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

 In Praise of East Cork.

Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!

Updated August 2023
Clouds and wildflowers on Knockadoon

Friendly people, great food, coastal and inland attractions, 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 Gardens and Arboretum at Fota, both free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
Fota Tiger

Let me take you on a trip to see a slice of it. We’ll also enjoy some delicious meals as East Cork is a foodie’s paradise with top-notch venues including Sage,  Ferrit & Lee, The Farmgate, Barnabrow (ideal for weddings and Sunday lunch), Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market (every Saturday), CUSH (a Michelin Bib restaurant) and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.
Christy Ring

And, before or after Ballymaloe (which could take a while), 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 (above right) is by the GAA field and Berkley's tomb is in the cathedral.
Lunch at The Farmgate

Coming from the city on the old Cork-Waterford road, look out for signs (on your right), just after Glounthaune, for the Harpers Island Wetlands. Enjoy the nature all around you, including the ample birdlife (get your photos from the hides there!).

Next, take the Cobh exit ramp and head for breakfast or lunch, right to Bramley Lodge, or left to The Bakestone Cafe in Fota Retail Park. 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), Vienna Woods (Glanmire) and the Castlemartyr Resort with its Michelin starred Terre.
Planet Dessert at O'Mahony's Watergrasshill

Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge (take a long look at the recently renovated castle) and you’ll find yourself on Great Island where the cathedral town of Cobh is situated. Much to do here including the Sirius Art Centre, also the Titanic Trail and Spike Island, walking tours, 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. 

Staying in Cobh? Try the Commodore (with its magnificent frontage by the promenade or, if you like it even closer to the water, there's the well-named Water's Edge. 

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. In Casement Square, The Arch Wine Bar/Café has been getting good reviews while Café Vega (not vegan) will feed you well. On the way, in or out, try the Boatyard container food village near the cross-river ferry; park, order, grab a table and enjoy those burgers or fish and chips or just a warming coffee.
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, with great guides, and 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
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 food stores, cafes and restaurants here (indeed there's a café in the distillery). Plenty more outside, including the accomplished Ferrit & Lee. Then there's the friendly Granary foodstore now well over 20 years in business. Not forgetting the excellent Farmgate. Stock up at The Grumpy Bakers
Cafés, including Arch Wine Bar, in Casement Square, Cobh.

From the famous dessert trolley at Ballymaloe House

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

You must stop in 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 café 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.
Halibut at Cush

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.
The famous Midleton Brick at Sage, Midleton

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 your legs, then there is a spectacular walk  along the cliff tops.

After all that exercise, treat yourself to a gorgeous meal at Michelin-noted CUSH or Seachurch (with its Grab and Go Café). Don't overlook the Trawl Door (shop, café, ice-cream and deli) and the Trawler Boyz behind the Blackbird Pub. Enjoy lunch at Carewswood Café in the Castlemartyr garden centre of the same name and do check out their plants! Like to stay here for a night, then check out the Castlemartyr Resort.
View from the Bayview Terrace

Prefer a coastal stop, 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 mid-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.

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 pumpkins 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; good coffee and food too at The Priory on Main Street. 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. Before or after, stretch the legs on the relatively new Youghal Boardwalk that runs alongside the beaches.
Samphire at Garryvoe Hotel

And, before leaving the area, don’t forget to visit the gardens at 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. Or dine and stay at the lovely and comfortable Vienna Woods Hotel.

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

Ballynatray House, by the Blackwater

(revised August 2023)
If you have a cafe, restaurant, or visitor attraction, not listed here, please let me know by DM and I will do my best to visit with a view to inclusion in the next revision. You may also use the comment facility below.