Often overlooked in favour of the Irish capital Dublin, Cork offers a whole weekend of fun and relaxation – without the crowds. Nestled between rolling green hills on the county’s south coast, Cork achieves the feat of having all the attractions of a big city with the appeal of a cosy village, making it ideal for city-break-addicts who want to take things at a slower pace on their next adventure.
When you consider the surrounding countryside and landscapes, there’s probably so much to do in Cork that you couldn’t tick it all off in a single weekend. So, if you do have just a couple of days to take in Cork’s Celtic charm, where should you head?
Okay, so you may have taken a long weekend and arrived in Cork the night before, in which case you’ll undoubtedly have already found your favourite watering hole and rubbed shoulders with the locals – but our adventure begins on Saturday.
You’re going to be exploring Cork on foot, so you’ll definitely need a hearty and energy-boosting breakfast. A great breakfast spot is Café Serendipity, west of Cork’s main centre, along Western Road. Here, you’ll find all your mouth-watering brekkie favourites; the eggs benedict is a real highlight – or if you’re super hungry – give a full Irish a go.
The café is perfectly placed for you to begin exploring what Cork has to offer. Continuing westward down the road for a few minutes, you’ll set eyes on Fitzgerald Park. Picturesquely sat on the banks of the River Lee, its landscaped gardens and boating lake are the perfect spot for walking off breakfast. Inside the park you’ll find the Cork Public Museum – set in a grand Georgian home, the collections inside detail the city’s rich and diverse history, from archaeological finds to medieval artefacts.
When you’re done, pop back across the park to its northwest corner. Here, you’ll find one of the city’s most photographed spots – Daly’s (Shakey) Bridge. A grand, wrought-iron pedestrian footbridge, it gets its nickname from its more than noticeable wobble when you run or jump your way along it. Stop for an Instagram snap or two, then it’s time to hit the road again.
Once you’ve made it across the bridge, turn right and continue until you take a left onto Convent Avenue. Atop the slope you’ll see the fortress-like walls of Cork City Gaol. Gaol, you ask? Now a museum, this grand castle was built as a prison, once described as the ‘finest in all of the three kingdoms’. It’s well worth an hour or two.
After heading back to your accommodation to freshen up, you’ll no doubt be ready for some dinner. Cork centre’s restaurant scene is strong and diverse, and may well surprise you. For a taste of the traditional that feels fun and fresh, try Gallagher’s Gastro Pub, just north of the Lee on MacCurtain Street. It serves up an eclectic mix of Irish fare and tapas, and you’ll almost certainly catch some local live music.
If that’s whet your appetite for Celtic sounds, wrap up the night kicking your feet about in a proper Irish music pub. A great pick is Sin é, where you’ll find non-stop traditional music from 6:30pm seven days a week. Humorously, its name translates as ‘That’s it’, since it’s located next to a funeral parlour, and it was voted one of the best places in the world to celebrate Paddy’s day.
Depending on how many pints of Guinness you got through last night – the first meal of the day may well be a case of breakfast, brunch or lunch. Whatever the hour, get your fill at the famous English Market. Right in the city’s centre, this grand public market promises stunning architecture and locally-produced artisan food. You’ll find an incredible array of fare on offer, so simply grab as you go. Within the market, the Farmgate Café is an ideal choice for those hunting out a classic eggs n’ bacon brekkie.
One of Cork’s finest architectural landmarks, Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral shouldn’t be missed. It can be reached by crossing the south-side of the Lee and heading right along its waterfront – Sullivan’s Quay. Its early-French style architecture is simply breathtaking, inside and out. Take all the photos you can but remember to be quiet and respectful – it is Sunday after all!
Once you’re done, head back into town and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Cork’s centre – improvising your route. Along its gridded network of streets, you’ll see architecture of every period; housing boutique stores, cute cafés and independent galleries – it really does have a cosmopolitan vibe.
Make it to the Rising Sons Brewery on Cornmarket Street for 5pm. With no reservation necessary, hop on their guided brewery tour. For just €10, you’ll get to venture deep into the brewery, understanding its inner workings before getting to taste each of their offerings. If one takes your fancy, buy yourself a pint or two of it in the bar at the end.
With so much to do, Cork is a little city with a big character – and could be easier and cheaper to reach than you realise when you do Cork direct from Manchester Airport.