For less of the hustle and bustle of a big city like Dublin but all of the history and beauty the island has to offer, plan to spend a while in Cork.
It’s got all the modern conveniences (including hostels) but is rich in history, classic cathedrals, rolling hills and beautiful countryside. There are plenty of castles nearby (including Blarney), the coast is lovely, and a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher is totally within reach.
Cork isn’t a large city and most everything is within walking distance. If you don’t want to walk, grab a bike. It’s a great way to branch out from the city and a relaxing way to explore. There is also a bus station in the city center that will get you anywhere you want to go via local buses and longer distance coaches. (It’s about €13 per person to get from Dublin to Cork.)
Stop by the tourist information center when you get to town for a map of the city, lists of upcoming events, and where to explore in and around the city. There is also plenty of info on tours and trips to surrounding cities if you so desire.
Enjoy Cork For Free
Cork Library: Want to dig into a bit of your family’s Irish history? You can schedule a free appointment with the library’s genealogists to help you explore the branches of your family tree.
English Market: What a great place to browse, shop and pick up some great local meat, produce and cheese, delicious cheese. If you’re brave (like Josh), try some traditional, fresh black pudding. There’s lots more to see than food. There are also gifts and small eateries scattered around the sprawling indoor market.
Vision Center: It’s not what it sounds like. It’s a great place to view local art and check out a scale model of Cork.
Churches and Cathedrals: It’s always free to look and sometimes you can even take a peek inside for no charge.
Our Favorite Things
Cliffs of Moher: Nowhere near Cork but worth the trip are these gorgeous cliffs and there are several tour companies that run coaches out there daily. We paid €35 per person for a tour that stopped in Limmerick, at Poulnabrone Tomb in the Burren, at some cliffs along Galway Bay, and for lunch in Doolin before arriving at the Cliffs which were breathtaking. Take a walk along the top of the Cliffs for the best views. It was one of the more expensive excursions we took, but well worth the money.
Blarney Castle: Just a short bus or bike ride from the city center is possibly Ireland’s most popular castle where folks come from all over to kiss the Blarney Stone. It’ll run you €12 to get in, but if you ask an educated Irishman (or Irishwoman) for their input, they might offer a more impressive, older, and less touristy castle to explore. If you’re interested.
Grab a Bite
Eat StrEat: Delicious breakfast and lunch items are available at this small cafe. The pesto wrap was dripping with olive oil but it was possibly the most delicious pesto wrap I’ve ever had. Prices were around €6 and portions were generous.
Black Rock Cafe: Just up the road from Blackrock Castle (free to look at but admission is charged for entry to the castle that’s become a children’s space museum), it’s a cafe with no real dining area to speak of, but there are plenty of benches across the road along the river to enjoy your toasted sub or panini. UPDATE: As far as we can tell this establishment no longer exists.
Milano: The local pizza chain is a great way to save a few bucks if you split a pie in the cozy restaurant for €13-15.
Sin É: The local pub hosts traditional Irish musicians on different nights throughout the week and it’s a great place to relax, enjoy a pint of locally brewed Beemish, and listen to the sweet sounds of banjos, pipes and whistles.
Money Saving Tips
Ask someone in the tourist information office for a list of free and cheap events in the city or take a look at a local paper to see what’s happening. You might discover beer festivals just outside of town or swing dancing in an upper room of the local university.
For more Cork attractions, including free ones, check out www.visitcorkcounty.com. Enjoy your trip!
Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com