Cork County Ireland:  A Must-See for Any Visit to the Emerald Isle!

There’s something for everyone in Cork County Ireland, including the Emerald Isle's second largest city, and beautiful surrounding areas.

You can find historic sites, great shopping, good food and ale... and you can even announce your arrival by ringing the Shandon Bells at the Church of St. Anne.

Cork County Ireland - Riverwalk in Cork

Overall, we have found Cork to be one of the most fun and interesting places to visit!

So What Should I Know About Cork County Ireland?

Cork has always had independent proud people, which explains the for Cork County nickname of the “Rebel County.”

The citizens even maintain their own special accent different from all other Irish accents, sometimes even with words spoken only by locals.

That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying colorful stories at a local pub or engaging in a conversation with a local. The citizens of Cork Ireland may be independent but they’re also warm and friendly.

History of Cork County Ireland

The original Cork construction was a monastery and church built in 1607 A.D. St. Fin Barre, whose name means fair head, founded the monastery, which also attracted students by becoming a well-known center of learning.

He dubbed the area “corcaigh,” which translated means marshy place. It was indeed a marshy area, which is why he chose a high area on a limestone cliff above the River Lee for the monastery.

A small settlement developed close to the church. This small village developed more rapidly after invading Vikings changed it to a trading port.

The rest of the history includes invasions from the English, the black plague and even rebellion during the Irish War of Independence where the Black and Tans burned much of the city.

However, the spirit of independence never died in the hearts of the local citizenry.

Things to Do and Places to See in Cork County Ireland

Ring the Bell

If you go to the area of Shandon, meaning Old Fort, you’ll find the Church of St. Anne.

The stone for the church came from two places and because of the church has two colors of stone; white limestone from an old Franciscan Abbey and red stone from the original Shandon castle.

Even though the coloring of the church is amazing to see, most visitors find that announcing their arrival by ringing the eight bells in the church is an even greater thrill.

Visit Where It All Started

A visit to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral not only gives you a feeling of what the land was like when the patron saint of Cork first established the monastery, it also is a beautiful example of 1800’s architecture in French Gothic style.

This wonderful cathedral stands on the original location St. Fin Barre selected.

Spike Island and Cork City Goal

While these two are quite different today, at one time they were both prisons.

Cork City Goal gives you a view of what prison life must have been like in the early 1900s, but there’s also a radio museum too.

You’ll have to take a ferry to Spike Island in Cork Harbour. Saint Mochuda originally founded a monastery when Christianity came to Ireland.

The British government purchased it in 1779 and built Fort Westmoreland. By 1847, it became a prison.

It was a location they housed rebels, with the most famous being John Mitchell. In fact, he wrote, “Jail Journals” while incarcerated on Spike.

It’s more than just the prison that draws people to visit Spike Island; the tranquility and peace of the island is also a draw.

Cork County Ireland - Saint Fin Barre Cathedral

The Druids

West Cork Ireland is the home of Drombeg, known as the Druid’s Alter. It’s a well-preserved site 30 feet in diameter. The discovery of the site came in 1957.

Blackrock Castle

If you love history and science, you’ll love Blackrock Castle. It’s a 16th century castle, restored to hold a science museum and conservatory.  You can learn more about Blackrock castle here or here.

The Butter Museum

While the thought of going to a museum dedicated solely to the history of butter may seem a touch boring, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how important milk and butter was to the history of the economy.

It’s worth the trip and there’s a handmade candy shop very close to satisfy any sugar cravings.

Food and Drink in Cork County Ireland

Linehan Hand Made Sweets

If you didn’t stop at the shop when you visited St. Anne’s Church to ring the bells or after your visit to the Butter Museum, it’s worth the time to make a special trip to John Redmond Street to buy some of the old-fashioned candy made here.

The candy is from recipes passed down for four generations.

O’Conaill’s Chocolate Shop

Another place for delicious treats and the best cup of hot chocolate in town is at 16 French Church Street.

There’s a coffee shop area where you can rest your weary feet while sipping on coffee or their famous hot chocolate.

The English Market

The English market sells all types of food products, has restaurants and an organic produce area.

Originally opened in 1788, it provided an indoor market for the well-to-do citizenry. Those of less means used the St. Peter’s market—also dubbed “The Irish Market.”

Restaurants and Pubs

There are abundant great restaurants and pubs in Cork County Ireland that serve delicious traditional Irish food as well as foods from other nations.

No matter what the food, Cork Ireland is the city that will make your taste buds scream for another helping.

Cork County Ireland - Blarney Castle Grounds

A Bit More on Cork County Ireland...


There are quaint shops everywhere in Cork County Ireland, but French Church Street seems to have the most. Patrick Street is the longest street filled with shops.

The large shopping centers include Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre, North Main Street Shopping Centre and Paul Street Shopping Centre.

MacCurtain Street offers antiques, musical instruments and quaint cafés.

The Best Side Trip

Only 8 kilometers from Cork Ireland is Blarney Castle, known for the famous Blarney Stone. If you don’t have a car, take a day tour and don’t forget to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Want More Irish Landmarks?

Taking a virtual tour of beautiful Irish landmarks is one of our favorite ways to enjoy an Irish experience, wherever in the world we happen to be!   That is why one of our most popular ebooks is called  "Favorite Sights to See in Ireland."

To get your free copy, simply scroll to the bottom and share your email address with us.  Your information will be in your inbox in a matter of minutes!

You might also want to check out our section on Ireland sightseeing here.

Want Even More?

Now, armed with a few insider tips on travel in Cork County Ireland, you’re ready to enhance your own experience of Irish culture!

As you plan your trip to the Emerald Isle, make sure you have a look at our section on Ireland travel destinations.