Endless green landscapes, a smattering of historical tourism, and plenty of shopping, art, culture and nightlife. Really, what traveler could ask for more?
How about everything packed neatly into one Irish county?
Perhaps the best aspect of a trip to Ireland’s County Cork is that every attraction is just moments from the next. Cork City serves as the vibrant hub of a wheel with many spokes, leading in all directions toward all sorts of adventures.
Serving as a modern gem in an historic part of Ireland, Cork is famous for its international food, jazz, and film festivals, as well as a rich nautical heritage. Because of these features and others, it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2005, a distinction given to a different city each year, and since has experienced a notable revival on its artist-lined streets.
Cork is also one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in Ireland. It boasts a number of resource centers, eateries, and pubs such as The Other Place, a world-famous LGBT club and meeting spot. The city also hosts an extensive Pride Week (check CorkPride.com for dates) each year.
Days can be spent on strolling though unique shops and cafes nestled on side streets, or browsing the high-end retailers of St. Patrick’s and Grand Parade, the city’s two major arteries. Cork’s famous English Market is not far from St. Patrick’s, packed with vendors offering fresh olives from massive barrels, bins of oysters and prawns, or Cork-churned Irish butter.
For those with a hankering for a little history, Blarney Castle is just a short drive from the center of Cork. Bring your sneakers if you plan to smooch the Blarney Stone-it’s accessible only by a winding set of steep stone steps.Also moments away is Cobh (pronounced cove), where many Irish emigrants fled for America during the potato famine, and where the Titanic made its last stop before meeting its tragic end.
For a day of quiet romance, Fota Island is a must. The small plot of land is home to the opulent Fota House as well as unusually hearty soil, which allows everything from fuchsia plants to banana trees to grow right in the heart of Ireland.
Nights can be spent in one of Cork City’s many quiet b&bs, or exploring some of Cork’s hot spots, including Flux, Loafers, Taboo or Instinct. Adventurers can always leave their plans to the wind, and take a look at one of the many bulletin boards across the city, which are routinely plastered with brightly colored fliers announcing the party of the moment.
Dublin, a scenic, three-hour ride from Cork by rail, is the most popular destination for travelers from the United States and undoubtedly worth the trip. However, for those hoping to begin their journey in a welcoming, colorful locale, Cork does indeed, have it all.