Tucked away on Ireland’s dramatic south coast, there are few places better than the historic city of Cork to escape to for a long weekend. Offering everything from bustling streets and ancient landmarks, to the beautiful green landscapes that give the Emerald Isle its name, there’s more than enough to keep visitors of all ages occupied in this corner of the country.
This is particularly true if you’re hoping to spend some time in the open air. With its spectacular setting and incredible collection of historic sites, Cork is an excellent city to choose if you’re a lover of the great outdoors.
To get you started with your Cork city trip, here are just a handful of our favourite things to do outdoors in Cork.
Suitable for: all ages
How to get there: follow the N20 road northwards out of the city and pull off at Blarney, or get the 215 bus from Cork city centre
Price: €16.00 for adults and €7.00 for children (under 8s go free) if tickets are bought online
Set among beautiful countryside to the northeast of Cork, Blarney Castle and its colourful gardens are one of Ireland’s best loved historical sites. Built more than 600 years ago by chieftain Cormac McCarthy, it’s become something of a pilgrimage for visitors to the island of Ireland thanks to the ‘Blarney Stone’. For over two centuries now, people from across the world have travelled to see and kiss the stone, with the promise it grants those who do the gift of eloquence.
Whether or not you buy that, the grounds which surround Blarney Castle are incredibly beautiful and perfect for spending a warm afternoon. From the Bog Garden with its ponds and waterfalls, through to the Poison Garden of truly toxic plants, Blarney Castle & Garden is wholesome fun for all ages.
Suitable for: inquisitive young minds
How to get there: cross the River Lee south of Cork city centre at the South Gate Bridge, or take the 214 bus from St Patrick’s Street
Hidden among Cork’s tight network of streets, Elizabeth Fort is a fascinating structure which boasts almost 400 years of tumultuous history in and around its stone walls.
From sieges and revolts to war and famine, this star-shaped keep has strongly influenced Cork as we see it today, and you can learn all about these pivotal moments in history when you visit Elizabeth Fort. Not only is it fantastic for brushing up on your local knowledge, but the fort’s towering walls are a superb way to get above the city and take in the Cork skyline, with excellent views of the neighbouring St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
Suitable for: families and burgeoning photographers
How to get there: in the Calderstones area of the city, just off the A562 Menlove Avenue - the 76 route bus runs between the city centre and here
One of Cork’s best assets is its waterfront setting and proximity to the coast, and you can make the most of this with a trip to neighbouring Cobh. Around 13 kilometres from central Cork and over Lough Mahon, this quaint seaside town oozes charm and whimsy. With colourful houses winding their way down to the harbour, all set to a backdrop of green hills and a grand gothic cathedral, there are few places in all of Ireland that are more picturesque.
Along the waterfront, you’ll find pleasure gardens and independent eateries, as well as the opportunity to take boat trips to places like neighbouring Spike Island. There’s a small and rocky beach if you want to brave dipping your toes in the water, along with plenty of places to cap off your afternoon with a portion of fish & chips.
Suitable for: hikers, ramblers and other lovers of the great outdoors
How to get there: drive east out of Cork along the N25 before exiting at Midleton and heading southeast along the R629 road, or take the 240 bus from Cork Bus Station
Ireland’s rugged and dramatic coastline is famous the world over, and no trip to Cork is complete without exploring the cliffs at Ballycotton. Running around four kilometres in either direction between Ballycotton and Ballyandreen, you can look forward to spectacular views over the Atlantic, broken only by lush green islands and towering lighthouses. There are several small beaches you climb down onto along the way, along with ample spots to stop for a picnic if the weather is kind.
Suitable for: excellent for kids
How to get there: leave Cork heading east on N25 before pulling off at Cobh Cross and following the R624, or get the train to Fota station from Cork Kent Station
Price: adults €16.90, children €11.50, and under 3s go free – with a range of family tickets also available
For a brush with the wild that no member of the family will soon forget, head for Fota Wildlife Park during your stay in Cork. Spanning some 100 acres across the beautifully set Fota Island, this expansive zoo features plants and animals from across the globe, with a particular focus on conservation and protecting vulnerable species.
From Asiatic lions, to playful lemurs, adorable meerkats and spectacular rhinos, there’s every chance you’ll find your favourite animals among the more than 60 species which call Fota Wildlife Park home. With a range of tours and special experiences to further add to your day with, it’s a top choice for any and every family that’s visiting the area.
Suitable for: everyone, if the sun is shining!
How to get there: stroll a little west out of Cork’s centre along Mardyke Wal
When it’s time to catch your breath on your packed-out Cork city break, there’s always the charming Fitzgerald Park. Set on the banks of the River Lee which flows on both sides of the city, it’s among the area’s best-loved public spaces, with pretty gardens and a series of eclectic ponds. If you’ve any little ones in tow, they’re sure to love Fitzgerald Park’s vast playground, while the nearby lawns are the perfect spot for a couples’ picnic if you’re blessed with good weather while you’re in the city.
To tick off all these attractions and many more across the city and county of Cork, you’ll need somewhere stylish and comfortable to call base. Jurys Inn Cork couldn’t be better located, right at the historic heart of the city and with views out over both channels of the River Lee. With a restaurant, bar and room service on site, as well as laundry and dry cleaning, we’ve everything you need to start exploring this historic Irish city.
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