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.
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, Barnabrow (ideal for weddings), Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market (every Saturday) and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.
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 to the Wildlife Park; if not, walk through the renowned Fota Arboretum and maybe add a tour of the Georgian House or take a cuppa and a treat at the Bakestone Café here. 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.Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge (take a long look at the recently renovated castle) 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, plus a café|
From Cobh, 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 sculpture, 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.
|Whiskey Sour in Jameson|
No shortage of cafes and restaurants here (indeed there's a café in the distillery). Plenty more outside, including the accomplished Ferrit & Lee, and the friendly Granary now celebrating twenty two years in business. Not forgetting the excellent Farmgate.
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!
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.
|Featherblade of Beef, signature dish at Ferrit & Lee|
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. And don’t forget Golden Bean coffee roaster Marc Kingston is also based here. Be sure to take a look at the impressive Cookery School gardens, not forgetting the Shell House and their truck cafe during the summer.
Food trucks are quite a new phenomenon in East Cork and you'll find them wherever people gather including Ballybranigan beach, Knockadoon cliff walk, and Ardnahinch beach.
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. Don't overlook the Trawl Door (shop, café, ice-cream and deli).
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 also. Closed in winter but, when open, check out the superb cooking of chef Ciaran Scully, an example here.
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.
Just a few minutes from the village, you'll find the lovely food market on Joe's Farm (the family themselves renowned for their vegetable crisps); you can find superb local produce here, much of it from the farm. They also hold special events for the public, eg cutting sunflowers in August and harvesting pumkins later in the year.
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, 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.
Fancy some amazing apple and pear drinks to bring home? How about a unique Ice Wine? Check out Killahora Orchard (near Glounthaune). We can also recommended some top notch cheeses including Ardsallagh, Bó Rua and Ballinrostig.
Enjoy East Cork, the food, the place and its people!