MORNING – CORK HARBOUR ISLANDS
Departing from Little Island, head east along the road to explore the hidden gems of Cork Harbour Islands. Cork Harbour is renowned for being the second largest natural harbour in the world, but a lesser known fact is that it is comprised of four islands. The Great Island – more commonly known as Cobh – Fota Island, Spike Island, and our home of Little Island.
First stop of your island tour is Fota House & Gardens where one of the rarest collections of exotic trees and plants in all of Europe awaits. These 11 hectares of exceptional nature are open daily from 9am to 5:30pm, with entry completely free aside from €2 parking charge (don’t forget coins!) Bring along a picnic from The Coffee Dock at the hotel, enjoy alfresco coffee and cakes at Bakestone Café, plus, if you visit of a Saturday or Sunday, you can also partake in Yoga in the Walled Garden!
AFTERNOON – COBH & SPIKE ISLAND
Onwards to island number two, the Great Island, where you will find the distinctly Victorian town of Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown. Ramble the colourful streets, or pop to the Titanic Experience where you can learn of the ill-fated liner plus the 2.5 million Irish who departed Cobh for the land of the free in the 19th and 20th century.
Next up, hop aboard a short ferry ride at Kennedy Pier to island number three; Spike Island. In the last 1300 years Spike Island has been host to a 7th century Monastery, a 24 acre Fortress, the largest prison in the world in Victorian times, and centuries of island homes. Tours depart daily on the hour from 11am to 2pm, or if you’re brave enough try their terrifyingly fantastic After Dark Tour which departs at 5pm.
After a day of island adventures, head back to Little Island for a bite to eat. The Elm Tree or The Rising Tide are just a stone’s throw from our door, or a little further afield you’ll find the fabulous O’Mahonys of Watergrasshill. Should you be more in the mood for a night-in, there’s always the option of room service or Maestro’s Restaurant too.
Spend day two exploring the real capital itself. Get there in your car within ten minutes or opt for a leisurely 20-minute train ride from Little Island train station which is a five-minute walk across the bridge from our hotel.
MORNING – THE MARINA LOOP WALK
Once into the city, head towards the River Lee and meander your way through the Port of Cork, taking in the wonderful mix of newly built glass structures and historic landmarks, until you reach Blackrock Castle. Start off from the waterside path to the front of the castle, which will take you on an 8km loop walk of the banks of the second largest natural harbour in the world. At the 3km mark, you’ll pass over a causeway and up a short ramp. Here you’ll turn right, up and over a pedestrian bridge, which will lead you onto the old Cork to Crosshaven railway. Follow the railroad back towards the city, passing abandoned station houses and railway arches, which offer great shelter from those autumn showers!
Continue onwards until you spot the River Lee on your right and Parc Ui Chaoimh ahead, signalling your arrival at The Marina. Dating back to the 1800s, this leafy avenue is a feast for the eyes with wildlife, rowers and wooden boats to a backdrop of rainbow coloured cargo ships. With the water to your left, continue the home stretch, through Blackrock Pier and Village, which will loop you back to your starting spot of Blackrock Castle.
You’ll find plenty pitstops along the way including Cortado Coffee on The Marina, The Natural Foods Bakery at Blackrock Village Pier, or if you are looking for a more substantial brunch, lunch or dinner, the Castle Café is a must.
AFTERNOON – CORK CITY
SHOPPING – Daily steps done, it is time for a more leisurely afternoon in the city. For fashion lovers, make sure to visit Olori on Oliver Plunkett Street, Opera Lane and Brown Thomas. Or if homeware is more to your taste, pop by Unbound and The Drapery Shop where a world of magnificent accessories awaits.
LUNCH – Cork’s food scene means you’ll have too much to choose from. For lunch with a twist, mix eating with a spot of culture at Crawford Gallery Café, or head for Nano Nagle Place where in the midst of the most surprising city centre gardens, you’ll find Good Day Deli. Dine alfresco on Princes Street where Nash 19 serve the most delicious local Cork delicacies from early morning to 6pm, or go full-blown Mediterranean at third-generation family-run Rossini’s, with Negroni and Calamari served on the streets.
ENGLISH MARKET – No visit to Cork City is complete without a visit to the English Market. Pick up some autumnal jams, honey and cordials at The Roughty Foodie, taste Cork’s finest cheeses at The Real Olive Company, and be sure to indulge in some guilt-free vegan treats at My Goodness.
LATE – VICTORIAN QUARTER
When the stomach starts rumbling again, head for the historic Victorian Quarter of Cork. Dine at the newest hottest spot in town, The Glass Curtain, taste a seasonal spread of tapas at Cask, or spoil yourself with a tasting menu and waterfall backdrop at Greenes. If you are a serious meat eater or a fish foodie, then a steak dinner at Elbow Lane or a feed of fresh catch at Goldie on Oliver Plunkett Street are also highly recommended!