Day Trips from Cork City
There’s plenty to see and enjoy within the confines of Cork City, but a day trip into the countryside is practically a rite of passage. Craggy mountains give way to the Atlantic coastline in West Cork, where many of the most notable small towns and natural attractions are found. Public transport options are limited, so a rental car from Cork City will come in handy for visiting any of the following:
Kinsale is a gem of a town tucked into West Cork. If features a bohemian enclave of boutiques, cafés and quirky bars all set against the backdrop of a lively harbour. The town stands over the estuary of the river Bandon, and an important battle was fought here between the Irish and English in the early 17th century. With a hire car, you can drive straight into Kinsale, park along the harbour and walk to countless restaurants and shops. For a quick jaunt, head south-east to the Scilly peninsula and pick up the trail that heads to Charles Fort.
While it lies on the outskirts of Kinsale, Charles Fort deserves its own mention. This is one of the finest 17th-century forts in all of Ireland. It’s only about 3 km from Kinsale town centre, and arriving via the footpath is an option. The ruins within the fort are between two and three hundred years old, and much of what remains is clearly signposted and explained. From the fort, the views over the bay are spectacular.
This little market town lies along the coast in West Cork. It’s a prosperous town today, and you’d have no idea of the suffering experienced here by the Irish famine if not for the memorials and placards. Highlights include Inchydoney Beach, with its surf school; the prehistoric Drombeg Stone Circle; and the coastal walkways of Castlefreke.
This is the southernmost bit of inhabited land in Ireland, and it’s still a decidedly remote place. In fact, this is one of the few places in the country where locals still speak the old Irish Gaelic. You won’t need to pull out a phrase book, as everyone speaks English, as well. However, tilt your head in a pub and you’re likely to hear snippets of old Irish tossed about. Prehistoric sites, St Kieran’s Church and a spectacular landscape of heather and gorse round out the attractions.
Gougane Barra Forest Park
It would be a shame to visit Cork without taking time for the craggy mountains of Gougane Barra. Coniferous forests and alpine lakes abound, and the remains of a 6th-century monastery commissioned by Cork’s founder, St Finbar, can still be visited. Make a point of stopping by the island on Lough an Ghugain, which holds a tiny chapel with stained-glass depictions of nearly forgotten Celtic saints. Accommodation is limited in and around the park, though there is a popular hotel in the area (Gougane Barra Hotel) with a neighbouring pub. It’s surprisingly difficult to arrange transportation to Gougane Barra, which makes it all the more appealing to visitors with a hire car from Cork.
This ancient Viking settlement was little more than a backwater fishing village until the British established a fort here in the 18th century. Today, Fort Camden is the central attraction in what is still a very small town. From the fort, you can see Cobh and Spike Island. Templebreedy Church and Crosshaven House are popular sites as well.