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County Cork’s draw is its contrasting landscapes, containing Ireland’s thriving second city as well as a rugged Atlantic coastline.

Cork’s rustic centre had a recent boost as a Capital of Culture in 2005. Its culinary centerpiece is the English Market, but don’t let the name fool you – it sells the finest local produce. Follow the Blackwater River north of Cork through the lush countryside and see Ballyhooly Castle (which is as pretty as its name) perched on the cliffside. Press your lips to the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle to receive – legend has it – the gift of eloquence. Skibbereen, to the south, is a vibrant, colourful and friendly town where you can sample the very best of Cork's artisan cuisine. If Atlantic seascapes and moorland are more your cup of Guinness, Sheep’s Head Peninsula in the west is perfect for ravishing rambles.

Do go/Don’t go

In the summer make the most of the three Blue Flag beaches along the coast. While you’re there why not try the surf at Inchydoney Island? Spring and autumn are perfect for walks up through the Blackwater River Valley or along the rocky coastline.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Cork Airport is only 15 minutes south of Cork and flies to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Paris and Barcelona – to name just a few destinations (www.corkairport.com).
  • Boats There’s a ferry service between Pembroke on the Welsh coast and Rosslare, which is about a two and a half hours’ drive east of Cork, (www.irishferries.com).
  • Trains There are 11 train stations within the county offering local and national connections to the rest of Ireland (www.irishrail.ie).
  • Automobiles Cork airport has a choice of car rentals. You’ll want wheels to traverse the rural landscape.