Visiting County Cork, Ireland

A mixture of old and new can be found in County Cork, an easy, worthwhile side-trip from Dublin. When Kristi and I visited Dublin back in 2011, we squeezed in a couple of days in County Cork.

Midleton

Jameson Whiskey, Midleton, Ireland
Jameson Distillery in Midleton, Ireland (photo credit: Kristi Dosh)

Our visit began with a stop in Midleton, home of the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  The Jameson Distillery tour felt one-size-fits-all, churn-and-burn touristy to me.  Our guide lacked passion for her material.  If you’re in the area, it’s worth seeing, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this.  The remainder of the small town offers mostly forgettable dining options and shops.

Cobh

While we had high expectations which were not met in Midleton, we had low expectations for our next stop, Cobh (pronounced like “Cove”).  Cobh became a surprising highlight of our entire Ireland trip.

A magnificent, singular, church spire, brightly colored houses and walkable shoreline welcome visitors to this surprising gem.

We learned that Cobh provided the first immigrants processed through Ellis Island along with the last port of call for Titanic.  Monuments are erected for both.

Cobh, Ireland
The city of Cobh, Ireland (photo credit: Kristi Dosh)

As it so happened, we found our way into a pub during a highly anticipated soccer match.  Watching soccer – or rugby – in an authentic Irish pub is an experience that should be sought out.  The cheering, the cursing, the Europe-ness of it all makes for a cultural observation experience not to be missed.

Cobh is a small town, easy to take in on foot in a couple hours.  Cozy pubs exist everywhere.  These are the pubs tourists from the states imagine when they hear the phrase, “Irish Pub.”  Enjoy them.  Don’t limit yourself to one.

Local light rail allows you to easily and cheaply travel between Midleton, Cobh and city Cork as we did.

Cork

A note of caution on accommodations: Kristi thoroughly researched a bed and breakfast she thought hit all of the items on our wish-list.  The Windsor Inn failed us.  From the half-assed, confused check-in process, to not having an available room for us despite our months-ago-set reservation and – eventually – the cramped, dumpy room, be wary of what looks good on-line.  There is almost no way to completely avoid this short of spending a fortune on a room.

Kristi scours every available on-line resource, digs through pictures, reads volumes of on-line reviews and despite her best efforts, we booked ourselves into a dump.  It’s Ireland.  It happens.  Roll with the punches and do your best to make it a memory, not a disappointment.

We ended up at the Auburn House B&B which was much more to our liking.  I thought this was a good omen being an Auburn University graduate.

The city of Cork was perfectly charming.  We spent most of one full day walking through town on a lovely, sunny spring day.  We were fortunate to experience very little rain on our trip.

Cork, Ireland, English Market
The English Market in Cork is a little different than anything we have in the U.S. (photo credit: Kristi Dosh)

The unquestioned highlight of Cork was the English Market.  While Kristi and I are not nightlife people, we are food people and the English Market offers a dizzying array of local fare at its best.  Cheese, sausage, olives, breads, marzipan, meat and seafood of all varieties from locally-based vendors are available for inexpensive purchase inside the market.  Our experience at the English Market began a European tradition for us of visiting markets like these wherever we travel, selecting our favorites, and enjoying a picnic lunch.

While Cork is small, it does offer many more dining, shopping and tourist options than Midleton or Cobh.  St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral and the Franciscan Well Brewery were enjoyable.  I had high expectations for the Cork Butter Museum, but a lack of samples let me down.  The story told there is more interesting than you might imagine.

Dublin as a base of operations provides for numerous easy day or overnight trips thanks the Ireland’s wonderful light rail system.  We’re sure you’ll find such a trip to Cork and Cobh worth your time.

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