Cork is one of the biggest cities in Ireland and attracts thousands of tourists every year. With its beautiful little highstreet and its cosy Irish pubs, this city has a lot to offer. In this article I have put together a list of the 15 attractions you need to visit in Cork.
Bordering Celtic sea and its rich history means that Spike Island is now a priced heritage tourist attraction. The 103 acres of the island held a monastery in the 7th century which by the 18th century had turned into a fort built to defend an entire nation and the world’s largest prison. Exploring the island will lead to the discovery of 1300 years of history, both grim and incredibly happy. There are numerous museums to visit, but also several picturesque island walks to take and many children friendly areas to explore. The island also doesn’t lack fun cafes and nice restaurants.
Nano Nagle Place
Nano Nangle was the lady who founded the Presentation Order of nuns in 1777. She shaped the lives of many underprivileged through education, community inclusion and spiritual engagement. The Nano Nangle Place is the restored convent & gardens where it all began which now houses a museum, a deli, and a design and gift shop, all which aid in collecting funds to continue Nano Nangle’s work. The old convent is also host to several educational charities. It simply also serves as a haven within the busy city center where people can connect and restore.
The English Market
An 18th century market is a must see for anyone visiting Cork. located in the center of the city, this municipal food market is admired both for its locally produced artisan food as well as the mid-19th century architecture it embodies. The market traders ensure optimum quality produce and becoming a trader is not an easy task, which guarantees a high standard of all items. While the market displays a myriad of options from all over the world, what its most famous for is the fresh fish and butchers, which also supply some of the top restaurants of Cork.
Cork City Gaol
The Cork City Gaol is a former prison, initially built as a replacement to the existing prison of the time, to hold inmates who had committed crimes within the city. After also housing prisoners from the Irish Civil war, the edifice eventually became the house of 6CK, the first official radio station in Cork and continued to hold radio stations. It has been open to the public since 1993, attracting many visitors. Walking through the massive stone walls and visiting one of the prisons deemed as “the finest in 3 kingdoms” at the time is sure to put things into perspective and give you a wonderful day outing.
Blarney Castle and Gardens
This castle built almost 600 years ago, is famous for being able to gift its visitors the power of eloquence upon kissing one of its low-lying walls. The task itself is amusing and will leave you hanging, quite literally. The title of the castle is in fact a word introduced by Queen Elizabeth I. the word “Blarney” is supposed to mean “pleasant talk, intended to deceive without offending”. The castle is surrounded by luscious Irish greenery, which is most definitely a sight to see. From stunning views from the tower to the different chambers to be explored within, there is a lot more to explore than the famous stone.
Ballycotton Cliff Walk
It goes unsaid that Irish landscapes are unlike any other and exploring them by foot is a definite must do when visiting. This may be one of the most famous walks in Cork, so come suited up with appropriate shoes and clothing, because you will want to enjoy this. The walk is between Ballyandreen and Ballycotton and is about a 3.5 km walk one way. It takes you through vistas, folklore stories, and sweet-smelling greenery all year around. The walk is also dotted with benches for anyone to take in the scenery. The path also goes through rocky areas, and you’ll witness views across a cliff which are breathtaking. You will also encounter some picnic areas so be prepared. You will also be able to stop over at the famous Harty’s Bar & Restaurant in Cloyne, serving up fresh, reasonably priced, delicious food. The walk is not advisable for young toddlers or infants due to the sometimes muddy slopes, elders, little children and any adult that doesn’t appreciate a good view will also have a bit to complain about due to the length of the walk.
Located close to the Cork City center and the University College Cork, Fitzgerald Park is home to the Cork Public Museum, attracting anyone who likes to unwind but also serving as a great place for sightseeing. Not only does the 18 acres of park hold statues and sculptures, with paths lined with enormous trees, blooming flower beds and rose gardens, tt also houses a children’s park, a cafe, and is also a great place from which to admire Cork’s famous landmarks such as the old Cork City Gaol, Daly’s Bridge on which you can cross the river and even the Cork County Hall which is Ireland’s 2nd largest building. A walk around the park offers much more than expected.
Technically speaking this is a simple block of Carboniferous limestone set in the tower of Blarney Castle around 1446. However, legend has it that kissing this, gifts one with being able to “deceive without offending”. It involves a goddess from Irish mythology who had bestowed the gift on the builder of the castle who was able to win a lawsuit he was involved in by kissing the now famous stone.
St Fin Barre’s Cathedral
This Anglican Cathedral embodies features of Gothic-Revival architecture in the center of Cork. It dates all the way back to the year 1879 and has been a place of worship since the 7th century. What is particular about this Cathedral is that it is mostly built from local stone sourced from Little Island and Fermoy. The church grounds border the River Lee, making it a delightful place to walk around in too. Apart from the imposing limestone spires and gargoyles to admire, you can find many sculptures, stained glass and mosaics of the time.
This 17th century star fort was originally built on high grounds outside the city walls, but eventually, the city grew around it. It has since then, taken on many roles, including that of military barracks, a prison and even a police station. In 2014 it was turned into a tourism heritage site and people get to experience these massive ramparts. There are also seasonal famous festivals such as the Cork Heritage Open Day, Heritage Week and Culture Night, and other markets held at the fort which makes for a different and interesting location, especially with lights and decorations.
Royal Gunpowder Mills
One of the only three Royal Gunpowder Mills in the United Kingdom, it remains the only one standing and is now listed as an ancient monument. After starting in mid-1850, it quickly developed what was known as “smokeless powder” but as it grew, the powder became obsolete. Since World War II it has become entirely a Defense Research Establishment. The 175 acres it sits on hold 21 buildings of historical importance and visitors can explore the entire area by a land train and see exhibits relating to gunpowder making.
Ballincollig Regional Park
A park which spans over 140 acres, covered in majestic trees and waterways. You will find picturesque walking trails, woodlands to explore where you can let your dog guide you, sports pitches, children’s playground and even an outdoor gym overlooking River Lee. It serves as a great location for a picnic or day getaway for the whole family.
Waterloo Round Tower
This historic affectionately known as a tower is a simple folly built in 1843. It is mostly seen as part of the church and garden near it and serves as the belfry of the church. The area dates to the 12th century and is a symbol of how the original Irish settlers arrived at this area. It is rather peculiar, quite interesting, and instigates curiosity to visit it.
Collins Barracks Museum
Now known as “The National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History” is part of the National Museum of Ireland. It is in the former Collins Barracks. It is home to many exhibitions ranging from fashion and clothing items to exhibits representing the wars the Irish fought in. there’re also collections representing Ireland’s heritage through decorative and applied arts which also showcase Ireland’s political, economic, military and social history. The most recent exhibitions involve contemporary furniture and other designs.
The Butter Museum, as the name suggests, documents the history of butter making in Cork and is adorably housed in the former Cork Butter Market. With the unanimous love for butter, everything about this museum creates anticipation, and gladly, you won’t even have to read the little encryptions to know that anything that shines golden in here is, in fact, butter. You’ll be able to see how it’s made to the fascinating economies of Irish butter travelling all over the world.