for €24.

Location: Phoenix Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork (off Oliver Plunkett Street, near the General Post Office)

Les Gourmandises – Though small, this restaurant basks in natural light thanks to its high ceilings and skylight. Chef Pat Kiely has trained with the likes of Marco Pierre White, Patrick Guilbaud, and John Burton Race which has left him with intimate knowledge of contemporary French cooking. One of the best choices from the menu is the roasted cod fillet with foiegras, sherry vinegar dressing, and lentils while another is the roasted pork with black pudding, confit potatoes, baked apple, and sage sauce.

There are good value set menus before 9:30 pm on weekdays and from 6 pm to 7 pm on Saturdays.

Typical main: €27

Location: 17 Cook Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Long Valley This pub is popular with artists, students, and writers among other with an interior that recalls the early 1900s and some of the wooden booths were made from salvaged materials of sunk ships. It’s a good place for lunch with good sandwiches, soups, and salads.

Typical main: €5

Location: Winthrop Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Market Lane Restaurant and Bar – There’s a long mahogany bar but that’s the only testament to this venue’s former life as a pub. A bistro-style eatery, the Market Lane features wooden top tables and art deco flourishes to create a Parisian aesthetic while light floods in through large windows. The modern Irish meals on the menu are focused on comfort food with many of the ingredients sourced at the English Market.

Great choices include the venison, pheasant, and wild boar pie and braised ox stew which is served with smoked bacon and thyme mash. The cod with leeks and sausages coasted in a creamy mustard sauce and served with colcannon are other fine options. There are also plenty of meals for vegetarians.

Typical main: €16

Location: 5/6 Oliver Plunkett Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Strasbourg Goose Restaurant –There are of course tables in the high ceilinged dining room but there’s an upstairs balcony and during the summer, providing the weather’s agreeable, tables are also placed outside.

The interior décor is rather eccentric but that only adds to the charm of the place which offers surprisingly good value meals. There are daily specials such as duck breast and twice-cooked lamb as well as a slightly more expensive €20 evening menu.

Typical main: €15

Location: 17/18 French Church Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Accommodation

Ambassador Hotel – Originally built as a Victorian nursing home, the Ambassador offers a great view of the city and has great character, even if there are trendier and more luxurious hotels elsewhere in the city.

The décor can be somewhat jarring and there’s a tough walk uphill from the city centre to reach this hotel.

Rates: €90

Location: Military Hill, Saint Luke’s, City Centre North, Cork City, County Cork

Clarion Hotel Cork –Located in the city’s docklands overlooking the Lee, this hotel features stylish rooms for a good price. There isn’t a great deal of car park spaces available however, and not much happens in the area at night while some rooms only have a view of the internal atrium.

Rates: €160

Location: Lapp’s Quay, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Gabriel House This hotel is located in a Victorian home in a peaceful neighbourhood and offers fantastic value and lots of charm as well as helpful, pleasant staff. The hotel is some distance uphill however, and some rooms are tiny.

Rates: €80

Location: Summerhill North, Saint Luke’s Cross, Montenotte District, Cork City, County Cork

Garnish House – Two Victorian townhouses make up this establishment which offers old-fashioned customer service for a genuine Irish experience with a warm welcome from owner-managing Johanna Lucey. Rooms book up early even though it’s about as far from stylish and hip as you can get and it’s located on a major road which is often busy.

Rates: €88

Location: Western Road, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Hayfield ManorThere are touches of both 19th century grandeur and modern comfort about this hotel which is stylish and offers good value for money considering the luxury of the rooms. The views are nothing to boast about however, and it’s an uninteresting 15 minute walk into the city centre or a bus or taxi ride.

Rates: €179

Location: College Road and Perrott Avenue, Western Road, Cork City, County Cork

Hotel Isaacs Cork – Formerly a city centre warehouse, this hotel attracts regular guests and offers old world charm as well as easy access to both the city’s bus and train station. The road outside is busy and there’s only limited car parking available. Signs of wear and tear are also evident.

Rates: €110

Location: 48 MacCurtain Street, City Centre North, Cork City, County Cork

Imperial Hotel – Michael Collins, a general in the Irish Free State army and one of the men who signed the Anglo Irish Treaty which led to British withdrawal from Ireland, spent his final night at this hotel before being killed in an ambush during the Civil War. The hotel itself dates from 1813 but the newer rooms tend to be larger and quieter. It’s right at the heart of the city but views are limited and there’s no on-site parking.

Rates: €140

Location: South Mall, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Lancaster Lodge – This hotel offers free parking in the city-centre and is located between the shopping area and the university. There’s no bar or wine license but rooms are good value.

Rates: €96

Location: Lancaster Quay, Western Road, Cork City, County Cork

Nightlife

Bierhaus– There’s a DJ on Saturday and a poker night each Tuesday plus an extensive world-beer selection all week long.

Location: Pope’s Quay, Shandon, Cork City, County Cork

Charlie’s Bar – If, for whatever reason, you find yourself wanting a pint at 7:30 am, you’ll find the doors to Charlies Bar open from then every day except Sunday when it opens at 12:30 pm. There are nightly music sessions and traditional Irish performances from 3 pm on Sundays.

Location: 2 Union Quay, South Docklands, Cork City, County Cork

Corner House – The regular says that this is Cork’s best local pub but either way, there are folk, Irish, and Cajun music performances from Thursday until Sunday.

Location: 7 Coburg Street, City Centre North, Cork City, County Cork

Counihan’s – Another great place for music of both the traditional Irish and Latin rhythm varieties. There’s also a classical string quartet performance from midday on Sunday.

Location: 11 Pembroke Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Franciscan Well Brewery – A microbrewery which has received numerous awards. It’s popular and has a heated beer garden too.

Location: North Mall, Shandon, Cork City, County Cork

The Oliver Plunkett – There’s live music each night featuring genres such as blues, rock, soul, swing, and traditional.

Location: 116 Oliver Plunkett Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

The Pavilion – The Pavilion opens late and offers live entertainment and DJs from Thursday to Sunday.

Location: 13 Careys Lane, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

The Savoy – This venue opens between Thursday and Saturday from 11 pm until the early morning and music performances in the main room from Ireland and abroad as well as DJ sets and comedy acts in the foyer.

Location: Patrick Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Sin é – This establishment, pronounced Shin-ay meaning ‘that’s it’, has live Irish music on traditional instruments such as the banjo, bodhran, fiddle, and flute.

Location: 8 Coburg Street, City Centre North, Cork City, County Cork

The Arts

Cork Opera House – The main centre for touring theatre, dance, comedy, and music troupes in Cork.

Location: Lavitt’s Quay, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

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Everyman Palace Theatre – A midsized theatre with Victorian interior design which hosts theatrical productions regularly.

Location: 15 MacCurtain Street, City Centre North, Cork City, County Cork

The Lavit Gallery – The arts and crafts of the members of the Cork Arts Society are displayed here as well as works by other artists from elsewhere in Ireland.

Location: 5 Father Mathew Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork (off the South Mall)

Wandesfort Quay Gallery – The students and staff of the Crawford College of Art and Design display their work at this ground floor exhibition space.

Location: Wandesfort Quay, Washington Village, Cork City, County Cork

Shopping

Fashion

Brocade and Line – This store sells high fashion clothing in styles from the ‘40s through to the ‘70s in a restored Victorian townhouse.

Location: 4 Cornmarket Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Department Stores

Brown Thomas –The most upmarket of Ireland’s department stores, Brown Thomas sells fashion, jewellery, and more by top rated Irish and international designers. There’s also a good selection of crystal goods and a café and coffee shop.

Location: 18-21 Patrick Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Debenham’s – This is the city’s largest department store and part of the UK retail chain. It occupies an impressive building on middle of Patrick Street which is topped by a glass dome.

Location: 12-17 Patrick Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Marks & Spencer – Another British chain, M&S’s food store sells most own-branded goods some of which is great for picnics. There’s also a good quality clothing department and home-ware section.

Location: 6-8 Patrick Street, Merchant’s Quay, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Shopping Centres

Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre – There are numerous stores in this large, well situated mall in the city centre beside the River Lee.

Location: Merchant’s Quay, 1-5 Patrick Street, Cork City, County Cork

Opera Lane – Many high street retailers including Gap and Tommy Hilfiger operate stores at this covered shopping centre in the middle of Cork between Patrick Street and the city’s Opera House.

Location: Patrick Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Antiques

Diana O’Mahony – One of the best antique dealers for jewellery in Cork.

Location: 8 Winthrop Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Meadows & Byrne – This fine upmarket store sells the latest in contemporary Irish home design including furniture, cookware, crystal, and more.

Location: 22 Academy Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Stokes Fine Clocks and Watches – Crammed with antique timekeepers you might also find other trinkets such as barographs which are used to test atmospheric pressure.

Location: 48B MacCurtain Street, City Centre North, Cork City, County Cork

Books

Connolly’s Bookshop – There’s a broad variety of both new and second-hand books at this store which specialises in Irish interest titles.

Location: Paul Street Piazza, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Vibes & Scribes – With a good range of new, second-hand, and discount titles, Vibes & Scribes has amassed a loyal clientele who shop here regularly. There are large sections dedicated to music and Irish interest books.

Location: 21 Lavitt’s Quay, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Waterstones – Part of the UK chain, Waterstone’s is Cork’s largest bookshop and sells a broad selection of new fiction and nonfiction titles, including many books published in Ireland.

Location: 69 Patrick Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Clothing

The Dressing Room – Located across the road from the Cork Opera House, this store sells upmarket evening and business clothing.

Location: 4 Emmet Place, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Kuyichi – This international chain store puts the focus squarely on sustainable living and is located in a grand period house.

Location: 19 Opera Lane, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Monica John – Most of the clothes sold here are designed locally but there are some international lines as well.

Location: French Church Street, Cork City, County Cork

Quills – Quality Irish made clothing for both men and women is this store’s focus.

Location: 107 Patrick Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Samui – The apparel here may be eccentric but tends to be flattering and comes from Ireland and Europe.

Location: 17 Drawbridge Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Jewellery

Designworks Studio – This store is popular locally for its contemporary, innovative jewellery.

Location: Cornmarket Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

The Swiss Gem – This store specialises in engagement rings and custom crafted gold jewellery.

Location: 20 Plunkett Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Music

Pro Musica – This shop sells classical music instruments and sheet music.

Location: 20 Oliver Plunkett Street, City Centre South, Cork City, County Cork

Blarney

Located just 10 kilometres outside Cork City, Blarney is home to the famous Blarney Stone and castle. Getting ‘the gift of the gab’ by kissing the stone is why most visitors come here.

How to Get Here

Use the N22 and then the N20 roads to get here, the journey will take about 20 minutes and there is a large, free car park. Buses depart from Parnell Place in Cork and drop visitors off at the village green which is right beside the castle and craft shops. There are no trains to Blarney but taxis will make the journey from Cork.

Visitor Information

Blarney Tourist Office – Blarney, County Cork

Top Reasons to Visit

Blarney Castle A 15th century keep stands at the heart of this estate and it’s here, at the top of 127 steps, that you’ll find the famed Blarney Stone. In order to kiss the stone you need to lie down and tilt your head way back. Staff will secure you and there’s a cage around the stone in any case.

Expect queues after midday, particularly during the summer. The stone is said to have gotten its name when the Lord of Blarney, Cormac MacCarthy, used vague excuses to fend off the requests of Queen Elizabeth I to hand over the castle, leading the monarch to reportedly say “this is all Blarney. What he says he rarely means.”

There are plenty of legends about the stone, all of which are almost certainly false, with some linking it to biblical events and characters or mythological spirits while others claim it was originally part of the Stone of Scone, used in the crowning of British monarchs to this day. Analysis of the stone suggest its origin is local, however.

The gardens surrounding the castle were landscaped in the 18th century and include a yew grove where druidic worship is believed to have taken place. There’s also a Rock Close of standing stones and one of Ireland’s only poison gardens – containing rare and dangerous plants.

Location: Village Green, Blarney, County Cork

Where to Eat

Blairs Inn – A five minute drive from the village, this is quiet place to escape from the busloads of tourists in Blarney. You can dine in the bar or the quieter restaurant though the former option is cheaper. There’s also a pleasant beer garden to take advantage of during the summer and a fire burning at the hearth in winter.

The food is made from locally sourced produce and is served in large portions. The corned beef with parsley sauce, gratin with prawns, salmon, and crab, and Irish lamb stew are all excellent choices. Live entertainment is held every Monday in the bar between May and October from 9 pm.

Typical main: €24

Location: Cloghroe, County Cork

Accommodation

Blarney Castle Hotel – Located on the village green not far from the castle, this hotel dates to 1837 and offers a good base for touring and a quieter alternative to Cork City. There’s also a restaurant and full bar on site though the latter can be crowded, particularly on Sundays. Some rooms have poor views.

Rates: €100

Location: Blarney Village Green, Blarney, County Cork

The White House Bed and Breakfast Blarney –The White House bungalow accommodation is a five minute walk from Blarney and offers a decent, if distant, view of the castle from the front. The rates are reasonable and the rooms are comfortable while the breakfasts are home-cooked, it’s not particularly stylish, however.

Rates: €70

Location: Shean Lower, Barney, County Cork

Shopping

Craft Stores

Blarney Woollen Mills – There are several craft and souvenir shops in Blarney but this is the biggest and most well stocked. You’ll find top of the range fashion, handmade Aran jumpers, and tacky leprechaun knickknacks all under one roof.

Location: Village Green, Blarney, County Cork

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