Cork Travel Guide // Forest Tourist

Ireland Travel Guide: Cork

In case you haven’t been keeping up with my blog or facebook or instagram, I’ll give you a little refresher on what I’ve been up to: in December I traveled with my family and boyfriend to Ireland for vacation. We started the trip in Belfast (you can read all about it here!) and then drove all the way south down to Cork.

Cork was a last minute addition to our trip itinerary so we only had one day to see all of the sights and eat all of the food. Despite the short time frame, we were able to pack in a lot of activities and it was totally worth the long drive to get there. Here’s a quick little guide on what to do in Cork, Ireland!

Want to read about the rest of our trip? Check out my guides to Belfast and Dublin!Travel Guide // Forest Tourist

Day 1: Visit the Blarney Castle and Stone 

The one big outing we had while in Cork was our trip to the Blarney Castle to see the famous Blarney Stone. The castle was surrounded by multiple gardens, and to be honest I had more fun wandering around the green outdoor spaces than I did inside the castle itself. Since it was the off-season there were hardly any people there so we were able to breeze through the castle and go straight to the stone without waiting in line.

Cork Travel Guide // Forest Tourist
Photo by John Miller.

If you don’t know what the heck a “blarney stone” is don’t worry – I didn’t know what it was either until I was looking right at it. There are many legends surrounding the origin of the stone, but the one that I heard was that Lord Blarney found a witch who told him there was a stone in his castle that would give him good luck if he kissed it. The lucky stone is at the very top of the tower and you have to hang upside down in order to kiss it. Nowadays there are safety rails and employees there to help you reach it so any risk that was once there is now gone.

I for one am not a superstitious person so I wasn’t inclined to kiss a dumb stone, but my parents refused to let me leave unless I did it. Who knows though, maybe now 2019 will be my lucky year.

Like I said before, the castle and stone weren’t nearly as fun as the gardens themselves. Even in the dead of winter the grass was a vibrant green and the trees were covered in leaves, so I can only imagine how beautiful the place is in the spring or summer.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should add the Blarney Castle to your Cork itinerary, this little bit of information might make or break it for you: unfortunately you can’t get into the gardens without paying for the full experience. If you’re there during the peak season this might mean it’s not worth it because the wait for the castle and stone can be over an hour long, so definitely keep that in mind.

More things to do:

Since we only had one day in Cork there were a lot of things we didn’t get a chance to do. The fact that it was almost New Years Eve made it even more difficult to do things because a lot of shops and attractions were closed. Even though I wasn’t able to experience some of these things for myself I still want to share them with you in case you’re ever in the area. So here are some of the attractions that weren’t part of our itinerary but deserve to be on yours:

  • Fitzgerald Park: this park is adjacent to the river and is close to the city center, so it’s very accessible. Fitzgerald Park is a huge green space near the museum that has a sculpture garden, and from what the locals told me it’s a popular hangout spot when the weather is nice.
  • Cork Public Museum: if you’re a history buff then this museum is the place for you! The Cork Public Museum discusses the city’s rich history and diverse heritage. It’s free, so even if history isn’t necessarily for you it’s a good way to kill a couple of hours.
  • Crawford Art Gallery: this is the one attraction that I was really bummed we didn’t get to see. Like most other things in Cork, this art gallery is free to the public, so there’s no reason not to check it out if you’ve got nothing else going on.

Travel Guide // Forest Tourist

I already mentioned this in my Belfast blog post, but I want to include a little disclosure before we get into the food: whenever I travel I’m less strict with my diet. I still strive to be mostly plant-based and to consider the environmental impact of what I eat, but I also want to fully experience the culture of wherever I am. Part of why I love traveling is because it allows me to try new things and experience things like a local, and I love eating while traveling for the same reasons. That being said, I tried to incorporate as many vegan/vegetarian options as possible.

Here’s where we ate and drank while in Cork:

Circle K

You’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now after reading that. I mean, Circle K? Really? I’m serious though, the Circle Ks in Ireland have some amazing food. We stopped at a Circle K on the way into Cork to grab a bite for lunch and it was surprisingly good. I got an iced coffee in a paper can (hell yeah Ireland, way to be plastic-free) and a spinach falafel wrap. I kid you not, those wraps were so good and filling that John and I originally each got one but ended up sharing because it was too much food. My parents got some crispy peanuts and those ended up being the best find of the whole trip; these things don’t exist in the United States which breaks my heart because they were so tasty. You’re laughing now, but I’m telling you Circle K is the place to go for an impromptu lunch on the go.

Cork Travel Guide // Forest Tourist

The Sextant

The Sextant is “the pub that rocks on the docks.” This tiny bar and restaurant was right by the water, and while we only popped in for a quick drink I was able to catch a glimpse of the menu. Unfortunately, the only vegan vegetarian option was roasted pumpkin soup, but if you aren’t plant-based they have plenty of breakfast and brunch options.

The Oliver Plunkett

My family and I went to The Oliver Plunkett in Cork and didn’t walk out until four hours later. That statement alone should tell you all you need to know about the place. This restaurant is two stories tall and has live music every night of the week, usually with one band downstairs and another one upstairs. We choose this restaurant because my dear friend Mia from Croatia (don’t remember her? This blog post should jog your memory) recommended it. Her parents recently moved from Croatia to Cork so we got together with them at The Oliver Plunkett for a little reunion. The food was absolutely amazing – John and I split a vegan vegetable curry that was so good it brought tears to my eyes – and the live music was so much fun. The band upstairs where we were sitting played traditional Irish music and had everything from bagpipes to a fiddle to two male Irish dancers. The music alone was one of the highlights of the trip for me because it was so quintessentially Irish.

143 V Cafe

Unfortunately 143 V Cafe was closed for the holidays while we were in Cork so I didn’t get to try their food, but I can’t resist sharing how amazing this place looks. This tiny cafe is 100% plant based and serves the most drool-worthy bowls, burgers, sandwiches, soups, and brunch. If you’re ever in Cork and are able to eat here please send me pictures so I can live vicariously through you.

Was this helpful? Have feedback for me? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email at All photos in this post were taken by me unless otherwise specified in the caption. Header photo by John Miller.

I'm a climber, dog mom, and a hater of plastic. I like seeking wild adventures and sharing them with people.

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