County Cork is Ireland’s largest county. In the east are valley farms; in the west the land is mountainous and boggy. But it is the long scenic coastline indented with peninsulas, bays, and beaches that is the star of county Cork. Cork Attractions
In the east, Youghal, on the west bank of the Blackwater estuary on Cork’s border with Waterford county, is an Irish heritage town, noted for its lace and pottery. 15th century Tynte’s Castle is a fortified tower. At the heritage centre is a town trail brochure.
The well-preserved medieval town walls were constructed in the 13th century and extended in the 17th century. Three of the original 13 towers remain. The four storey Clock Gate, built in 1777 to replace the medieval Trinity Gate, sits astride the town’s main street. It once served as the town gaol. Prisoners were hung out the windows. The remains of medieval Watergate (Cromwell’s Arch) lead from the quayside into the town.
Myrtle Grove is a 15th century house once belonging to Sir Walter Raleigh. Also in the town are the remains of 14th century St John’s priory, the 18th century Dutch Red House, and 1610 alms houses. St Mary’s collegiate church dates from the 13th century and has been restored. In the church is a collection of effigies and grave slabs and a monument to the first Earl of Cork.
Midleton, the former monastery town of 1180 is a busy shopping center. Cloyne, just south of Midleton, is a cathedral town. The Old Jameson’s Distillery in the town of Midleton traces, in a one-hour tour, the history of Irish whiskey. On show are a fully operational water wheel, large grain stores, mills, malting houses, still houses, and old offices and warehouses. Meals and whiskey tasting are offered in their restaurant. A 10th century round tower is open to anyone wanting to climb it. Garryvoie, also south of Midleton is a holiday resort with a beach.
Just south of Carrigtwohill, on the Youghal-Cork road, is Barryscourt castle, a national monument, partly in ruins. Nearby Fota House, Wildlife Park and Arboretum was developed by the Smith Barry family who arrived in the area in the late 12th century. They became known as the Barons of Barrymore. Multi media programs are presented in the house. As well there is a self guided leaflet to explore the regency style house, a shop, and a tearoom. The gardens include an orangery, walled gardens, arboretum, a fernery, and a collection of roses. At Glounthane is Ashbourne House and Gardens. It’s a plantsman’s garden with a rockery and rhododendrons.
Cobh, on Great Island in Cork harbour, was the main emigration port after the great famine of 1845. The history of emigration and the maritime heritage are told at the Queenstown (Cobh’s former name) Story, housed in a Victorian railway station. Walking tours of the town take place at 11am from the front of the Commodore hotel and last 90 minutes. The Cobh Museum, in a church on High road by the tourist office, overlooks the harbour. It has displays on Cobh’s social and cultural history. Harbour cruises go from Kennedy pier. Pugin designed the St Colman’s cathedral constructed 1868-1915. There is a carillon with 47 bells, marble columns, and mosaic floors.
With over 160,000 people, Cork City, with a large natural harbour, is Ireland’s third largest city. Built on drained marshland with the river Lee flowing through the city means there are many bridges. Cork has much architecture of note: on Grande Parade street are many 18th century bow front buildings; the city hall; a half timbered brewery; the Red Abbey, a tower of a 1300 Augustinian building; and the Cork Butter Museum, in the city centre at the Shandon craft centre, where the heritage of dairying and the butter exchange in three galleries.
The Cork City jail is a 19th century restored prison with exhibitions, a museum, and an AV presentation on the city. In Fitzgerald Park is the Cork public museum telling Cork’s history from prehistoric times. Churches of note include St Fin Barre’s cathedral built in 1865 and designed by William Burges in the French gothic style. The three spired church has 18 stained glass windows. St Anne’s Anglican church has a carillon of eight bells in the church tower.
There are many attractions a short drive from Cork. Near Glanmire is historic 1602 Riverstown house with fine plasterwork. Dunkathel House has a staircase of note and a collection of watercolours, period furniture, Adam fireplaces, gilt mirrors, and an 1880 barrel organ. A short distance west of Cork on the N22 is the village of Ovens and the Kilcrea Franciscan friary. North of Cork is the town of Blarney, the site of Blarney castle with 1000 acres of woodland, open for walks. Waterloo round tower, a folly, is just outside the town.
Conna, near Waterford’s border is home to 16th century Conna Castle on a limestone rock overlooking the river Bride. It dates from medieval times and is 85 feet tall. It has a chequered history of botched inheritance, fighting, and eventual destruction by fire.
Near Fermoy, on the N72 northeast of Cork, is the site of the Labbacalle wedge tomb, one of the biggest in the country. It’s bounded by massive standing stones. Castlelyons, on the N8 northeast of Cork is of historic importance with both religious and secular ruins. These include Barrymore castle ruined by a fire, a 14th century Carmelite friary, and a church of Ireland church.
Mallow is a busy market town on the Blackwater river. The remains of three storey Mallow Castle saw destruction during war in the 1600s, then was burned by the Jacobites. The ruins of St Anne’s church are from the late 13th century. 18th century Longueville House, in an estate in the Blackwater river valley, is a listed heritage manor turned into a hotel and restaurant.
Nano Nagle Centre between Mallow and Fermoy near Ballygriffin is a wildlife sanctuary by the river. The Island Wedge Tomb is a long rectangular burial chamber with a partly roofed gallery and U shaped cairn. North of Mallow, the town of Charleville sits on the border with county Limerick. To the west on the R515 are the remains of 15/16th century Kilbolane Castle near Milford village. Kanturk is a market town with three bridges from the 18th and 19th centuries. 1601 Kanturk Castle, never completed, has massive towers and fireplaces. The Rural Farm Museum has a collection of old farm buildings and equipment, ancient stones, heritage and nature trails, gardens, and a coffee shop.
East of Mallow is the well kept village of Castletownroche. Two miles from Castletownroche, Annes Grove Gardens surround an 18th century house. In the grounds are an old mill, rhododendrons, a woodland garden, magnolias, limestone cliff paths, and riverside walks. Glanworth, on the banks of the river Funshion, has a 1600 stone bridge. There are a number of religious and secular ruins in the area.
At Macroom the only remains of Macroom Castle are a stone gateway to the castle grounds. There’s also a riverside park. The Bealick Mill Heritage and Exhibition Centre is housed in the old 19th century corn mill. 16th century Carrigaphooca Castle sits on a rock outcrop.
Ballymakeera and Ballyvourney on the N22 are two villages sharing a scenic setting of forest and mountain. Between the two villages is a bridge leading to the holy well and burial mound of St. Gobnait.
Near the Shehy mountains in western Cork, Lake Gougaun Barra sits in 1000 acres of the wild and beautiful scenery of a forest park, where the river Lee rises. A tiny island in the lake connected to the shore by a causeway is the spot where St. Finbarr, patron saint of Cork, founded his early Christian monastery.
Millstreet, at the foot of the Claragh mountains, is an area rich in archaeological heritage. Millstreet Museum has a tourist information centre offering guided town tours, and a display on the history of the area. Nearby is Millstreet Country Park with 500 acres of amenities that include an arboretum, gardens, lakes, waterfalls, walks, a picnic area, a visitor centre, wetlands and a restaurant and shop. Transport is available for a one hour park tour.
Drishane Castle is a tower house of 1450 with a modern top. Near Farnanes is the Muskerry Farm Museum and Heritage Centre with an extensive collection of farm machinery and tools. At Liscarroll are the remains of 13th century Liscarroll castle. Cromwell’s troops were responsible for the loss of the curtain wall and the destruction of the south-east tower in 1650.
Heading south-west from the city of Cork along the N71 leads to the town of Bandon, where the West Cork Heritage Centre in a former church on North Main Street houses some of the former town walls and an exhibition with artefacts. The Bandon Craft Centre on Bridge Street has high quality china, glass, and furniture.
Kinsale, on the coast is an Irish heritage town and tidy town winner. Streets are narrow and winding. The Courthouse in Market Square was built in 1600 and has a museum. St Multose Church dates from 1190 and has many original features. King Charles II was proclaimed here in 1649.
Desmond castle in Kinsale is a National Historic Monument housing the International Museum of Wine. It was constructed in the 16th century to serve as a custom house. It also served by Spanish troops as an armanent storage in 1601 during the battle of Kinsale. In the 1700s it served as a prison for the French, then for the Americans in the War of Independence.
Charles Fort was built by Charles II for military use. An AV presentation tells the story. It’s at Summer Cove a short distance from Kinsale. Just opposite is James Fort overlooking the small harbour.
Timoleague sits on the Argideen estuary and is the site of Timoleague Franciscan friary of 1312 at the head of the sea inlet. It was one of Ireland’s largest. In the grounds are a lived-in country house, lawns, terraces, borders, a walled garden, and the ruins of a 13th century tower.
Clonakilty, a town of 3500, is located on a coastal bay on the N71. It’s a Tidy Towns winner and an International Nations in Bloom winner. Narrow streets and lanes lead to squares; mills, brewery buildings, warehouses, towers, and old buildings give a sense of history. The West Cork Regional Museum fills in the details. A town historical walk is available. A mile from Clonakilty is Lios na gCon, a reconstructed ringfort and dwelling on its original site. An award winning beach, Inchydoney, is close to the town.
East of Clonakilty, Lisselan Estate Gardens show off their rhododendrons and shrubs and offer woodland walks and bridges over the river Argideen. Dunmanway, northwest of Clonakilty and east of Bantry, is the site of four storey Ballynacarriga Castle with some unusual features. At Castlfreke is a 30-foot high memorial celtic style cross, erected in 1902.
At Rosscarbery are the ruins of a two and four-storey house, Coppingers Court. It was built in the 1620s-30s by Sir Walter Coppinger, merchant. St Fachtna’s cathedral in the village dates from the 12th century with 17th century restorations.
Drombeg stone circle, dated BC150, is one of 60 stone circles in the western part of the county. Its 14 stones make a 30-foot in diameter circle. Glandore, south-west of Clonakilty, sits on a harbour.
Shanagarry, overlooking Ballycotton Bay, is a leading pottery and craft centre. The original home of William Penn who founded the state of Pennsylvania in the US is located in the town.
Castletownshend’s pier looks over the Castle Haven estuary. The Liss Ard Foundation Gardens is an ecological landscape garden of 40 acres with woodlands, wildflower meadows, lakes, and streams. It’s signed from the Skibbereen roundabout.
Skibbereen, on the River Illen, is a busy market town. It has an old abbey cemetery. The Skibbereen Heritage Centre, in the town’s old gasworks building on Upper Bridge Street, tells about the famine using an AV presentation.
It’s also the site of the Lough Hyne Nature Reserve. The visitor centre fills in the details about the marine lake and nature reserve with its salt-water marine lake and archaeology trail. Historical walking tours start from the centre.
South of the town on the way to Baltimore are the informal 11 acres of Creagh Gardens, home to fuchsias, camellias, rhododendrons, and magnolias. Baltimore, south of Skibbereen on the very tip of the land, has an attractive harbour with a ferry service for Sherkin and Cape Clear islands. Continuing on the N71 leads to seaside Schull where you can catch a ferry to Cape Clear Island or Sherkin Island. On Cape Clear Island is the Cape Clear Heritage Centre in a restored schoolhouse. It exhibits local folk, farm, and maritime items that tell of island life. The island is a bird sanctuary. On Sherkin Island are the ruins of a 1460 Franciscan friary.
A scenic road leads through Gollen and its harbour to Crookhaven with many bronze age field monuments in the hills. Crookhaven was the site of Marconi’s first attempt at radioing across the Atlantic. Barleycove, close to Mizen Head, is a holiday spot with a beach and sand dunes.
Continuing down the Mizen peninsula leads to Mizen Head, the most southerly point of land in Ireland. The Mizen Visitor Centre is in the former lighthouse keeper’s house. The lighthouse is linked to the mainland by 99 steps down a cliff, then by a suspension footbridge over a gorge.
At Durrus, sighted at the head of Dunmaus Bay, are the Kilravock Gardens, two windswept terraced acres. Kilcrohane sits on the long peninsula between Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay. The Seaside garden has rare southern hemisphere plants and has won awards.
Bantry is a major coastal town in west Cork with historical conections. The 1796 French Armada Centre in the grounds of Bantry House tells the story of the failed French effort to invade Ireland. The house was built in 1740 and houses a collection of tapestries, furniture, and art treasures. There are terraced Italianate gardens.
Continuing along the N71 coast road north of Bantry leads to Glengarriff with its mild climate and original oak forest. Here is the Glengarriff Bamboo Park with 30 different species of bamboo and 12 of palm trees. Nearby, by boat trip, are the Ilnacullin (Garinish Island) gardens with their Italian style garden and wild garden.
The Beara peninsula is Cork county’s most western land, characterized by sand and mountain. It was once a busy copper mining area. A round trip of the peninsula leads around the perimeter with only two major roads bisecting the interior. One is the Healy Pass road that passes Glanmore lake; it’s steep and full of hairpin turns.
Here is Sugarloaf mountain and the Slieve Miskish mountains. Villages on the peninsula are small. Dursey island at the tip of the peninsula can be reached by cable car. At Dunboy Woods are the remains of O’Sullivan Bere castle and 19th century Dunboy castle.
Castletownbere is a fishing port. Across from the town is Bear (Bere) Island, reached by ferry. It’s seven by three miles in size. There’s a Martello tower, an old lighthouse, the Batteries, and a walking and cycling route to tempt the visitor.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.
Annes Grove Gardens
Castletownroche, on Fermoy/Mallow/Kilarney road
Tel. 022 26145
Ashbourne House and Gardens
Glounthaune, left at church, up hill and under bridge
Tel. 021 435 3319
Aultareagh Cottage Garden
Dunmanaway, 4 miles north on R587
Tel. 023 55307
Tel. 021 4273251
Bandon Craft Centre
Bandon, on Bridge St
Tel. 023 41115
Bantry House, Gardens, and French Armada Centre
Bantry, in grounds of Bantry house and gardens (on eastern outskirts on N71)
Tel. 027 50047
Web: Bantry House
Tel. 021 4882218
Bealick Mill Heritage and Exhibition Centre
Macroom, in old 19th century corn mill
Tel. 026 41848
Tel. 35321 4385252
Web: Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle House
By Blarney Castle
Cape Clear Heritage Centre
Cape Clear Island, 8 miles off south coast of Cork from Skibbereen
Tel. 028 39119 or 021 4893638
Rosscarbery, off N71
Tel. 023 48381
Web: Castle Salem
Summer Cove by Kinsale
Tel. 021 4772263
Cobh, the Queenstown Story
Cobh, in Victorian railway station
Tel. 021 4813591
Web: Cobh Heritage
Conna, access through woodland, on south side of river Bride
Tel. 021 4273251
Rosscarbery, minor road to Glandore
Tel. 021 4273251
Cork Butter Museum
Cork city centre at Shandon Square
Tel. 021 430 0600
Cork City Hall
Tel. 021 496 6222 for opening details
Cork City Jail
Cork City, 20 minute walk from Main Street
Tel. 021 4305022
Web: Cork City Gaol
Skibbereen, 3.5 miles south on Baltimore Road
Tel. 028 22121
Desmond Castle/Wine Museum
Kinsale, on Cork Street
Tel. 021 4774855
Tel. 353 22 24244
Tel. 021 4273251
Glanmire, from Cork city, off N25, turn left after roundabout
Tel. 021 4821014
Fota House, Wildlife Park and Arboretum
Carrigtwohill, off N25 Cork-Waterford road, Cobh exit
Tel. 0214815543 or 021 4812728
Web: Fota House
The Glebe, Baltimore
Tel. 028 20232
Web: Glebe Gardens
Glengarriff Bamboo Park
Tel. 027 63570
Web: Bamboo Park
Ilnacullin (Garinish Island) Gardens
Tel. 027 63040
Island Wedge Tomb
Mallow, east of Burnfort, to the west of a by-road, up a lane to a farm yard; park and walk into the fields past the barn, turn left, it is about 150 feet away.
Tel. 021 4273251
Tel. 021 4273251
Kilcrea Franciscan friary
Tel. 021 4273251
Durrus, overlooking Dunmanus Bay, on Kilchrohane road
Tel. 027 61111
Kinsale Regional Museum
Kinsale Courthouse, in Market Square, Kinsale
Tel. 021 4777930
Labbacallee Wedge Tomb
Tel. 021 4273251
One of biggest wedge tombs in Ireland, bounded by massive standing stones
Barnavara Hill, Glanmire
Tel. 021 4821052
Web: Lakemount Gardens
Lios na gCon
Clonakilty, Clonakilty Agricultural College
Tel. 023 33302 or 086 363 7528
Web: Lios na gCon
Tel. 021 4273251
Liss Ard Foundation Gardens
Skibbereen, signed from Skibbereen roundabout to Castletownshend
Tel. 028 22365
Web: Liss Ard Foundation Gardens
Lisselan Estate Gardens
Tel. 023 33249
Tel. 021 4273251
Mallow Heritage Centre
27/28 Bank Place, Mallow
Tel. 022 21778
Michael Collins Centre
Tel. 023 88 46107
Millstreet Country Park
Millstreet, on Mallow side of Millstreet town, turn off opposite Co-Op Store, then right turn at second crossroads
Tel. 029 70810
Web: Millstreet Country Park
Tel. 029 70844 or 029 70343
Mizen Head Visitor Centre
Tel. 028 35115
Web: Mizen Head Visitor Centre and also Mizen Head
Muskerry Farm Museum and Heritage Centre
Ryecourt Meadows Farnes Co, on main Cork/Killarney road
Tel. 021 7336462
Nano Nagle Centre
Mallow, between Mallow and Fermoy near Ballygriffin
Tel. 022 26411
Old Midleton Distillery
Tel. 021 461 3594
Tel. 021 4821205
Rural Farm Museum
Tel. 029 51319
Kilcrohane, on seashore past village of Ahakista
Tel. 027 67070
Skibbereen Heritage Centre and Lough Hyne Centre
Skibbereen, in old gasworks building on riverside on Upper Bridge St.
Tel. 028 40900
Web: Skibbereen Heritage Centre
St Fin Barre’s Cathedral
Dean St, Cork City
Tel. 021 496 3387
Web: Anglican Cathedral Cork
Timoleague Franciscan Abbey and Castle Gardens
Timoleague, at head of sea inlet
Tel. 021 4273251 or 023 46116
Titanic Walking Trail
Tel. 021 481 5211
Web: Titanic Walking Trail
Waterloo Round Tower
Blarney, on town outskirts
Tel. 021 4273251
West Cork Heritage Centre
Bandon, in former church on North Main St
Tel. 023 44193
County Cork Tourism Offices
Bantry Tourist Office
Old Courthouse, Bantry
Tel. 027 50229
Blarney Tourist Office
Tel. 021 438 1624
Ashe Street, Clonakilty
Tel. 023 33226
Cork Tourist Office
Tel. 021 425 5100
Glengarriff Tourist Office
Tel. 027 63084
Kinsale Tourist Office
Pier Road, Kinsale
Tel. 021 477 2234
Macroom Tourist Office
The Square, Macroom
Tel. 026 43280
Midleton Tourist Office
Jameson Heritage Centre, Midleton
Tel. 021 461 3702
Skibbereen Tourist Office
Town Hall, Skibbereen
Tel. 028 21766
West Cork Tourism
Town Council Offices
North St, Skibbereen
Tel. 028 22812
Clonakilty Town Council
West Cork Tourism
Cape Clear Island Cooperative
Island Transportation Services
Karycraft Ferries Schull
Cape Clear Island and Sherkin Island Cruises
Tel. 028 28278 for schedule
Open: mid May-end Sep
Email: Karycraft Ferries Schull
Murphy’s Ferry Service
Tel. 027 75014
Runs from Pontoon pier, east of Castletownbere beside Berehaven golf course.
Web: Murphy’s Ferry Service for schedule
Bere Island Ferries
Tel. 027 75009
Runs from Castletownbere
Web: Bere Island Ferries for schedule
Cape Clear Island Ferry
Runs from Baltimore to the island
Tel. 028 39159 or mobile: 086 2662197
Web: Cape Clear Island Ferry for schedule
Photos of Cork coastline, Fota House ceiling, Cobh Catholic cathedral, Blarney Castle, Cork gaol museum, Labbacalle wedge tomb, Anne’s Grove Gardens, Timoleague to Kinsale view, Timoleague friary, Bantry harbour, Bantry house gardens, Mizen Head and Mizen Head bridge © by Barbara Ballard
Photo of Millstreet Country Park courtesy Millstreet Country Park
Photos of Lough Hyne and Cape Clear courtesy West Cork Tourism
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Youghall lighthouse by Albert Bridge; Youghal Tynte’s castle, Youghall St Mary’s Collegiate church, Conna castle, Kanturk castle, Drishane castle and Wallis family seat, Liscarroll castle, Kinsale St Multose church, Coppinger Court by Mike Searle; Youghal clock gate by Dave Spencer; Midleton (Jameson) Heritage centre and distillery by Joseph Mischyshyn; Barryscourt castle by Philip Halling; Cork Butter Exchange, Shanagarry Design Centre by A McCarron; Cork Crawford Municipal art gallery by John M; Mallow castle, Mallow clock tower, Beara peninsula cycle route by Nigel Cox; Ballymakeera, Millstreet Country Park recreated crannog, Castletownbere harbour by Richard Fensome; Macroom Castle by Joseph Mischyshyn; Bealick Mill waterwheel by Jim Woodward-Nutt; Gougane Barra St Finbarr oratory by Raymond Norris; Bandon church now West Cork Heritage Centre by Liam Murphy; Kinsale street by A McCarron; Kinsale Desmond Castle Wine Museum by Sarah Smith; Kinsale Charles Fort by Peter Craine; Clonakilty, Clonakilty pub, Drombeg stone circle, Crookhaven quays, Glengarif Forest by Richard Webb; Ballynacarriga Castle by dougf; Cape Clear Island Heritage Centre by Lorna Williamson; Slieve Miskish copper mines by Warren Buckley; Dunboy castle small remains by Ulrich Hartmann; Sibbbereen Bridge St by Christopher Hilton; Beara peninsula coastline by Eileen Henderson
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