Things to See and Do
The magnetism of County Cork is undeniable. With so much to see and do, it would easily be possible to spend an entire vacation in this one county's grandeur. From Blarney to Bantry to ancient stone forts, Cork is a true highlight ne plus ultra of southern Ireland.
Blarney Stone, Castle, and Grounds
Many a traveler would agree that a visit to County Cork would not be complete without puckering up to kiss a certain Blarney Stone, located under a parapet atop the Blarney Castle (021 438 5252,
One would have to be suspended by the ankles in order to fully reach the actual Blarney Stone. Due to potential danger, most visitors are leaned back and can kiss close enough to have some of the gift of gab rub off!
The well-groomed estate also has a fern garden and marked walks that can take up a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon. The Lake Walk, located on the grounds, will take you away from it all if you would like to enjoy the outskirts of the grounds in their splendor. The kids will enjoy the Witch's Kitchen and the Druids Cave as well. The Blarney House, a baronial mansion belonging to the Scottish Colthurst family, recently opened for guided visits from April to June. Castle open daily, 9:00
The famed mansion known as the Bantry House (027 50 047,
Located on the northern coast of the Beara Peninsula, the Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat (027 74 441,
The house was first constructed with a southern-most façade; the northern bayside façade was constructed later. Along with a fabulous entrance hall, there is an extensive library with a rosewood grand piano on display, a loggia opening up to the famed Rose Garden, and antechambers. The most renowned rooms are the Gobelin Room, which houses the Gobelin tapestry, and the Rose Room, containing tapestries dedicated to Marie Antoinette upon her marriage to the dauphin of France. Open March–October, daily, 10
The Bantry House runs a bed-and-breakfast with en suite rooms in the east and west sides of the manor. Additionally, the house also rents its Gatelodge, a self-catering luxury cottage available for weekly rentals, perfect for four adults.
Drombeg Stone Circle
First established in the second century B.C., the Drombeg Stone Circle is one of the most impressive stone circular forts in all of Ireland. Just off Glandore Road near Clonakilty, the stone structure contains seventeen small pillars, sixteen of which are standing, and is approximately 30 feet in diameter. Interestingly, the place is thought to have been an altar used for human sacrifices. Nearby are two rounded huts, which are thought to be ancient hunting cabins.
A cleverly constructed cooking hearth is viewable near the small stream, accessible from the huts by following the walkway. Upon heating the stones, the hunters would drop rocks into the water to boil it. Experiments re-enacting this cooking method have proved it to be an efficient manner in which to cook; the hot stones could boil water many times their volume and keep food hot for well over two hours.
Garinish Island (Ilnacullin)
The small island (18 hectares, or 40 acres) of Garnish should top any traveler's list. The island hosts an exotic garden, housing subtropical plants, from rhododendrons to Bonsai trees. Set up by the revered architect Harold Peto, the spot was created for the island's proprietor, Annan Bryce. From here, you can also take a boat to see the seals in Bantry Bay. The best way to get to the island is via Blue Pool Ferries (027 63 333) or Harbour Queen Ferries (087 234 5861). The Lady Ellen ferry (087 944 3784) also runs trips to the island and around it.
Cape Clear Island (Oileán Chl éire)
If you truly want to get away on an island, consider the dreamlike Clear Island, located on the outskirts of the Roaringwater Bay. The island is a bird-watching paradise, has a nice Clear Island Heritage Centre (028 39 119), and is home to Dunamore Castle, which can be reached by a trail from the harbor. The island has a Storytelling Festival (028 39 157) in late August and early September. There are a few quaint B&Bs from which to choose, along with a campsite (028 39 119) and hostel (028 41 968). Take the Naomh Ciarán Ferry (028 39 153,