Written by larapiegeler
A buzzing core of life tangled around a central island in the River Lee, surrounded by luxuriantly green countryside, Cork is the third largest city in Ireland after Dublin and Belfast. It's a major port (and great for seafood) due to its proximity to the river mouth, and its colourful, turbulent history has been shaped by its large role in global trade networks as well as by destructive Viking invaders, sixth century monks, religious conflicts and the War of Independence, among other significant events.
We found it to be a friendly, upbeat place with a sensitive blend of heritage and progress; it has a reputation as a thriving cultural centre and a string of vibrant arts events stretches across the annual agenda, so it's worth timing your trip to coincide with on – perhaps the Midsummer Festival, or the Kinsale Festival of Fine Food in October.
The laid-back, comfy environment of Hayfield Manor was our base in Cork; it's located towards the western edge of the city centre, and is only a ten-minute walk from town via a little, hedgerow-skirted, riverside path or (even quicker) down College Road past the spectacular Saint Finbarre's Cathedral – a site of worship since the Middle Ages. It's worth a peek as you wander by.
After a morning shopping in Cork on our first day, we gravitated towards the covered, Jacobean English Market to pick and choose enough fresh, local takeaway snacks to add up to lunch. Have some tripe and drisheen if you dare...
Just eight kilometres away from Cork is Blarney Castle – easy to reach by Bus Eireann (as are most places roundabout), and the ideal place to indulge in a little exploration of Irish legend and magic. The garden's features are classically romantic, mapped out using mystical names such as 'The Witch Stone', and there is said to be a herd of enchanted cows and a set of wishing steps as well as the celebrated Blarney Stone, the origin of which has never quite been agreed upon, though its powers draw thousands of visitors in for an eloquence-imparting kiss every year.
Book a table by the window back at Jacob's Ladder Restaurant in Cork's WatersEdge Hotel for dinner.
Before heading home, we spent a day in Kinsale. Even when the Autumn food festival isn't in full swing, it's a refreshing, bright boating resort and its latticework of tiny streets lined with pastel-coloured fishermen's cottages, gift shops and cafes is a hive of tourist activity during the Summer months. You can go on a cruise across the harbour and watch the whales and dolphins, explore the brewery, walk all the way to James Fort or enjoy some fresh, locally-caught seafood at the excellent Fishy Fishy Cafe!
Departed from: London
Duration: 2 days
Return flight from London to Cork: £38
2 nights' B&B and one dinner at Hayfield Manor: £213
Budget for bus rides: £30
Lunch at Fishy Fishy: £25
Kinsale Harbour Tour: £9.95
Dinner at Jacob's Ladder Restaurant: £35
Admission to Blarney Castle and grounds: £7.95
Lunch at the English Market: £12
TOTAL: £370.90 (All costs are given per person, based on two sharing.)
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