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About County Cork
Many visitors to Cork don't realise how big this county is, and how beautiful its dairy green hinterland is. They're more interested in the dramatic wind buffeted coastline, with its fork of peninsulas reaching out into the Atlantic. The colourful little fishing villages dotted along this coast are are a big draw, full of pubs with warm, musical atmospheres as well as hearty food and drink. Along calmer stretches of coastline are long sandy stretches, many of which have become holiday resort towns and some of the best places to stay in County Cork if you're looking for a beach break.
Then of course there's Cork city, vying with Dublin to the title of Ireland's real capital - of culture, of cuisine and of lifestyle. A city with plenty of traditional Irish charm, but also a lot of youthful energy. And some great markets - this was once the European capital of butter production.
County Cork for the Beaches
Cork's western, coastal region is by far the most visited. Baltimore and Schull are probably the most popular holiday resorts, but if you're looking for a quieter stretch of beach try the wilder islands of Clear or Sherkin.
Eastern County Cork
County Cork's dairy farms are famous, but there's more than just cheese and butter here. Fresh local produce has inspired Cork city's culinary success, and there are some excellent cookery schools in this part of the county.
North County Cork
Best known by anglers, it's got several long rivers providing plenty of fish in a beautiful, green setting. This is the best kind of destination for Zen and the art of fishing!
Around Cork city
See the cathedral, the old town and the beautiful centre, then head out to Kinsale and visit the old forts and the harbour. Kinsale is also a good destination for golfers, there's the Old Head of Kinsale course, and surfers.
Blarney, with its castle and famous kissable stone, is also just outside Cork city.
Cobh in Cork Harbour is also worth a visit, not just for the views but also for two great museums, 'The Queenstown Story', which explores the stories of the mass, famine related emigrations, and the 'Titanic Trail' - Cobh's was the last port of call on the famous ship's fateful voyage.
What Not To Miss
- Spend an afternoon visiting the historic Blarney Castle & Gardens. Head off on a tour of the castle and be sure to kiss the stone - legend has it that this will endow the kisser with the gift of the gab! Their lovely extensive gardens are also a super spot in which to enjoy a picnic afterwards.
- St Fin Barre's Cathedral is one of Cork's most iconic spots. Built in a wonderful French Gothic style, there's a marble altar mosaic and colourful stained glass windows depicting tales from both the Old as well as the New Testament. An impressive sight.
- Hop on a ferry from Cobh and go visit Spike Island, brimming with 1300 years plus of Irish history. Take a tour around the 1850s prison cells (when this was the largest prison in the world), go see Ireland's largest artillery gun park or wander around the several military and social history musuems.
- Fota Wildlife Park, set in 70 acres on the scenic Fota Island, is Cork's most visited attraction. It doesn't feel like a zoo, with completely free roaming animals and birds including kangaroos, lemurs, lions and giraffes, whilst there are also a number of endangered species such as the European Bison. A great family day out.
Use our guide to the best places to stay in County Cork and start to plan your visit.
The best places to stay in County Cork
For rural luxury
- Liss Ard is one of the best places to stay in County Cork if you want a rural hideaway that's luxurious yet family friendly. Here you'll find contemporary rooms, superb cuisine and countless activities to keep everyone happy.
For Cork city
- The River Lee Hotel is a large hotel, right on the river, as the name suggests, with a contemporary yet welcoming feel. It's modern but elegant, with the feel of an especially tasteful business hotel, including a great spa as well as fitness centre.
- Hayfield Manor is almost as central, yet feels a world away: a county house hotel in its own secluded grounds. There's gourmet food here on offer in two different restaurants, plus a spa and family suites - making this a great place to treat yourself, or your whole family.
For A holiday cottage or apartment
- If you think you'd be best served by a self-catering option then browse through the wide variety available with our partner, booking.com.
- It's best to visit Cork in the summer months, with July (the hottest month) experiencing an average temperature of 16°C and also being the month of the least rainfall.
- However, this is peak season and so expect there to be more tourists than if you were visiting at another time of the year. Be sure to book ahead as the best places to stay in Cork will get filled up pretty quickly!
- Visitors can fly into Cork Airport, 3 miles south of Cork city centre. Ryanair provides flights from London Stansted and Gatwick, whilst Aer Lingus goes from Heathrow, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- From the airport, you can reach the city centre (Parnell Place Bus Station) by taking Bus Éireann's direct Air Coach Service (route 226A). These run every half an hour and are available from 5am until midnight.
- For car hire prices, we recommend you visit our online partner Holiday Autos.
Still not sure?
Best Hotels in County Cork
The Montenotte 126 rooms from $130Ireland
A contemporary harbour side property offering both style and luxury. Individually designed rooms feature floor to ceiling windows, pops of colour coming from the soft furnishings and sink-into beds. The glamorous Panorama Bistro and Terrace offers superlative cuisine specialising in seafood.City Style - An uber chic hotel complete with trendy bar and harbour views.Sights nearby - Make a trip to the medieval Blarney Castle located just outside Cork.Local markets - Visit the vibrant covered English Market.Swimming Pool - Indoor pool
Liss Ard House & Lodge 25 rooms from $126Skibbereen, County Cork
With luxury accommodation split amongst three different locations you can choose Country House, Garden Mews or Lake Lodge. Rooms are contemporary and sleek, and Liss Ard is very family friendly with numerous activities on site. Cuisine is governed by "slow food" rules. Perfect for a country escape.Child friendly - Liss Ard has extensive family facilities, including qualified child mindersFishing - The estate includes Lough Abisdealy and boats can be providedCountry EscapeGreat walks - Woodland and riverside walks on the doorstepRecommended by - I Escape, Mr & Mrs Smith
The River Lee Hotel 182 rooms from $126Cork, County Cork
Large contemporary yet welcoming hotel in the centre of Cork that works for both leisure and business travellers. Spacious rooms are tastefully decorated and many boast stunning views over the River Lee from large picture windows. Contemporary bistro, plus inhouse spa with fitness centre & 20m pool.Sights nearby - Situated right in the centre of Cork, just 10 mins walk from the Opera HouseViews - All rooms have great views either over Cork or the River LeeSpa - Award winning Urban Escape SpaRecommended by - Tablet
The Imperial Hotel 125 rooms from $162Cork, County Cork
An elegant hotel located in the heart of Cork. Spacious rooms are contemporary in style standing in contrast with the opulent rooms downstairs. A handful of superlative dining options offer everything from fine-dining to tapas. The spa is utterly spoiling and worthy of a visit alone.City Style - A glamorous city centre property complete with atmospheric bar and restaurant and spoiling spa.Local markets - Sample local produce at the indoor English Market.TraditionalOpulent
Perryville House 26 rooms from $149County Cork
Charming townhouse B&B. Bedrooms feature mahogany four-poster beds and furniture, elegant bathrooms and French windows. Tearoom serving breakfast and afternoon snacks. Walking distance from the port and cobbled town.Families - With a charming tearoom and garden, insightful history walks, colourful marina and cycling routesFishing - Equipment rental from Mylie Murphy'sGreat walks - Dermot Ryan's Heritage Town WalksSights nearby - Desmond Castle
Hayfield Manor 88 rooms from $182Cork, County Cork
Hayfield Manor has all of the elegance of a country house hotel in its own secluded grounds yet it is only minutes from Cork city centre. Stylish & luxurious bedrooms and suites, plus gourmet dining, spa and gym. Family friendly too. An indulgent spot from which to explore County Cork.Restaurant - Fine dining in Orchids Restaurant plus Perrotts Garden Bsitro for more casual mealsSights nearby - Close to all of Cork's attractions including the University and Shandon Chruch.Spa - Wide selection of Elemis treatments available at the Beautique SpaLocal markets - Cork's famous English Market is only 1.5km awayRecommended by - Fodors, Frommers, Kiwi Collection, Small Luxury Hotels, CN Traveller
Ballymaloe House 29 rooms from $240Midleton, County Cork
A beautiful country house widely known for its professional cookery school. Offering an unsurprisingly good restaurant and numerous on sight activities including golf, tennis and a heated outdoor pool. The interiors are traditional without being fussy. The perfect country escape.Country Escape - A country house that has it all - excellent food, cosy lounges, pretty surrounds and numerous activities.Cooking classes - Learn to make Irish soda bread with the property's baker.Swimming Pool - Outdoor poolFull of characterRecommended by - Good Hotel Guide
Longueville House 20 rooms from $254County Cork
A family-run country estate perfectly offering both old fashioned luxury and a laid-backed friendly atmosphere. Traditional rooms feature large sash windows, chintz fabrics and antique furniture. An exemplary restaurant follows the farm-to-fork ethos. The perfect rural escape.Country Escape - A glorious rural property complete with log fires, hearty cuisine and picturesque countryside for long walks.Great walks - Find miles of scenic trails waiting to be explored.Fishing - Fly fish on the hotel's private beats.Full of character
Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa 67 rooms from $255West Cork, County Cork
A luxury hotel and spa boasting a spectacular location set on the rugged and beautiful coastline of West Cork. Plush rooms are contemporary in style and boast enormous floor to ceiling windows to take in the fabulous views. The third floor restaurant is exceptional and spa utterly spoiling.Spa breaks - A spoiling spa set in an outstanding location amidst the natural beauty of West Cork.Surfing - Nearby Inchydoney Beach has perfect conditions for surfing.Great walks - Embark on long walks along the rugged coastline.Swimming Pool - Indoor pool
Ballyvolane House 6 rooms from $277Co. Cork, County Cork
Long run as a country house hotel the experience is clear. Superlative and warm service, old-world style and delicious laid-backed dining. Find a host of country pursuits to keep all entertained in the surrounding area. The ideal rural escape.Country Escape - A traditional country house set in beautiful grounds.Great walks - Embark on scenic walks through the rugged countryside starting straight from the front door.Cooking classes - Take a class at the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School.Fishing - Spend a day Salmon fishing on the River Blackwater.