Things to do in Cork Ireland

The 25 Best Things To Do In Cork Ireland: Must-See Attractions That Set Cork Apart

Last Updated: August 3, 2023By

Ah, Cork! Ireland’s spirited rebel city beckons with lively culture, foodie delights, stunning landscapes and spectacular views, and craic galore. Tracing its history from 6th century monasteries to 21st century markets, Cork delivers rich experiences around every corner.

In this article listing the top things to do in Cork Ireland, you may want to:

  • Hop aboard a harbour cruise past naval ships and seaside scenery, then dive into the English Market’s bounty of local cheese, chocolate and more.
  • Pop into a snug pub session for live trad music, or embrace Ireland’s brewing tradition at the Guinness Storehouse.

From blarney adventures to breathtaking coastal drives, Cork offers versatile fun. Delight in this vibrant city’s unique mix of tradition and modern sensibilities. Here are the best things to enjoy in captivating Cork.

Before you travel to Cork, this guide will steer you through 25 unmissable local sights and activities sure to give you a taste of this vibrant county’s rich heritage. Get ready, because your journey into the heart of Irish culture starts here!

Key Takeaways

  • Kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, gaining the “gift of gab” and experiencing Irish culture firsthand.
  • Explore the vibrant English Market, immersing yourself in Cork’s culinary heritage and enjoying a feast for your taste buds.
  • Visit Spike Island to delve into its fascinating history as a prison turned tourist attraction.
  • Take a trip to Fota Wildlife Park to get up close and personal with a variety of wildlife species while supporting conservation efforts.
  • Experience the charm of Gougane Barra with its stunning views, hiking opportunities, and picturesque churches.
  • Discover Cork City Gaol’s rich history as you wander through its walls and learn about Ireland’s penal past.
  • Immerse yourself in art at the Crawford Art Gallery, featuring works from renowned artists like Jack B. Yeats.
  • Marvel at the breathtaking landscapes of Mizen Head and Beara Peninsula, offering dramatic cliffs and panoramic ocean views.
  • Enjoy beautiful beaches and coastal walks in Youghal and Ballycotton for relaxation by the sea.
  • Visit historic forts like Charles Fort and Elizabeth Fort to step back in time and learn about Cork’s military history.
  • Take a tour of Jameson Distillery to gain insight into Irish whiskey production while tasting premium whiskeys.
  • Learn about Cobh’s connection to Titanic before its tragic journey at Titanic Experience Cobh
  • Explore charming towns like Kinsale, Glengarriff, Clonakilty that offer unique experiences through arts community or natural sceneries
  • Visit Donkey Sanctuary for an opportunity to support donkeys’ well – being or explore Bantry House And Garden showcasing stunning gardens & elegant rooms filled with art & antiques
  • Take scenic drives along Priest’s Leap & Healy Passes while being mesmerized by breathtaking mountainous views

Top 25 Things to Do in Cork Ireland

Blarney Castle invites you to kiss the famous Blarney Stone and gain the “gift of the gab”, while the English Market offers a vibrant culinary experience with its diverse range of local produce.

Spike Island, once a notorious prison, now offers guided tours that delve into its fascinating history. Fota Wildlife Park is a must-visit for animal lovers, and Gougane Barra enchants visitors with its serene beauty.

Cork City Gaol takes you back in time to explore Ireland’s penal past. The Crawford Art Gallery showcases an impressive collection of contemporary and historical artwork. Mizen Head and Beara Peninsula offer breathtaking landscapes waiting to be explored, while coastal towns like Youghal and Ballycotton boast stunning beaches and picturesque walks.

Charles Fort and Elizabeth Fort provide a glimpse into Ireland’s military history, while whiskey enthusiasts can take a tour of the Jameson Distillery. Cobh reveals insights into the Titanic’s last port of call before tragedy struck, as Kinsale, Gl.

1. Blarney Castle and Kiss the Blarney Stone

Barney Castle, Cork Ireland

Barney Castle, Cork Ireland


Blarney Castle, nestled in the lush green landscape of County Cork, is a must-visit for every traveller. The ancient fortress boasts an intriguing blend of history and mythology that captivates visitors from around the globe.

While exploring its beautiful gardens and intricate architecture is a joy unto itself, the highlight for many is undoubtedly kissing the Blarney Stone. Balanced precariously at the castle’s peak, leaning over to plant a smooch on this legendary stone bestows upon you the ‘gift of eloquence’, or as locals call it – ‘the gift of gab’.

It’s more than just a fun tradition; it’s an experience deeply intertwined with Irish culture and forms one part of an unforgettable visit to Blarney Castle.

2. Explore the English Market

Exploring the English Market becomes an adventure for your taste buds. As one of the top attractions in Cork, this large market welcomes visitors with a colorful display of food and Irish gifts.

The buzz fills the air as you weave through stalls laden with local cheeses, fresh fruits, olives and artisanal foods that will surely delight any foodie’s palate.

Renowned as one of Ireland’s finest food markets, it’s an essential stop on your Cork city tour. Amidst its vibrant atmosphere, discover unique things such as locally-sourced honey or indulge in homemade chocolate that melts in your mouth.

It’s more than just a place to buy ingredients; it’s a cultural experience where you can rub shoulders with locals and learn about County Cork’s rich culinary heritage.



3. Visit Spike Island

Spike Island, tucked away in the heart of Cork Harbour off the coast of Cobh, offers an immersive journey into 1300 years of Irish history. Here you’ll discover a unique island that started as a monastery before evolving into a star-shaped fortress sprawled over 24 acres.

As “Ireland’s Alcatraz,” Spike Island once served as an influential prison and now opens its doors to curious visitors for tours at just 22 euros apiece. This captivating attraction is a must-visit on your tour of Cork county’s best places!

4. Take a trip to Fota Wildlife Park

Fota Wildlife Park is a must-visit attraction in Cork, Ireland. Covering 100 acres of land, it offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors. It is home to a variety of wildlife species, making it one of Ireland’s top ten visitor attractions.

From lions and tigers to giraffes and zebras, you’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent animals. What makes Fota Wildlife Park even more special is that it is independently funded and relies on visitor support for its conservation efforts.

So not only will you have a memorable day out, but you’ll also be contributing to the protection and preservation of endangered animals.

5. Experience the charm of Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra, located in the beautiful South West of Ireland, is a must-visit destination in County Cork. This scenic park offers stunning views and is perfect for hiking and walking.

One of the main attractions is Gougane Barra Church, which sits on an island in the middle of a lake. Another highlight is St. Colman’s Church, known for its picturesque setting overlooking the lake and mountains.

Don’t forget to check out the park’s breathtaking waterfall, a sight that shouldn’t be missed. Gougane Barra truly captures the charm and beauty of the Irish countryside, making it a favorite among tourists visiting Cork.

6. Discover the history of Cork City Gaol

Cork City Gaol, which opened its doors in 1824, was once renowned as one of the finest gaols in the three kingdoms. This historical site was designed to house both male and female prisoners, including debtors and criminals.

In 1870, the west wing of the gaol underwent a transformation into a double-sided cell wing. Today, Cork City Gaol stands as a captivating museum and heritage center that offers visitors an opportunity to delve into the city’s rich past.

It’s a place where you can wander around and explore the fascinating historical and archaeological heritage that Cork has to offer.

7. Visit the Crawford Art Gallery

The Crawford Art Gallery is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts in Cork. With its vast collection of both historic and contemporary artwork, the gallery offers a glimpse into Irish and European art from the 16th century to the present day.

You’ll have the opportunity to admire works by renowned painter Jack B. Yeats and explore a diverse range of mediums, including paintings, sculpture, stained glass, and more. Considered one of the best places to immerse yourself in arts and culture in Cork, the Crawford Art Gallery is sure to leave you inspired and captivated.

8. Explore the breathtaking landscapes of Mizen Head and Beara Peninsula

Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of Mizen Head and the Beara Peninsula. Marvel at the dramatic cliffs and panoramic ocean views that will take your breath away. Immerse yourself in the rugged landscapes, with its mountains and lush pastures, as you explore these stunning destinations in West Cork.

Each peninsula has its own unique personality, offering a truly unforgettable experience of Ireland’s natural wonders. From picturesque coastal walks to breathtaking vistas, Mizen Head and the Beara Peninsula are a must-visit for any nature enthusiast or adventure seeker.

9. Enjoy the beaches and coastal walks in Youghal and Ballycotton

Youghal and Ballycotton, two coastal towns in Cork, offer stunning beaches and picturesque coastal walks for you to enjoy. In Youghal, you’ll find four beautiful beaches right on its doorstep.

One of them is the Mall Beach, a small sandy stretch located within the town itself. It’s perfect if you want easy access to the beach without having to travel far. On the other hand, Ballycotton Cliff Walk provides breathtaking views throughout your journey and allows you to discover hidden beaches along the way.

Both Youghal and Ballycotton offer a peaceful and scenic environment where you can relax and soak up the beauty of Ireland’s coastline.

10. Visit historic forts like Charles Fort and Elizabeth Fort

Visit historic forts like Charles Fort and Elizabeth Fort to immerse yourself in Cork’s rich history and cultural heritage. Explore the late 17th-century star-shaped Charles Fort, located near Kinsale, and discover its fascinating architecture.

Marvel at the impressive defensive walls of Elizabeth Fort, which was built in 1601 to protect Cork City against invaders. Both forts offer a glimpse into Ireland’s past, allowing you to step back in time and imagine what life was like during these turbulent periods.

Soak up the historical significance of these landmarks as you explore their grounds and learn about their captivating stories.

11. Take a tour of the Jameson Distillery

The Jameson Distillery in Midleton, just a short drive from Cork City, is a must-visit for whiskey enthusiasts. On the hosted tour, you’ll learn about the fascinating process of making Jameson whiskey and discover the history behind this iconic brand.

The Jameson Experience Tour provides an educational and cultural experience, immersing visitors in the world of whiskey production. And of course, no visit to the distillery would be complete without tasting some premium Jameson whiskeys.

So don’t miss out on this opportunity to explore the home of the world’s largest pot still and deepen your knowledge and appreciation for Irish whiskey.

12. Learn about the Titanic’s last port of call in Cobh

Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown, holds a significant place in history as the Titanic’s last port of call before its ill-fated journey to New York. Today, visitors can immerse themselves in the captivating story at the Titanic Experience Cobh.

This immersive tour allows you to step back in time and learn about the ship’s connection to Cobh and its tragic end. With its rich maritime history, Cobh proudly remembers this iconic event as part of its identity.

Conveniently located just 30 minutes from Cork city center, a visit to Cobh is not only educational but also easily accessible for those exploring the area.

13. Explore the beautiful towns and villages of Kinsale, Glengarriff, and Clonakilty

Discover the charm of Kinsale, Glengarriff, and Clonakilty as you explore these picturesque towns and villages in County Cork. Immerse yourself in Kinsale’s vibrant arts community, where you can browse through various arts and design stores.

Named the best town in Ireland and the UK at the 2017 Urbanism Awards, Clonakilty offers a unique blend of history and modernity. And situated on the rugged Beara Peninsula, Glengarriff will enchant you with its stunning natural scenery.

Don’t miss the opportunity to go horseback riding in County Cork or escape to the countryside by staying at a private residence in West Cork.

14. Visit the Donkey Sanctuary and Bantry House

Make sure to visit the Donkey Sanctuary in Mallow, one of the top attractions in Cork, Ireland. Since 1987, this sanctuary has been providing care for neglected and abandoned donkeys.

With over 5,600 donkeys given a safe haven here, it’s a wonderful place to support and learn about these gentle creatures. Enjoy free admission to the sanctuary’s Open Farm where you can get up close and personal with the donkeys.

Another must-see is Bantry House And Garden, one of Ireland’s finest historic houses. Located in Bantry Bay, this beautiful estate is known for its stunning gardens and breathtaking views.

15. Take a scenic drive along the Priest’s Leap and Healy Pass

Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Cork’s mountainous landscape by taking a scenic drive along the Priest’s Leap and Healy Pass. As you wind your way through this picturesque route, be prepared to be mesmerized by breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

The Priest’s Leap is a mountain pass that offers stunning vistas, while the Healy Pass stretches for about 16 km (10 miles), providing an opportunity to soak in the natural wonders of Glanmore Lake when driving from south to north.

So hop in your car and get ready for a memorable adventure amidst nature’s splendor.

16. Enjoy whale watching and island hopping around Cape Clear and Garnish Island

Whale watching and island hopping around Cape Clear and Garnish Island is a must-do activity when visiting County Cork, Ireland. These stunning destinations offer breathtaking scenery with wild coves, dramatic sea cliffs, and crystal clear waters.

As you explore the islands, keep an eye out for leatherback turtles, whales, dolphins, and even sharks. Don’t forget to visit other nearby islands like Sherkin Island, Fastnet Rock Lighthouse, and Garnish Island to make the most of your adventure.

Make sure to book a tour with Whale Watch West Cork for an unforgettable experience exploring the islands and headlands of West Cork before making a stop at Cape Clear Island.

17. Explore Lough Hyne and the Baltimore Beacon

Explore the unique beauty of Lough Hyne, a tidal lake situated between Baltimore and Skibbereen in West Cork, Ireland. Unlike other lakes in the area, Lough Hyne is filled with sea water, creating a one-of-a-kind ecosystem teeming with diverse marine life.

Immerse yourself in nature as you walk along the scenic nature trail up Knockomagh Hill. From there, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the lake and its surroundings. Don’t miss the historic Baltimore Beacon either – a landmark that has stood the test of time for centuries.

18. Visit the charming town of Midleton for the Jameson Whiskey Distillery

In the charming town of Midleton, you can find one of Ireland’s most famous whiskey distilleries – the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. This renowned distillery offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors.

You can explore the distillery and witness the impressive sight of the world’s largest pot still. The Jameson Distillery tour takes you on a journey through every step of the whiskey-making process, allowing you to learn about the rich history and craftsmanship behind Jameson whiskey.

Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in premium whiskey tastings and workshops, where you can deepen your knowledge and appreciation for this iconic Irish spirit.

19. Discover the natural beauty of Gougane Barra and the Beara Peninsula

Gougane Barra and the Beara Peninsula in Cork, Ireland are stunning destinations that showcase the area’s natural beauty. Gougane Barra Forest Park covers over 137 acres and is filled with history and culture, making it a fascinating place to explore.

Meanwhile, the Beara Peninsula is renowned for its magnificent scenery and offers opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and coastal exploration. These locations truly embody the breathtaking landscapes of Cork.

20. Experience the vibrant culture of Cork City and its lively St. Patrick’s Street

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Cork City as you stroll down its lively St. Patrick’s Street. This bustling street is a must-visit, showcasing the heart and soul of the city.

Explore a blend of modern shops, traditional pubs, and charming cafes that line the street. Experience the lively atmosphere as locals and tourists alike soak up the energy of this vibrant hub.

From street performers to colorful shopfronts, St. Patrick’s Street offers a true taste of Cork’s unique culture.

21. Take a trip to the stunning landscapes of the Ring of Beara and Beara Peninsula

Explore the stunning landscapes of the Ring of Beara and Beara Peninsula, located in Cork, Ireland. This area is a true treasure trove of natural beauty, with breathtaking views and picturesque scenery at every turn.

From rugged coastlines to rolling hills and lush forests, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Don’t miss the chance to witness ancient heritage sites scattered throughout this region, adding an extra layer of intrigue to your journey.

Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply want to immerse yourself in nature’s splendor, a trip to the Ring of Beara and Beara Peninsula will not disappoint.

22. Relax and unwind at the beautiful beaches of Inchydoney and Castlefreke

Inchydoney Beach, located in Clonakilty, is a stunning stretch of coastline that extends for miles. Known for its pristine Blue Flag waters, Inchydoney Beach is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun.

Whether you’re into surfing, shelling, rock pooling, or building sandcastles, there are plenty of activities to enjoy at this beautiful beach. The locals and tourists alike flock to Inchydoney Beach for its breathtaking scenery and tranquil atmosphere.

Another must-visit beach in Cork is Castlefreke. With its golden sands and crystal clear waters, Castlefreke offers a picturesque setting for those looking to unwind. This hidden gem attracts visitors with its natural beauty and peaceful surroundings.

Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll along the shore or simply sit back and admire the view, Castlefreke provides a serene escape from everyday life.

23. Visit the historical sites of Castlefreke and Inchydoney

Explore the rich history of Cork by visiting the historical sites of Castlefreke and Inchydoney. Castlefreke is well-known for its stunning castle, which stands as a testament to the region’s past.

Immerse yourself in the grandeur of this historical landmark and marvel at its architectural beauty. Meanwhile, Inchydoney boasts beautiful beaches that have become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Take a leisurely stroll along the sandy shores, soak up the sun, or simply enjoy the tranquility of these picturesque surroundings. Don’t miss out on experiencing these unique historical sites during your visit to Cork.

24. Enjoy a day trip to Dursey Island and the Dursey Island Cable Car

Experience the thrill of taking a day trip to Dursey Island and riding the Dursey Island Cable Car, which happens to be the only cable car in Ireland. This unique cable car offers an unforgettable journey above the sea, connecting the mainland to Dursey Island.

Whether you’re a tourist or a local, this cable car provides easy access to explore all that Dursey Island has to offer. Not only does it transport people, but also supplies, dogs, and bicycles.

The 10-minute ride on this cable car will give you breathtaking views and create lasting memories of your visit to Cork, Ireland.

25. Explore the fascinating history and architecture of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork is a must-visit for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. This impressive Gothic Revival cathedral was designed by architect William Burges and built in the Neo-Gothic style.

It stands on the same spot where St. Fin Barre founded a monastery in the 7th century, making it an important historical site. The cathedral is dedicated to Cork’s patron saint, St.

Fin Barre, and its striking appearance with three spires makes it easily recognizable. Take your time exploring this fascinating place that showcases both rich history and stunning architecture.


In conclusion, Cork, Ireland has a plethora of incredible attractions and activities that are sure to captivate any visitor. From exploring historic castles like Blarney Castle and Charles Fort to indulging in the local food scene at the English Market, there is something for everyone in Cork.

Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culture, this vibrant city will leave you with unforgettable memories. So pack your bags and get ready to experience the best that Cork has to offer!


1. What are some of the top attractions in Cork, Ireland?

Some of the top attractions in Cork, Ireland include Blarney Castle and Gardens, Cobh Heritage Centre, Fota Wildlife Park, and Jameson Distillery Midleton.

2. Are there any outdoor activities to do in Cork?

Yes, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in Cork. You can explore the beautiful landscapes at Killarney National Park, hike along the Beara Peninsula or take a scenic drive along the Ring of Kerry.

3. Where can I experience traditional Irish music in Cork?

To experience traditional Irish music in Cork, you can visit pubs such as An Spailpín Fánach or The Oliver Plunkett which often have live music performances.

4. What is unique about visiting Cork City Gaol?

Cork City Gaol offers a unique perspective on Irish history through its well-preserved former prison grounds and exhibits that tell the story of social and political life during various periods. Visitors can also take guided tours to learn more about this historically significant site.

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