What to do in Cork
Beginning as a sixth century monastery settlement on the swampy mouth of the River Lee, Cork has gradually grown to become Ireland's second biggest city. Natives even describe it as the ‘real capital’. With many winding streets and steep hills, the city has lots of character, with charming shops, stalls, pubs and parks.
There are many notable sites in Cork, such as St Finbar's Cathedral, with its impressive French-Gothic architecture and Cork Public Museum in the pleasant Fitzgerald Park. Sculpture lovers find plenty to admire at Crawford Gallery in Emmett Place, which houses some Rodin bronzes and a fine collection of paintings. Visiting local sites is easy if you have a rental car in Cork. Rather than hassling with group tours, expensive taxis or inconvenient public transport timetables, you can simply set out on your own terms and according to your own schedule.
Just a few miles from Cork City, Blarney Castle is one of Ireland's oldest and most famous castles. The original structure dates to the 10th century, though the castle was rebuilt twice. The most recent rebuild was carried out in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster. Blarney Castle is best known for its ‘Stone of Eloquence’, said to bestow the gift of eloquent speech on all those who kiss it.
Cobh is a picturesque town situated on an island of the same name, on the southern tip of the country. Cobh has a strong maritime tradition, with an engaging history riddled with famous tragedies. The port was the departing point for millions of emigrants during the Irish potato famine; the Titanic stopped in Cobh as part of its doomed maiden voyage; and 170 victims of the Lusitania, torpedoed in 1915, are buried at a local cemetery. These tragic but engaging stories are recounted in the Cobh Heritage Centre. Today, the colourful village offers a wide choice of restaurants specialising in fresh seafood dishes, and a lively nightlife.
Fota Wildlife Park
Established in 1983, Fota Wildlife Park is widely recognised as one of the most modern wildlife parks in Europe, with more than 70 species of exotic wildlife cohabit in open space and natural surroundings. Giraffes, zebras, ostrich and antelope roam the 40-acre grassland, much as they would in the African Savannah, though all of the animals have adjusted to the Irish climate. They are joined by kangaroos, macaws and lemurs. The trees on the lake islands provide a wonderful habitat for the park's many monkeys. The cheetah is the only species that is restrained, and by a conventional fence. Many of the species at Fota are threatened with extinction in the wild. Among these are the liontailed macaque of the Indian forest, the scimitar horned oryx of North Africa and the white-tailed sea eagle. The latter was once native to Ireland, but disappeared from the wild here since the early 1900s. Fota Wildlife Park lies about 10 km east of Cork city on the Cobh road, and it’s easily reached by hire car from Cork Airport.