Sitting snug inland on the River Lee, you’ll find Cork’s buzzing city centre. Awaiting you is a wealth of historic attractions of medieval, early modern and Georgian origin.
Found on the mouth of the river, which wraps around the city centre, sits the distinct fortress of Blackrock Castle. Moving closer to the middle of the city you’ll discover the awe-inspiring Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, a triple-spired example of French Neo-gothic architecture. While on the north side, you can step back in time as you cross the threshold of the eerie 19th century Cork City Gaol.
When you wish to wave goodbye to the buzz of the city, head south-west to explore the tranquility of Ireland’s oldest national park. Killarney National Park is divided by both the Ring of Kerry and the River Laune, which runs down from Lough Leane. It is home to bountiful herds of majestic red deer and Ireland’s largest native forest. Take a scenic drive from Killarney Town to Moll’s Gap to witness the superb views of the lakes and the park as you pass by.
At the north of the park, below Torc Mountain, let the relaxing sound of cascading waters guide you to the beautiful Torc Waterfall. Sat snug behind the lush foliage, just above Muckross Lake, you’ll find the eye-catching Victorian mansion, Muckross House & Gardens. From here you can take a stroll further into the past, at Muckross Abbey.
Or, venture even further and catch a boat across Lough Leane to the quiet Innisfallen Island, home to a small 12th-century church of red sandstone. The park is perfect for activities like hiking, cycling, boating, fishing, or riding in a horse-drawn jaunting car.
Those looking for a physical challenge should head to the top of the dauntingly named Cardiac Hill. Yet its name surely derives from the awe and wonder that strikes the heart upon witnessing the glorious views, rather than from the strenuousness of its climb.
While both the city and park offer eye-opening historic sites, Cork brings the excitement of the city whereas Killarney National Park brings the natural serenity. From both, you can easily travel onwards, to discover the wonders of the west.
This south-westerly tip of Ireland is special for the peninsulas that jut out into the North Atlantic Ocean. Inland, Killarney National Park is a beautiful patchwork of trees, lakes and mountains.
What to do
- Explore contemporary Irish art among the early eighteenth century walls of Crawford Art Gallery
- Discover the history behind Blackrock Castle
- Sail across Lough Leane to reach Innisfallen Island
- Listen to the soothing sound of Torc Waterfall
- Take on the challenge of Cardiac Hill
- Wander the Victorian Muckross House & Gardens