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28 Best Things To Do In Cork In 2024 (With Map)

28 Best Things To Do In Cork In 2024 (With Map)

Although the best things to do in Cork are arguably the Ring of Beara and Mizen Head, this is far from a two-horse-county!

Cork is Ireland’s largest county, and it’s easily one of the most scenic.

The result is that there’s endless places to visit in Cork that’ll knock you sideways, from castles and coves to cliff walks and more

In this guide, I’ll show you what to do in Cork based on the many, many holidays that I’ve spent here during my 35 years of living in Ireland.

The best things to do in Cork

The map above has what are, in my opinion, the best places to visit in Cork plotted on it. 

Take 30 seconds to throw your eyes over it as it’ll give you a lay of the land nice and quickly!


1. The Beara Peninsula

Beara Peninsula

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find the magnificent Beara Peninsula finely plonked between Bantry Bay and the Kenmare River in West Cork. It’s here that you’ll discover a landscape that’ll never leave you.

The Peninsula, which is arguably one of the most scenic places to visit in Cork, is best explored by foot, although you can see some of the finest scenery it has to offer on the Ring of Beara drive.

Beara’s two mountain ranges (the Caha Mountains and the Slieve Miskish Mountains) make this a glorious place to hike around and the Beara Way trail is worth committing a week to.

Related read: 31 of the best things to do in West Cork in 2024


2. Mizen Head

Mizen Head

Photos via Shutterstock

A journey to Mizen Head will take you to Ireland’s most southerly point where the Wild Atlantic Way’s scenery is at its most dramatic.

The signal station at Mizen was constructed to protect those sailing off the coast of Ireland and those that visit will be immersed in the areas history via the Maritime Museum.

However, it’s what’s outside that counts at Mizen. When you leave the visitor centre, you’ll follow a well-trodden path towards the station and across the Mizen Head bridge.

The towering cliffs, the whistle of the wind and the crashing of the waves below combine to make this one of the best things to do in Cork for good reason.


3. Ireland’s Teardrop and Cape Clear Island

fastnet lighthouse

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the more non-tourists things to do in Cork is a tour that takes you from Baltimore to Cape Clear Island and then, on the return journey, around Fastnet Rock.

Fastnest is nicknamed ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’ as it was the last part of Ireland that many 19th-century Irish emigrants saw as they sailed across to North America.

You can climb aboard the ferry to Cape Clear (takes 45 minutes) and then hop into a shuttle bus that takes you to the islands heritage centre where there’s a multimedia exhibition.

The island is home to raw, unspoiled beauty and plenty of archaeological sites, too. The return journey around Fastnet will give you an eye-full of one of Ireland’s most impressive lighthouses.


4. Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Now, Blarney Castle gets its fair share of criticism. This is mainly due to people thinking that the Blarney Stone is the only thing that Blarney Castle has to offer.

That isn’t the case – the grounds here are gorgeous and they’re the perfect spot for a ramble. There are also some very unusual places to see, like the ‘Witches kitchen’.

If you want to kiss the Blarney Stone, you can of course. According to legend, the stone has the power to give anyone who kisses it the gift of the gab – aka the ability to speak with ease and confidence.

The castle and its gardens are one of the more popular places to visit in Cork during the peak season, so arrive early if you’re visiting during summer.


5. Bantry House

Bantry House and Gardens

Photos via Shutterstock

Our next stop takes us to Bantry House and Gardens – the ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry. You’ll find it finely perched on a site that overlooks Bantry Bay.

The house and it’s beautifully maintained gardens opened to the public in 1946. Those that visit can kick-back with a bite to eat in the tearoom or head for a saunter around the gardens.

One of the reasons that this is one of of the more popular Cork attractions is due to the view (above) that you can get of the house and the bay beyond from an elevated area.


6. The Baltimore Beacon walk

baltimore beacon

Photos via Shutterstock

The Baltimore Beacon is arguably best-visited around sunset when the sun dips over Sherkin Island (as an added bonus you can enjoy a pint in nearby Bushe’s Bar after!).

You’ll find it standing proudly at the entrance to Baltimore harbour where it’s been acting as a warning system for sea-farers for many a year.

The British ordered the construction of the beacon after the 1798 Rebellion. The current structure is said to have been built at some stage during the 1840s.

You can drive to it (there’s parking beside the hill) or you can do one of the trails from our Cork walks that leaves from the town and ends at the Beacon.

Related read: See our guide to our 9 of the best hotels in West Cork


7. Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra

Photos via Shutterstock

I’ve visited our next stop, Gougane Barra, on many occasions and it is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Cork when the weather’s good!

There are few places in the world, never mind in Ireland, like the magical Gougane Barra. Those that visit will discover a large valley and lake that are enveloped by mountains which rise up to 370 metres in height.

If you’re thinking, ‘Is that yoke a little church?’, it is indeed! The story goes that St. Finbarr (the Patron Saint of Cork) built a monastery on the little island in Gougane Barra Lake during the 6th century.

The little chapel on the island that stands today isn’t the original, but it adds to the fairytale-like surroundings at Gougane Barra. There are several trails of varying length and difficulty to try here!


8. Cobh


Photos via Shutterstock

Few towns in Cork are as photographed as the wonderful Cobh in East Cork. When you arrive, park up behind Cobh Cathedral and admire the impressive architecture.

Although there are plenty of things to do in Cobh, most people only visit to see the Deck of Cards (photo on the left above). They’re worth a visit, but there’s more to Cobh than some colourful houses.

Your next stop is the Titanic Experience tour where you’ll learn about the Titanic’s arrive into Queenstown (what we now know as Cobh) on its maiden voyage.

You can then take the ferry over to a place known as ‘Ireland’s Hell’ – Spike Island. Over the course of 1,300 years, the island has been home to a 24-acre fortress, a 6th-century monastery and the biggest convict depot in the world.


9. Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne

Photos via Shutterstock

This sea-water lake is nestled within a fold of rolling hills, 5km from the lively little town of Skibbereen. It’s also Ireland’s First Marine Nature Reserve with its very own ecosystem.

This Lough Hyne Walk takes you up Knockomagh Hill and treats you to stunning views out over the lake and the surrounding countryside.

It can take around an hour, with stops, and is pretty steep in places. However, the climb to the top is well worth the effort. 


10. Cork City

Blackrock Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Cork City makes a great base to explore from – especially as you can round off a day of adventure in one of the trad pubs in Cork!

Activity wise, there’s plenty of things to do in Cork City, like St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, where you’ll see the swinging cannonball which arrived in 1690… when it was fired from Elizabeth Fort during the siege of Cork.

Then there’s the brilliant Cork City Gaol tour (it was designed in the early 1800s to replace the city’s old gaol) and the English Market which has been running since 1788!

Nip into one of the restaurants in Cork to refuel and then it’s on to the impressive Blackrock Castle, parts of which date back to 1582. Round off your day in the quirky Cork Butter Museum.

Need a place to stay in the city? Hop into our guide to hotels in Cork City or our Cork B&B guide


11. Bull Rock

Bull Rock

Photos via Shutterstock

If you’re wondering what to do in Cork for a very unique experience, take a tour around Bull Rock – it’s the island near Dursey (yep, it’s the one with the cable car!).

You’ll find three large ‘rocks’ off Dursey Island; Cow Rock, Calf Rock and the one that looks like something from a Disney Movie – Bull Rock.

Bull Rock stands at 93m high and 228m by 164m wide. If you’re after a unique experience, you can hop on a 1.5-hour tour with the lads at Dursey Boat Tours.

You’ll be taken over to the island (note: not onto the island) and through the tiny passageway that cuts through Bull Rock! Some other nearby island tours include Bere Island and Whiddy Island.


12. Charles Fort and Elizabeth Fort

Charles Fort

Photos via Shutterstock

Charles Fort near Kinsale is a late 17th-century star-shaped fort that’s linked to several significant events in Irish history.

The most significant of which was the Williamite War (1689-91) and the Civil War (1922-23). You can do a self-guided tour here that’ll take you around the inside of the fort and through a number of different buildings.

Another mighty Cork fort is Elizabeth Fort, a 17th-century star fort located on Barrack Street in Cork City. It was built as a defensive fortification on high-ground outside the city walls.

Cork City then gradually grew around Elizabeth Fort. Over time, as the city swelled, the fort became redundant. These are two of the more popular Cork tourist attractions for good reason.


13. Garnish Island

Garnish Island

Photos by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

Those that take the 15-minute ferry ride over to Garnish Island in Glengarriff harbour with the folks at Garnish Island Ferry are in for a treat.

The journey across includes a stop off at seal island where you’ll get to see a seal colony. The colony is believed to be comprised of a whopping 250 seals. You can just imagine the noise off of these lads!

When you land on the island, there’s plenty of things to see. After you’ve had a stroll through the gardens, head on to the Martello Tower. You’ll get the view above from towers battlements!


14. Glengarriff and its surrounds

Caha Pass

Photos via Shutterstock

Glengarriff is a fine base to explore to and there’s plenty to see and do a stone’s throw from the town.

Head to the Caha Pass (follow this route on Maps), first, and spin through the tunnels while soaking up beautiful valley views.

Next, tip into Glengarriff Nature Reserve. This is another one of those places to visit in Cork that tends to rock you a little.

Do the Waterfall Walk. It’s short but packs a punch and the trail is nice and gentle with very little incline.

Related reads: See our guide to the best things to do in Glengarriff and find a place to stay in our guide to the finest Glengarriff hotels


15. Kinsale


Photos via Shutterstock

Kinsale is one of the most popular places to see in Cork amongst visiting tourists, mainly thanks to its colourful streets and busy harbour.

However, there’s a handful of things to do in Kinsale if you’re looking to explore the area, including the Scilly Walk, Charles Fort and the Old Head of Kinsale walk.

If you, like me, are as fond of a pint or five, there are some mighty pubs in Kinsale, with the Bulman and the Spaniard being the pick of the bunch.

The town also has a flourishing food scene, thanks to its position on the coast. Some of the finest restaurants in Kinsale are the Black Pig and Man Friday.

Fancy staying in the town? These are the hotels in Kinsale that I’ve been recommending for years


16. The Ballycotton Cliff Walk

Ballycotton Cliff

Photos via Shutterstock

There are few walks as fine as the Ballycotton Cliff Walk. This is an absolute peach of a ramble that’ll take between 2 – 2.5 hours to polish off, depending on pace.

You’re treated to brilliant views throughout and you’ll have a chance to see some lovely hidden beaches, the Ballycotton Lighthouse and plenty more.

If you’re looking for places to visit in Cork that’ll treat you to glorious views throughout your ramble, get yourself here. Round it off with a bite to eat in Ballycotton Village and you’re laughing.


17. Healy Pass

Healy Pass

Photos via Shutterstock

Healy Pass is one of the most unique roads that you’ll find in Ireland. The pass was created back in 1847, during the famine years, to help prevent starvation.

You’ll find it on the Beara peninsula where it takes drivers, cyclists, and walkers on a unique and bendy route through the Caha Mountains.

Places like this make me happy. They make you feel like you’re on a different planet and 90% of the time you visit (basing this on my last 3 visits) you’ll be one of the only people there.


18. Dursey Island

Dursey Island

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find of the more unique things to do in Ireland at Ballaghboy, at the very tip of the Beara Peninsula. I’m talking, of course, about the cable car to Dursey Island.

The Dursey Island Cable Car has been in operation since 1969. It runs an impressive 250m above the ocean below and it takes just 10 minutes to cross.

When you arrive over on Dursey, you’ll be able to soak up some unrivalled views of the Beara Peninsula on this lovely looped walk.


19. The Youghal Clock Gate Tower


Photos © Tourism Ireland

A visit to the Clock Gate Tower is arguably one of the most popular things to do in Youghal and you’ll find it in the centre of the East Cork town.

Standing at 24 metres in hight, this historic landmark boasts a colourful history spanning over 700 years, and you can learn all about it on the tour.

The tour offers a unique sensory experience in the Merchants Quarters where you can smell spices and see smooth silks. You can also see the gaol cell and catch panoramic views from the top of the tower.


20. Visit the Jameson Distillery

Jameson Cork

Photos courtesy Hu O’Reilly via Fáilte Ireland

If you’re looking for things to do in Cork with a group of friends, plan a trip out to the Jameson Distillery in Midelton.

Jameson called Dublin home for 200 long years. Then, in 1975, they packed up and moved their expanding operation to Midleton in Cork.

Whiskey lovers can now take a ramble around the distillery on the highly recommended Jameson Experience Tour. This is a fully guided tour around the original Midleton Distillery with excellent reviews online.

Related read: See our guide to 13 things to do in Midleton


21. Clonakilty and its surrounds


Photo left and top right: Micheal O’Mahony via Failte Ireland. Others via Shutterstock

There’s plenty of things to do in Clonakilty and it’s for that reason that the town comes alive during the summer months.

Start of your day here with a ramble (or a paddle!) at the gorgeous Inchydoney Beach.

Next, work up an appetite at Clonakilty Black Pudding Visitor Centre before heading into the Michael Collins Heritage Centre.

To polish off your day, DeBarras Folk Club and catch a live music session while quenching your thirst with great Irish beers or Irish stout.


22. Doneraile House and Wildlife Park

Doneraile Cork

Photos courtesy Ballyhoura Fáilte

Doneraile Court and Wildlife Park is another great spot for those of you wondering what to do in Cork with the family.

The estate straddles the Awbeg River and it’s a joy to have a ramble around. If you fancy a ramble, there are several trails you can head off on.

You can also try the Doneraile Court Tour (perfect if it’s raining) or head for a ramble around the finely manicured gardens.


23. Whale watching

whale watching cork

Photos via Shutterstock

Whale watching in Cork is one of the more unique experiences the county has to offer (note: you’re not guaranteed to see whales on any of the tours).

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see everything from Basking Sharks and Harbour Porpoise to Sea Turtles and Jellyfish on one of these tours.

There’s a 2-hour tour which, according to those that run it is, ‘a thrilling fun-packed coastal sightseeing tour of the West Cork coastline, with whale, dolphin, seal and wildlife watching.’


24. Breath-taking beaches

Barleycove Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

Some of the best places to visit in Cork are the sandy stretches that are dotted along the county’s magnificent coastline.

And, as is the case with most coastal counties, a few Cork beaches, like Inchydoney Beach, Garretstown Beach and Barleycove Beach (pictured above), tend to get all of the attention.

The result is that many tend to miss the joys of the likes of Allihies Beach (one of the most impressive beaches in West Cork) and Warren Beach.

FAQs about what to do in Cork

West Cork Ireland

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are the best things to do in Cork if you only have a day?’ to ‘What are unique things to see in Cork?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the most unique places to visit in Cork?

I’d argue the the most unique places to go in Cork are the county’s many islands. A lot of people get put off by having to take a ferry to an island, but many of Cork’s islands can be reached in under an hour (with some reachable in 10 minutes).

What are the best things to do in Cork for an active break?

If you’re wondering what to do in Cork that’ll get you out of the car and treat you to heaps of scenery, look no further than the Sheeps Head Way and the Beara Way. These are two long-distance walks that pack a punch.

I’m wondering where to go in Cork on a weekend break?

If you only have a couple of days, your best bet is to find a base and explore around it. Cork City is a good option here, but this’ll depend on where in Ireland you’re travelling to Cork from. Kinsale is another good option if you want a lively town.

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Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Nano Nagle Centre near St. Finbarrs Fitzgerald Park Cork Crawford Art Gallery The Old Waterworks Cork Doneraile Park North Cork Fota House and Gardens FOTA Wildlife Park The Ewe Experience West Cork Whale Watching Courtmacsherry.


Friday 6th of March 2020

you forgot Youghal!!

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