Cork may be Ireland's second city, but it has never been known for playing second fiddle. The island's southernmost county captures all the romance and beauty of the country, with lush green hills surrounding quaint, historic cities. Cork itself is built upon a series of islands nestled in the River Lee, and as you'd expect from a coastal city, has a strong maritime history, boasting both the world's oldest yacht club and second-largest natural harbour. A focus on fresh, seasonal food and hearty portions makes eating out in Cork a delight, while the dramatic natural scenery provides plenty of opportunities to work up an appetite.
County Cork's 600-year-old Blarney Castle is located just a 15-minute drive from the city. The enchanting estate warrants a visit in its own right, but the Castle is best known as the home of the famous Blarney Stone. According to local legend, those who kiss the stone will be blessed with the "gift of the gab": the ability to charm all those you meet with sparkling conversation.
The 18th-century Church of St Anne has unrivalled views across the city. For a €5 entry fee, you can climb narrow, winding steps to the top of the tower, stopping to ring the famous bells of Shandon en route. Sheet music inside shows you how to play different tunes, from Irish folk songs to modern rock ballads.
Wining and dining
The ornate Victorian columns and vaulted ceilings of the English Market provide a historic backdrop to your grocery shop. Ingredients such as freshly landed fish, warm soda bread, and delicacies like drisheen (a type of blood sausage) will enliven any self-catering experience. It's best to arrive with an empty stomach, as there are numerous tempting tasters on offer.
Like many European cities, Cork has recently welcomed a wave of artisan coffee shops and craft beer bars, but if you seek a more traditional aesthetic you won't be disappointed. The heritage pubs of Cork are so famous there is a walking trail dedicated exclusively to them. Sin é, (which translates from the Gaelic as "that's it" in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the neighbouring funeral parlour) has live music every night, with traditional bands on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
The largest county in Ireland, Cork has plenty to offer outside the city limits. Set aside at least a few days to travel around the coastline; the road from Clonakilty to Skibbereen is a particularly memorable drive, with a route that takes in picturesque villages, a historic stone circle, and windswept Atlantic beaches. The historic port of Kinsale capitalises on its coastal location with an annual gourmet food festival, celebrating the town's exceptional seafood restaurants and fisheries. A journey north will lead you across a landscape of mountains and castles, while the West Cork Islands provide a remote getaway where you can enjoy art exhibitions, whale-watching and long walks in the country.
With property prices across Ireland on the rise, now is the ideal time to invest in property in the country. Engel & Völkers are perfectly placed to assist you in your search, with a shop based in the heart of Kinsale and a portfolio of high-end homes in Kerry, Kinsale and west Cork.