In Praise of East Cork. Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!

In Praise of East Cork.
Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!
Friendly people, great food, attractions on land and sea, both natural and man-made, make East Cork a gem of a place to visit. From the fantastic 13th century St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal to high class Fota House Gardens and Arboretum, both free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
Fota Wildlife

Let me take you on a trip to see part of it. We’ll also enjoy some delicious meals as East Cork is a foodie’s paradise with top notch venues including Sage and Kevin Ahern’s 12 Mile Menu,  Barnabrow (ideal for weddings and a leisurely Sunday lunch), Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market (every Saturday) and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.
Christy Ring

And, before or after Barnabrow and Ballymaloe, do take the opportunity to visit the  medieval town of Cloyne. It is one of the hidden gems of the area, its skyline dominated by the large medieval Round Tower and across the road is St. Colman's Cathedral built in 1270/80 and still in use. Famous Cloyne people include the 20th century hurler Christy Ring and the 18th century philosopher George Berkeley, both of whom are remembered here: Ring's statue is by the GAA field and Berkley's tomb is in the cathedral.

Barnabrow
Coming from the city on the main Cork-Waterford road, take the Cobh exit ramp and head for breakfast or lunch, right to Bramley Lodge, or left to The Bakestone Cafe at Ballyseedy.  Now, set up for the day, go over the nearby bridge to Fota Island and its many attractions.

If you have kids, go the Wildlife Park; if not, walk through the renowned Fota Arboretum and maybe add a tour of the Georgian House. If you like it around here, you may also try the high class  Fota Island Hotel and Golf Resort. Other top class hotels in the area include the Raddison Blu (Little Island) and the Castlemartyr Resort.
Garryvoe walk

Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge and you’ll soon come to Frank Hederman’s famous smokehouse. You are now on Great Island where the cathedral town of Cobh is situated. Much to do here including the Sirius Art Gallery, walking tours (including the Titanic Trail and Spike Island), harbourside bars and restaurants and of course the Cobh Heritage Centre which tells of forced deportations and also the tales of the ill fated liners, The Titanic and the Lusitania. Need a snack and good coffee? Why not try Seasalt by the water. Also look out for Ellen's Kitchen and the Quays Bar & Restaurant.
Mitchel Hall on Spike Island

If you have four or more hours to spare, be sure to take the ferry over to Spike Island. It is a fantastic tour, great guides, so many interesting things to see and do, much of it related to its historic military and prison life, but also superb walks and views out over the harbour. Very Highly Recommended.

Fota House and arboretum; walled gardens too

Cruise liners call here regularly during the season, with a carnival atmosphere in the town on the days they are in port. And here boats take you across to Spike and also on harbour tours. Maybe you’d just like to walk around the town; I did so recently, taking in the Holy Ground, the Titanic Garden and the Sonia O’Sullivan statue, and you may check it out here. Perhaps you'd prefer just to sit on the decking at The Titanic Bar & Grill and watch the boats go by.

Sonia

Whiskey Sour in Jameson
Time now to head out of the islands and head east to Midleton and a tour of the Jameson Experience. If you give the right answers here, you’ll end up with a certificate of proficiency in whiskey! No shortage of cafes and restaurants here (indeed there's one in the distillery). Plenty more outside, including Ferrit & Lee and the family friendly Granary now celebrating twenty two years in business.
Cork Harbour

Farm Salad at Ballymaloe Cookery School's Garden Café Truck
There will be detours, of course. One that I like - you may need a driver here - is to head towards Ballyvolane House near Castlelyons. Lots to do here, including fishing and glamping, and it is also the home of Bertha's Revenge Gin!

And if you're in this area at the weekend, be sure and call to the 200 year old O'Mahony's Pub in Watergrasshill. Superb local food and drink, music also, extensive sheltered outdoor areas and ways and means to keep the kids happy.
The local Ardsallagh Goats Cheese at Ferrit & Lee in Midleton.



Next stop is Ballymaloe, the home of modern Irish food. You could spend a day here. Maybe an overnight stay to sample the world renowned cooking. Call to the cafe for a mid afternoon or mid morning  coffee. Be sure to take a look at the impressive Cookery School gardens, not forgetting the Shell House and their truck cafe during the summer. And don’t forget Golden Bean coffee roaster Marc Kingston is also based here.
Krug tasting in a Ballymaloe cornfield

In the nearby seaside village of Ballycotton, take a stroll down to the pier and see the fishermen come and go, maybe take a boat trip to the lighthouse on the nearby island. If you feel you need to stretch the legs, then there is a spectacular walk  along the cliff tops. After all that exercise, treat yourself to a gorgeous meal at CUSH or Seachurch.
View from the Bayview Terrace


If you need to overnight, then the Garryvoe Hotel and its top notch Samphire Restaurant, with great views over the bay, is close at hand. And across the bay, there's its sister hotel, The Bayview; great views here. Closed in winter but, when open, check out the superb cooking of chef Ciaran Scully, an example here.
Ballycotton cliff walk

Youghal is the final town, on the Blackwater and just shy of the border with Waterford. On the way, you could stretch the legs in Killeagh’s Glenbower Woods one of many attractive walks in the East Cork area. Perhaps you'd prefer to take in the magnificent views on the two walks in nearby Knockadoon. In Youghal, take a boat trip on the Blackwater. If you want a mid-day salad or sandwich in the town, then the Sage Cafe will take good care of you. Just alongside is the newly refurbished Clock Gate Tower, a must visit!


After all the activity, you deserve to rest up for the night. Enjoy a meal in the Old Imperial Hotel on Youghal's main street, maybe just a drink in its old Coachhouse bar, maybe both! Aherne’s, of course, is famous for its seafood and they too have rooms.
Samphire at Garryvoe Hotel



And do try and get your hands on the local craft beers, including Ireland's first organic Red Ale, made by the dedicated team in the town’s Munster Brewery; they also do tours. Amazing apple and pear drinks, including their unique Ice Wine, come from Killahora Orchard (near Glounthaune).



And before leaving the area, don’t forget to visit Ballynatray House, a Blackwater gem.
Dinner at Brook Inn

If, at the end of a day's touring, you find yourself heading back towards the city, then do consider the Brook Inn near Glanmire for dinner. It is a lively buzzy place and the food is good there too.



Enjoy East Cork, the food, the place and its people!


Ballynatray House, by the Blackwater

(revised 05.07.20)
If you have a cafe, restaurant, visitor attraction, not listed here, please let me know and I will do my best to visit with a view to inclusion in next revision. You may also use the comment facility below.

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