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Cork Travel Guide

About Cork

Proud and dynamic, Cork is Ireland’s second city – although the locals would say that their spirited home plays second fiddle to nowhere.

There’s an irrepressible energy about Cork these days; it’s a city that’s enjoyed a cultural revival in the face of Ireland’s deep recession and emerged with a can-do attitude. Its self-adopted title, the People’s Republic of Cork, tells you much about its independent streak.

This is something that can be seen in its flamboyant café culture and its flurry of creatively minded shops. It’s also found in a flourishing arts scene, where one venue’s Irish dancing is matched by another’s tango night. Plus, like any Irish town worth its salt, there is live music every night of the week.

Many Corkonians see the city as an equal to the capital, Dublin. Any inferiority complex was brushed away midway through the last decade, when it was named European Capital of Culture - its artistic reputation then expanded globally.

The city, though, has always been an important place of learning. “The Cork citizens are the most book-loving men I ever met,” said W. M. Thackeray, and he was on the right page. Today, it boasts over 20 festivals encompassing everything from dance to film, including the West Cork Literary Festival at Bantry Bay.

Cork is a city built on estuarine islands, where the River Lee joins one of the world’s largest natural harbours, and it takes some 29 bridges to connect its most distinctive features together. The Shaky Bridge (a Victorian, cast-iron suspension footbridge officially known as Daly’s Bridge) takes centre stage, though, as locals use it to dive into the water or fish for their supper - it’s a great city for seafood.

It’s well worth travelling out of town to Blarney Castle, too, where thousands line up to plant a peck on the Blarney Stone. It’s said that those who kiss the stone will be given the “the gift of the gab”. Most of Cork’s inhabitants must have visited at some point, because there isn’t a welcome this warm for miles.

Key facts

Population:
119,230. Population Year2011
Latitude:
51.899287
Longitude:
-8.474607

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Vienna Woods Hotel

If you're after the charm of countryside living, you'll find it behind the yolk-coloured walls of Vienna Woods Hotel. Surrounded by some 9 hectares (22 acres) of woodland, this 18th century rural retreat is a charismatic and comfortable mid-range choice that mixes vintage furniture with modern facilities. There's free Wi-Fi, beds to lose weekends in and an onsite restaurant that does hearty Emerald Isle grub .

Hotel Isaacs

Most people come to Hotel Isaacs for its infamous Greenes restaurant, which serves up fine Irish dining and excellent wines on a charming little patio. Its rooms don't quite compete with the foodie flamboyance downstairs, but they're clean, spacious and practical, with a price tag that won't melt the credit card. Pick from 47 rooms, which come with en-suite bathrooms, complementary Wi-Fi, cable TV and one of the best locations in the city.

Crawford House

Just a 10 minute walk from the city centre, this smart, modern guesthouse is excellent value for money. Amalgamating three traditional houses, all rooms come with its king-size beds, huge baths and excellent traditional Irish breakfasts, served up in the conservatory. The staff here are lovely too. The quieter rooms are found at the back of the hotel.

Fota Island Hotel

It may be a little bit out of town, but it would be hard for you to swing a golf club anywhere near this 5-star retreat if it were any closer to Cork. The greens on its Championship-standard courses are as fine as the sheets in its ample, luxurious rooms. It has a gym, tennis courts and yoga, if you want to keep fit, plus a fine dining restaurant, complete with terrace, if you don't. Stylish, sophisticated and truly welcoming, Fota Island Hotel is worth blowing the budget.

Castlemartyr Resort

It may be 30 minutes out of Cork, but if you book a room at Castlemartyr Resort, you couldn't have truly envisioned leaving its grounds. This vast country manor dates back from the 17th-century and has the formal gardens to prove it. They, though, don't quite do its elegance justice. Its grace is admired from up close: it's found in the ruins of its 800-year-old castle, in the soothing splendours of its spa, around the 18 holes of its challenging golf course and in the unforgettable dining experience of its Bell Tower restaurant. Rooms, as you may have guessed, are worthy of the most magnanimous guest too.

Clarion Hotel Cork

Down on the promenade, next to the River Lee, the Clarion Hotel Cork is a stylish accommodation choice that isn't shy of stepping into world of avant-garde design. Its sleek rooms are generous and ultramodern, with clean lines and munificent king-size beds, while its fitness centre (including swimming pool and spa) squeezes in everything from aerobics to yoga. Step into its imaginative atrium though, and it's a world of fake grass, flaky croissants, fluffy sofas and strange, egg-shaped seating coves.