48 Hours In Cork
Introducing: Jo Linehan
My name is Jo Linehan. I was born & raised in Cork, but now live in Dublin. I am the editor of the CLIMATE supplement with The Sunday Times Ireland and the founder of sustainable retail brand, GAFF Shop. I have curated a low-impact weekend in my beloved Cork, full of hidden treasures and favourite local haunts.
My passion for sustainability is deeply rooted in my upbringing in Cork. As a walkable city, bountiful with local food producers and suppliers, craftspeople and brimming with wildlife, biodiversity and history, to simply be in Cork is to reconnect with nature and ourselves. I hope my guide will do just that; help you experience some of the city's most special places and a few lesser-known gems that never fail to fill my cup.
I've been lucky enough to stay at The River Lee on more than a few occasions and joyfully return here whenever possible. The hotel encapsulates the true meaning of rebel hospitality thanks to its warm and knowledgeable staff, who welcome guests as if they are coming home. Of course, the views over the city's iconic river, and lush decor help, too.
Ease into Friday Evening
A great weekend trip to Cork begins with a bite in The River Club bar, or on the idyllic riverside terrace if the weather is fine. The Superfood Salad is my all-time favourite (with a side of chips) and is best enjoyed with a glass of organic wine. The organic & vegan friendly Montford Estate Sauvignon Blanc is delicious and goes down easy against the soundtrack of lilting Cork accents in this artfully decorated bar. Be warned; once you sink into the plush butter leather booths here, you may find it quite hard to leave.
A soak in the bath and an early bedtime with a book is my tried and tested method of leaving the week behind and settling into holiday mode here.
I love to start my day with some fresh air (if the weather permits, otherwise, the on-site gym offers ample space to get your blood pumping).
From the hotel's front door, take a left and follow the river to the gates of University College Cork, a sprawling campus steeped in history and gothic-style architecture. Keep your eyes peeled for The Lewis Glucksman Gallery, which reveals itself behind a canopy of trees, before walking through the main campus and onward to Fitzgerald's Park. This 12-acre plot includes a pond, sculpture trail, bandstand and café.
With an appetite suitably summoned, it's back to the hotel and to The Mirror Room for breakfast. Local producers are the heroes of the day here like Clonakilty pudding, Gubbeen products, local honey, and delicious Riverview eggs from Watergrasshill. Eggs are my choice which I love poached and paired with sautéed forest mushrooms, and decadent béarnaise sauce.
Mindful Moments at Nano Nagle Place
Nano Nagle Place is a fifteen-minute stroll from the hotel, and on your journey there, you’ll pass the city’s iconic St Finbarr’s Cathedral, and many of the winding estuaries of the River Lee. Nano Nagle Place is one of my favourite spots in the city to visit, thanks to its biodiverse garden oasis, sustainable gift shop and fascinating museum that pays homage to the female education pioneer, Nano Nagle. It truly is a hidden sanctuary, tucked away in plain sight. Make room for tea and their delicious chocolate and Beamish cake at Good Day Deli, an award-winning organic cafe nestled on the grounds. Pure bliss!
Retail Therapy at Samui
A trip to Cork isn’t complete without a visit to some of their amazing boutiques and stores. One of my favourite independent stores, Samui, is just a stone's throw from the main thoroughfare of Patrick’s Street. Owner Clodagh Shorten's impeccable offering of forever clothing pieces and unique home accessories makes buying less-but-better effortless. Trust me, it’s impossible to leave this chic store without feeling inspired.
At Your Leisure
For the remainder of Saturday afternoon, languidly strolling around the cobbled streets, browsing through a bookshop or people watching from one of the city’s excellent café’s is my idea of heaven. I like to slowly ramble back towards Western Road, making a few stops on the way back to the hotel.
Local Legends in The Grill room
Back at the hotel & it’s time for dinner. I love a pre-dinner drink, and the cocktail menu is a treat best experienced on the riverside terrace under the guidance of The River Club's connoisseurs. Sink into the relaxed glamour of The Grill Room tuck into their mouthwatering, fresh, local fare and delicious organic wine – try the Dover sole with caper butter, it’s to die for! A night cap in the stylish lobby’s cocktail bar, and it’s off for another great nights sleep for me.
I like to take my Sunday mornings at a slightly slower pace, so make time for breakfast with the Sunday papers before you get ready for your final day of low-impact adventures. Sink into a booth in The Mirror Room and watch the river ramble over the weir. Did you know the team at The River lee recently planted some native Irish willow trees along this bank? They regularly host river clean up days & work to enhance the natural biodiversity of their little slice of riverside heaven.
The Last Port of Call
Check out and leave your bags at the hotel as you spend one more blissful day in the city. I love to head back to town and take in The Crawford Gallery. The exhibits here change frequently, but there's always something worth perusing.
Then, walk, bus or cycle your way to the picturesque former fishing village of Blackrock. You can't miss the beautiful houses in this leafy neighbourhood - rows of pretty terraced houses and sprawling former Merchant homes are endlessly enjoyable to snoop on.
Your last port of call is Blackrock Castle Observatory & Café, situated overlooking Cork harbour, This spot is always hopping at the weekend and provides a lovely insight into Cork life: friends and families catch up, gossip and feast. The Observatory tour here is worth the visit if stars, galaxies, planets and moons capture your imagination as they capture mine. Their support of Dark Skies Ireland is truly an empowering project, and they work to educate people on the effects of light pollution to nocturnal biodiversity.
And there you have it. A low-impact, nature-filled itinerary that supports local and is guaranteed to inspire. I hope you savour every part of your visit to the real capital. Whenever you go, send Cork my love.