Read an Excerpt
Ireland For Dummies
By Elizabeth Albertson
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-7749-2
Chapter OneCounty Cork
In This Chapter
* Kissing the Blarney Stone
* Pub-crawling your way through Cork City
* Visiting the port town of Cobh - just like the Titanic and Lusitania did
* Eating your way through Ireland's cuisine capital at Kinsale
* Getting to the garden isle of Garinish
County Cork (see the nearby map) occupies the eastern half of Southern Ireland and has the country's second-largest city (Cork City); one of its most beautiful golf courses (at the Old Head of Kinsale); a host of historical sights; and, bar none, the most famous rock on the island: the Blarney Stone. Pucker up!
Many travelers breeze into Cork City, look around, stop at Blarney Castle on the way out for a quick smooch, and then head right for Killarney. Big mistake. The stretch of coast from the lovely seaside town of Kinsale to the tip of Bantry Bay is just too beautiful to pass up. And East Cork is a gentle land that boasts several wonderful guesthouses; the pretty harbor town of Cobh; and some great attractions, including Fota Wildlife Park. Stick around a while.
Cork City and East County Cork
The first thing you notice about Corkonians is that they have a fierce pride in their city, which they have nicknamed "The People's Republic of Cork." And they should be proud of Cork; It manages to have a small-town, friendly feel whileoffering everything that a large city should, including a lively arts scene and quite a few fabulous restaurants. East County Cork is home to popular attractions such as the Blarney Stone and Castle and Fota Wildlife Park, and the sweet seaside town of Cobh. (The "Cork City" map can help you with locations.)
Getting to Cork City and east County Cork
To get to Cork City by car, take the N25 west from Waterford, the N20 south from Limerick, or the N22 east from Kilkenny. The towns of east County Cork are located off the N25. If you're coming to Cork City from the east, you can save lots of time by taking the Carrigaloe-Glenbrook Ferry (021-481-1485) between Cobh on the east side of the bay and Ringaskiddy (16km [10 miles] south of Cork) on the west side. The scenic trip takes only about five minutes and runs year-round, 7:15 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily. The cost is 5 [euro] ($5.75) round-trip or 3 [euro] ($3.45) one-way.
Irish Rail (1850-366-222; irishrail.ie) serves Cork City, Fota, and Cobh regularly; and Bus Eireann (021-50-8188; buseireann.ie) serves Cork City, Cobh, Youghal, and other cities throughout County Cork daily. The main bus depot is located at the Travel Centre, Parnell Place, Cork.
You can travel right to Cork from Britain and France as well. Swansea Cork Ferries (021-427-1166; swansea-cork.ie) sails to Cork from Swansea, Wales. Brittany Ferries, 42 Grand Parade, Cork (021-427-7801; brittany-ferries.com), sails from Roscoff, in France, to Cork.
Getting around Cork City
Cork City is best seen by foot, because most of the smaller roads and alleys are open exclusively to pedestrian traffic. In addition, the city can be confusing to find your way around in by car, specifically because the city's River Lee forks and winds, and creates two sets of quays (wharves or piers). Although roads are not as narrow as in most towns, the one-way streets can be frustrating when you're carried across a bridge you didn't mean to cross or you see where you want to go but can't quite seem to get there.
If you do have a car, either park at your hotel if it's convenient or park when you get downtown, and see the city by foot. Parking in Cork City runs on a disc system. You can purchase disks at small shops on each block. Or you can make use of a multistory parking garage at Lavitt's Quay or Merchant's Quay or find one of several parking lots. Most of the attractions and shopping lie on the island between the two tributaries. St. Patrick's Street is the city's hub for shopping, and Oliver Plunkett Street is the main place for a Cork City pub-crawl. If you end up needing a taxi in town, call Taxi Co-op (021-427-2222).
It's best to have a car for getting to and from attractions and towns in east County Cork. Car-rental companies in Cork City include Avis (021-428-1111). Bus Eireann (01-836-6111) operates local service around Cork City to neighboring towns like Blarney, Cobh, and Fota. Most buses leave from the Parnell Place Bus Station. If you need a taxi in the outlying towns, call Castle Cabs (021-38-2222) in Blarney and Harbour Cabs (021-481-4444) in Cobh.
Spending the night in Cork City and east County Cork
BEST OF THE BEST
Ballymakeigh House $$ Killeagh
This is one of my favorite accommodations in all of Ireland. A quiet, casual, beautifully managed farmhouse, it's the kind of place that makes you feel that all is right with the world, especially as you gaze at the blue dusk settling on the dairy cows in the field. The soothing, comfortable bedrooms feature knotty-pine furniture; luxurious comforters; and well-chosen, eclectic art - my room had a painting of the tropics and a large photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge. And then there's the food. Oh, wow. Your warm and friendly hostess, Margaret Browne, happens to be a professional gourmet cook. Her breakfasts are delicious, and if you book before 5 p.m., she will create a glorious six-course dinner for you, using the freshest of local ingredients, including flowers from around her property. Don't miss the dinner - it may turn out to be the best meal of your whole trip. This is a fantastic place for couples looking for a romantic escape.
Killeagh. The house is 9.5km (6 miles) west of Youghal off the N25; look for the signs. 024-95-184. Fax: 024-95-370. Rates: 100 [euro]-110 [euro] ($115-$127). V.
BEST OF THE BEST
Garnish House $$ Cork City
This townhouse B&B is the best in the city. The large rooms are sweet, soothing, and stylish, boasting brightly painted walls, beds that are an ocean of white sheets and blankets, a bowl filled with fresh fruit, and another bowl with flowers floating in it. Breakfasts are amazing - you'd need a full year of mornings to sample every single treat that friendly hostess Hansi Lucey offers, and I'm willing to bet that you'll make multiple trips to the buffet. The B&B is about a 20-minute walk from the heart of Cork City. Check out the beautiful wood-framed photos of Ireland that decorate the house.
Western Rd., 021-427-5111. Fax: 021-427-3872. garnish.ie. Rates: 80 [euro]-100 [euro] ($92-$115). Free parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
Isaac's $-$$ Cork City
Rustic charm, a great location, and a courtyard garden featuring a beautiful waterfall are the highlights of this comfortable hotel. The rooms are uniquely decorated and comfortable. The two- and three-bedroom apartments are an excellent deal if you're traveling with several people.
48 MacCurtain St. 021-450-0011. Fax: 021-450-6355. isaacs.ie. Rates: 96 [euro]-115 [euro] ($110-$132) double. AE, MC, V.
Jurys Hotel $$$ Cork City
As at all the jewels in the Jurys Hotel crown, the service here is professional and efficient, and the rooms are modern and cookie-cutter standard, with dark woods and quality fabrics. And as at most Jurys Hotels, the clientele are often businesspeople. The enclosed grounds - featuring a walking path, pool, and outdoor sunbathing - make this hotel a standout.
Western Rd. Take Lancaster Quay from the city center; it becomes Western Rd. 021-425-2700. Fax: 021-27-4477. jurysdoyle.com. Rates: 158 [euro]-203 [euro] ($182-$233) double. AE, DC, MC, V.
Jurys Inn $$ Cork City
The service is par for the course, and the modern rooms are comfortable, but there's nothing exceptional about Jurys Inn - except the low price and the excellent location, within a few minutes of the city center. A flat rate for up to three adults or two adults and two children in a room makes this a good deal for traveling families.
Anderson's Quay between the Custom House and bus station at the mouth of the north channel. 021-494-3000. Fax: 021-427-6144. bookajurysinn.com. Rates: 71 [euro]-79 [euro] ($82-$91) up to three adults or family of four. AE, DC, MC, V.
Lotamore House $$ Tivoli
This 20-room Georgian-manor-turned-guesthouse is just over 3.2km (2 miles) away from the center of Cork City (you need to have a car), but its sloping grounds make it feel much more rural. Public rooms are beautifully furnished with antiques and portraits, and a grand staircase leads up to bedrooms that have gorgeous old dark-wood furniture and high ceilings. The house has a bit of a moody, echo-y feel to it, perfect for reading a mystery novel on a rainy night. The staff is friendly and helpful.
Off the Dublin/Waterford Rd. (N8/N25). East off the main road to Waterford (N25). 021-82-2344. Fax: 021-82-2219. Rates: 130 [euro] ($150) double. AE, MC, V.
Dining locally in Cork City and East County Cork
Aherne's $$$ Youghal SEAFOOD
This port-town restaurant has a reputation for serving the freshest and tastiest seafood in this part of the country. Don't expect a lot of fanciness and formality with your dishes: The chef is more concerned about taste than presentation. New Englanders may never order cod back home again after having it at Aherne's. The seafood chowder is unmatched as well. If you're really hungry, go for the award-winning six-fish, four-shellfish platter.
163 N. Main St. Take the main road to Waterford (N25) then turn off onto Main St. 024-92-424. Main courses: 16 [euro]-21 [euro] ($18-$24). AE, DC, MC, V. Open: Daily noon-10 p.m.
BEST OF THE BEST
Cafe Paradiso $$$ Cork City VEGETARIAN
Before you even sit down, you feel the vibe. This bright and electric restaurant is filled with books and toys and a certain ... energy. Then there's the food, a vegetarian's nirvana with an eclectic and fresh menu offering dishes such as roasted tomato soup with basil pesto, mushroom fritters fried in ginger butter, gingered sweet potato spring rolls with sesame cabbage, panfried couscous, and feta-and-almond cake with arribiata sauce. For dessert, try the rich fudge cake with orange sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? After you dine, you can purchase The Cafe Paradiso Cookbook and try out the recipes at home.
16 Lancaster Quay. Just beyond Wood St., down the south channel of the river, across the street from Jurys Hotel. 021-27-7937. Main courses: 21 [euro]-22 [euro] ($24-$25). AE, MC, V. Open: Tues-Sat 12:30-3 p.m. and 6:30-10:30 p.m.
Farmgate Cafe $ Cork City IRISH
This casual little cafe is located on an indoor balcony overlooking the bustling English Market (reviewed in the following section, "The top attractions"). It serves up excellent, rib-sticking traditional Irish food, including some specialties specific to County Cork, such as tripe and drisheens (blood sausages). The Irish stew is wonderful, as are the lighter dishes, such as quiches and sandwiches. This is a great place to get a taste of Cork food and the Corkonians themselves as locals frequent the place.
English Market. 021-427-8134. Main courses: MC, V. Open: Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Isaacs $$-$$$ Cork City INTERNATIONAL/PIZZA
An informal restaurant that's trendy but doesn't act like it, Isaacs is an amalgam of contemporary and traditional - much like Cork City itself. Located in a converted Victorian warehouse with a vaulted ceiling, Isaacs has red-brick walls adorned with local art pieces, as well as a chatty evening crowd. The international cuisine, from salads to burgers to pizzas, is reliably delicious.
48 MacCurtain St. Above the north channel; take a right off of St. Patrick's Hill. 021-450-3805. Main courses: 14 [euro]-22 [euro] ($16-$25). AE, DC, MC, V. Open: Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun 6:30-9:30 p.m.
BEST OF THE BEST
Jacob's on the Mall $$$ Cork City INTERNATIONAL
From the crisp vegetable-and-duck confit spring roll to the penne pasta with basil pesto, bacon, leeks, peas, and pine nuts, this restaurant creates simple yet sophisticated dishes that let each fresh, flavorful ingredient shine. The chef takes advantage of seasonal local produce, so choosing a dish that's in season (such as wild salmon from mid-June through July) is an excellent idea. The setting is an interesting mix of old and new, with colorful contemporary paintings hanging on a rough stone wall and hanging planters with trees reaching their limbs toward the skylights in the high ceiling.
30A South Mall. 021-425-1530. Main courses: 16 [euro]-30 [euro] ($18-$35). AE, MC, V. Open: Mon-Sat 12:30-2:30 p.m. and 6:30-10 p.m.
Pizza Republic $ Cork City PIZZA/ITALIAN
Sometimes in life, you come to a point where you just want a really good pizza, and Pizza Republic delivers (so to speak). This big, casual, American-diner-esque space, with comfortable chairs and modern art (check out the stained-glass pizza), fills up with families, university students, and boisterous groups of friends. The selection of excellent pizzas is vast, with some very innovative creations that incorporate local foods, such as the West Cork pizza, with Clonakilty black pudding, sauteed leeks, and rosemary roast potatoes; and the delicious Naturally Smoked Pizza, with tomato, smoked sausage, mozzarella, and smoked Gubbeen (a sharp Cork cheese). Vegetarians will love the Hot Spinach Pizza, with goat cheese, hot chiles, spinach, and tomato. The menu also offers pastas and salads.
97-98 S. Main St. 021-427-99-69. Main courses: 8.95 [euro]-13 [euro] ($10-$15). AE, MC, V. Open: Daily noon-11 p.m.
Ristorante Rossini $$-$$$ Cork City ITALIAN
Quintessentially Italian, down to the elegant blue plates and matching blue candles dripping over chianti bottles, this charming and authentic restaurant is located down one of the side streets off Oliver Plunkett Street. The pasta is homemade by the chef, and you can't go wrong with the specialty Italia de la Casa - pasta and seafood with the chef's own sauce creation. If you don't have a pleasant meal here, you just don't like Italian food, period.
34 Princes St. between Oliver Plunkett St. and South Mall. 021-427-5818. Main courses: 16 [euro]-23 [euro] ($18-$26). AE, DC, MC, V. Open: Mon-Sat noon-3 p.m. and 6-10:30 p.m.
Exploring Cork City and east County Cork
Bus Eireann (01-836-6111) offers half-day day tours of Cork City and Blarney (where you have an option of staying and taking another bus later) on an open-top bus. Tours leave from and arrive at Parnell Place in Cork City. They depart daily at 10:30 a.m. and return at 1:30 p.m. Prices are 9 [euro] ($10) for adults, 7 [euro] ($8.05) for students and seniors, and ?5 ($5.75) for children.
The top attractions
BEST OF THE BEST
Blarney Castle and Stone Blarney
To kiss or not to kiss, that is the question. Yes, it's touristy, but there is a satisfaction that comes from kissing a hunk of rock that's famous across the world, and there is a fun camaraderie with your fellow kissers as you wait in line. The Blarney Stone, located at the top of the ruins of a 15th-century castle (after a fair amount of climbing up narrow, twisting stairways), allegedly imparts eloquence, or the gift of gab, to those daring enough to contort upside down from the parapet walk and kiss it. It's a real feat to lean back into nothing and tip your head to kiss the smooth rock - it may even be a little frightening to people afraid of heights (or germs). It's customary to tip the guy who holds your legs, and you may want to give it over before he holds you over the faraway courtyard. Blarney is one of the most fortified castles in Ireland - its walls are 5.5m (18 feet) thick in some parts. You can climb through the ruins of the castle, exploring various rooms (including the "murder holes") along the way. Don't leave Blarney without seeing the castle grounds, with their pretty gardens. If you have no intention of puckering up and have explored (or will explore) other castle ruins, a trip out here is probably not worth the time.
Off the N20 north of Cork City, heading toward Limerick. By bus: You can catch a Bus Eireann round trip to the castle from the bus station in Cork, at Parnell Place. 021-438-5252. Admission: 7 [euro] ($8.05) adults, ?5 ($5.75) students and seniors, 2.50 [euro] ($2.90) children 8 to 14. Open: June-Aug Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; May and Sept Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sun 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Oct-April Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to dusk, Sun 9:30 a.m. to dusk. Not accessible by wheelchair. Suggested visit: 2 hours.
Excerpted from Ireland For Dummies by Elizabeth Albertson Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.