East Cork v West Cork
As well as the joys of Cork, there are many wonderful attractions within a short distance of the city
“As far as the south of Ireland is concerned, Cork is the nation’s pivot. Near the centre of the south coast, it’s blessed with a location that has access to coasts and hinterlands each way, each with its own character.
Travel from the city into East Cork and you’ll find a cosy landscape of mellow fields. Here is one of the great Irish tourism success stories in the acclaimed Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, home to a small culinary industry and a landscape of hills, hedgerows and rivers that give onto beaches and small coves where waves crash on rocks – including, almost directly south of Cork, the village of Ballycotton where orange-painted Roberts Cove Inn has fabulous views.
Here is one of the great Irish tourism success stories in the acclaimed Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, home of a small culinary industry and a landscape of hills, hedgerows and rivers that give onto beaches and small coves
Along the coast eastwards is Youghal, a handsome town with a historic high street, quaint buildings and beach. Under Sir Walter Raleigh, Youghal is said to be where the first potato was planted - and the first cigar smoked - in Europe. See the view from the 13th-century Church of St Mar, and if you’ve got a while, tarry in Aherne’s Seafood bar.
This is surf-and-turf country, where salty inlets probe into green fields. Nearby you can see attractions like the round tower at Cloyne, the beach at Garryvoe and the Fota Wildlife Park – and then there’s Midleton, a sturdy farming town that has become a food-lover’s magnet. Here there’s an excellent farmers' market and the fabled Farmgate restaurant - an old garage that has transformed into a fine restaurant and food store (it’s related to the Farmgate in Cork’s English Market). After lunch, visit the Jameson distillery for a whiskey (and remember that extra ‘e’ – there’s no ‘whisky’ here).
South of Cork is Cobh, the 19th-century port from which HMS Titanic set sail on her ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912. When the hour strikes, the bells of St. Coleman’s Cathedral peal "Nearer, My God, To Thee" in deference to the revered courage of the liner's orchestra in its final moments. It is a place to stop and reflect upon the elegiac atmosphere.
Go west of Cork and you’ll feel a different atmosphere: wilder, wuthering, and with a sense of the Atlantic stretching towards the US. Kinsale is the first main stop, a polished seaside town known for sailing, eating and the glorious 17th-century Charles Fort. Further along is Clonakilty, a market town that’s the region’s hub and where, for years, those in search of a simpler life have converged. Try the black pudding – it’s famous for it – then head even further west to the pretty towns of Skibbereen and Baltimore, a gorgeous harbour town crammed with nautical fun and holiday makers.
Inland, there’s Blarney Castle, internationally known for the Blarney Stone, which famously gifts eloquence upon a kiss, and somewhat eclipses the beauty of Blarney’s medieval fortifications. Then, if you will, really go remote into the series of peninsulas including the Beara Peninsula and dramatic Mizen Head, where a suspension bridge connects the mainland to a rocky crag. Spectacular and soulful.
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