Here are the 6 best places to visit in the vibrant city of Cork:
1. St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
The impressive architecture of this Gothic Revival cathedral sits in the centre of the city and has been a place of worship since the 7th century. You can choose to attend one of the services held daily, or visit in your own time and marvel at the stained glass windows and the 4,500-pipe organ.
The history of the building is undeniably fascinating – the original cathedral was mediaeval and contained 9 carved stone heads which are still on display today. At the end of the 17th century, the cathedral had fallen into disrepair and so was demolished. In 1862 architect William Burges won the competition to reconstruct the building at a budget of £15,000. The final cost actually came to more than £100,000 and is the beautiful structure that you see today.
2. Fitzgerald Park
For an afternoon of relaxation why not pack a picnic and head for Fitzgerald Park, located on the banks of River Lee? Enjoy a stroll through the 18-acre park and admire the ornamental fountain and pavilion before setting out your blanket and enjoying your lunch.
This peaceful retreat offers sculptures, gardens, a water-lily pond and a children’s play area. You can also visit the nearby Cork Public Museum the Sky Garden and cross the river on the famous ‘Shakey Bridge’.
3. Cork City Gaol
This former prison is one of the main tourist attractions in Cork, and today is a museum that recalls life in a 19th-century jail. The imposing building is reminiscent of a castle and stands in Convent Avenue, near the Our Lady of the Rosary Church.
Step back in time as you wander through the prison corridors and imagine what it was like to be held in a cell for your crime. You’ll even see some of the original graffiti carved into the walls by the prisoners.
4. Blackrock Castle
Learn the secrets of 16th-century Blackrock Castle, which has been destroyed by fire more than once, rebuilt again and even used as a private residence and offices.
Today the castle is home to Cork’s working astronomical observatory and is the ideal place to visit if you want to learn more about space and the universe. There are lots of exhibitions to keep the whole family entertained, from pirates and smugglers to a virtual astronaut and a Galactic email station.
5. The Shandon Bells
Follow the maze of winding streets to the Church of St. Anne which features an impressive bell tower and is one of the most important 18th-century churches in Ireland. If you have a head for heights you can climb the church tower for a spectacular 360° view of Cork.
On the way up you get to ring the famous Shandon Bells by following the numbers. Your tune will be heard all over the city, so make sure you’ve got your musical head on! Next, you’ll see the pendulum of the church clock as it slowly ticks and then the clock’s mechanism, whose size will impress you. You’ll continue through the belfry until you reach the top to take in the breathtaking view.
6. Blarney Castle
The beauty of renting a car in Cork is that you can visit the attractions surrounding the city. Blarney Castle has to be one of these and is only a 20-minute drive from Cork. You really can´t visit this part of Ireland without a trip to this beautiful castle and its stunning gardens and lake walk.
Of course, when here you have to kiss the iconic Blarney Stone, which it is said will give you the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness. There are several legends telling the story of where the stone comes from, but the most accurate seems to be that it was made from limestone from the south of Ireland that’s over 330 million years old.
The word ‘blarney’ comes from a supposed disagreement between Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester. The queen had sent the earl to capture the castle, but one of the McCarthy family talked him out of it, resulting in the queen calling it a load of ‘blarney’.
Discovering the beautiful region of Cork by rental car is the ideal way to explore this part of southern Ireland. From the wild and rugged beaches to the history of the city and the amazing countryside scenery, you’re sure to have a fantastic time.
More articles about Cork:
Your guide to visiting cork
Exploring Cork: Rebel, Rebel. Cork, why we love you so
Top 3 Sights in Cork