Ah, Cork. This city is most commonly referred to by the locals as “Ireland’s second city”, or “the real capital of Ireland.” There’s obviously a friendly rivalry between Dublin and Cork because of this. Cork, to me, is probably described as the “cooler, hipper more cosmo” city, but that’s just my opinion. This city has a small town charm to it, but has an artisan coffee shop literally on every corner. With a younger crowd walking around the bustling streets, Cork definitely has a different vibe to it. Even though there is a younger crowd here, the traditional pubs and music are still very strong influences. The compact city centre is set on an island in the River Lee, which is surrounded by waterways and tiny streets with shops and pubs every few steps, making it an easy city to navigate by foot. If you’ve only got 48 hours to spend in Cork, here are some things you should do and see.
Stroll Around The City Centre
The city centre is easily navigated by foot and can be easily be done surprisingly in a day. Stop off at one of the hip coffee shops and grab an espresso, or a latte. They sure know how to brew a cuppa in Cork. Drop by Red Abbey Tower just on the outer river’s edge to feel really tiny. This place is huge and the architecture is really beautiful. Take a walk down Oliver Plunkett Street to grab a bite to eat and a pint to drink. Make sure to try the Murphy’s Stout. It’s locally brewed and actually more popular in Cork than the traditional Guinness that you’ll find everywhere else.
Drink With The Locals at a Beer Garden
For those of you that aren’t familiar with beer gardens and what they are, well, I feel sad for you. Just kidding, but seriously, you HAVE to have a drink at one. A beer garden is basically summed up as being a super social, open outdoor area where people can mingle together and have a drink. Grab a pint, sit at a table with some locals and strike up a conversation as we did when visiting Cork. It’s a good way to meet people and get the inside scoop on places to go that aren’t touristy. Remember, locals know best!
Check Out a Local Craft Beer Brewery
Ok, let’s stick to the topic of beer, I guess? When I knew we were coming to Cork, I remember reading up on Rising Sons Brewery and knew I had to check it out. The brewery specializes in craft beers, made right on site. Each beer is chemical and additive free, which is how a beer SHOULD be made, if you ask me. They use the finest locally sourced ingredients, and because they are brewed locally, they are always served fresh. The staff is warm and friendly and the atmosphere is awesome. They have screens playing football games (soccer, for the North Americans) and serve up some homemade pizzas made in-house as well. We spent a good amount of time in here during the day and had a blast! Check out Rising Sons Brewery on Trip Advisor for more info.
Take a Day Tour to Cobh, Blarney Castle and The Original Jameson Distillery in Midleton
Cobh (formerly known as Queenstown) is a picturesque town with Victorian influenced architecture. Cobh has a bunch of really cute restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, as this town is famously known for its steep hilly streets. Make sure to walk up to St. Colman’s Cathedral. This cathedral is massive and dominates the town’s skyline. Cobh was also the departure point for 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950. This included Annie Moore and her two brothers – the first immigrants to be processed on Ellis Island in New York. You can see the statue of Annie proudly on display in the city centre. On April 11th 1912, Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic as it set out across the wild Atlantic for its final ill-fated voyage.
Next, head to Blarney Castle to wander the castle grounds and of course, climb the spiraling, narrow staircase to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone. For over 200 years, people from all walks of life have joined the millions of pilgrims climbing the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence. Visitors must be held by the waist, sashayed backwards and lowered head first over the battlements. As scary as it looks, it’s totally safe, as they now have steel bars to prevent people from falling hundreds of feet down to their death. Good to know!
Hidden behind the Castle, you will find the Poison Garden, which you must enter at your own risk. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin and even Opium. Many of the plants are labelled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. A bunch of plants that we now know to be toxic, were actually once used as herbal remedies for all sorts of ailments. Neat!
The last stop on the day tour will be at the Jameson Distillery in Midleton. The Old Midleton Distillery is the original site where Cork Distilleries Co. Ltd. whiskey was distilled until the expansion of the distillery in 1975. Visitors are guided through the old distillery, while they are taught about the maturation and distillation process behind the famous whiskey. Towards the end of the tour, selected volunteers are offered the chance to take part in a whiskey tasting that will demonstrate the differences between Scotch, American and Irish whiskey. After the tasting, you’ll be rewarded with a much coveted Irish Whiskey Taster Certificate and a complimentary Jameson signature drink at the distillery bar.
We visited Cobh, Blarney Castle and the Jameson Distillery with Paddywagon Tours based out of the Cork office.
You can learn more about this tour and plenty of others by visiting their site here.
For more info on what to see and do in and around Cork, visit the sites below: