If you head to County Cork, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome, and you may find it hard to resist the mouth-watering temptations of the culinary capital of Ireland.
If you do manage to tear yourself away from local cheese and handmade chocolate on sale at the English Market, you’ll find a whole new world opening up before you.
The countryside surrounding Cork makes driving around the county an adventure in itself, and there are plenty of breathtaking landmarks, historical monuments, and cultural curiosities that will transform your road trip into something unforgettable.
County Cork offers several fantastic day trips, including scenic destinations like Mizen Head and the Cliffs of Moher and historic towns like Kinsale and Cobh.
Some of the popular attractions include Blarney Castle and Gardens, the Beara Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, and Fota Wildlife Park.
Most of these destinations can be reached using public transport, while driving is the best way to explore. There are many self-guided and guided tours available and booking in advance can save money and guarantee entry
10 Of The Best Day Trips from Cork
Our top day trips from the town of Cork give you the chance to experience the scenic delights of Mizen Head, the Cliffs of Moher and the Beara Peninsula. They also take in some of the county’s most picturesque historical towns, including Kinsale and Cobh.
Of course, no trip to County Cork is complete without a trip to Blarney Castle, where the Blarney Stone promises you the gift of the gab.
If it’s the freedom of the open road you want, why not take in the scenic splendor of the 179 km-long Ring of Kerry drive? And let’s not forget the traditional farms and gardens of Muckross House or the exotic inhabitants of Fota Wildlife Park.
Let’s take a moment to explore some of the highlights County Cork has to offer outside the hustle and bustle of its capital.
#1 Blarney Castle and Gardens
Set in an elegant thousand-acre estate, Blarney Castle attracts over 200,000 people every year. Many people head there seeking the eloquence that supposedly comes to all who kiss the famous Blarney Stone, but find the attraction has much more to offer, from ancient trees to the tower house itself.
Blarney Castle is open throughout the year, except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, opening at 9 am and closing at either 5 pm in the winter or 6 pm during spring and summer.
It’s an easy drive from Cork, or you can hop on the 215 bus that runs from Cork to Blarney Castle every hour.
You can book tickets online, which is probably advisable as it’s a popular tourist attraction, or join one of the many guided tours that run from Cork and Dublin.
#2 Kinsale, a historic town
For many, the historic town of Kinsale is the starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way, but you don’t have to commit to the 1,500-mile coastal journey to enjoy the delights of this medieval fishing fort.
Last year, Conde Nast hailed Kinsale as one of Ireland’s most beautiful villages, and it’s easy to see why. The cobbled streets meander past brightly colored houses, seafood restaurants, craft shops, and old-world pubs.
Known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, Kinsale has over 50 eateries, ranging from award-winning delis to Michelin-starred restaurants.
The drive from Cork to Kinsale takes around 35 to 45 minutes, or you can hop on a bus in the center of Cork. Guided tours are also available and will show you the highlights of Kinsale, the Old Head of Kinsale, and the nearby Signal Tower Museum.
You can visit Kinsale at any time of year, although it’s best in spring when there are fewer crowds but still a glimmer of sunshine.
#3 Cobh, a heritage town
A day trip to Cobh might not give you enough time to enjoy everything this island town has to offer. From art to history, nature to sailing, Cobh has it all, and that’s without even mentioning its most famous attraction – the Titanic Experience.
Cobh was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic before it set off on its maiden voyage across the ocean. It wasn’t the only ship to depart from Queenstown, as the port was formerly known, and it was here that many migrants waved goodbye to their loved ones for the last time.
It takes less than half an hour to drive from Cork to Cobh, and there are also regular buses from Cork city center and trains that run every 30 minutes.
#4 Mizen Head, a scenic peninsula
The journey from Cork to Mizen Head is almost as spectacular as the destination. Winding roads meander through the Mizen Head Peninsula, taking you to the most southerly point in Ireland, from where you can watch the Atlantic Ocean crash against the dramatic cliffs.
The drive from Cork takes a couple of hours, so if you’re traveling in winter, you’ll need to set off early, bearing in mind that the sun sets at around 5 pm.
Getting to Mizen Head on public transport is a little more challenging, although a local bus service will take you as far as Bantry, approximately 40km away. After that, you’ll need to get a taxi, which could make the trip quite pricey.
Coach tours are another option, and there are several tour companies offering trips from Cork through the west of the county before heading onto Mizen Head.
#5 The Beara Peninsula, a scenic drive
Many people skip the Beara Peninsula when visiting Cork, not realizing that it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the whole county. That means it’s not as busy as some of west Ireland’s other peninsulas and has plenty to offer the adventurous traveler.
If you’ve got the time, the best way to experience the Beara Peninsula is to follow the 148km Ring of Beara drive, which takes in all the area’s top attractions. Sadly, this requires at least five to six hours, so isn’t easily done on a day trip from Cork.
Those pressed for time can still immerse themselves in the local culture by visiting the colorful villages of Eyeries and Allihies, while the more adventurous might be tempted to kayak with the seals that populate the windswept rocks.
#6 Cliffs of Moher, a natural wonder
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s top attractions and most famous landmarks. Towering over the rugged west Ireland coastline, the Cliffs of Moher offer spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean to the Aran Islands.
If you want to do a day trip from Cork to the Cliffs of Moher, you’ll need to plan ahead. The drive takes around two and a half hours each way, and you need at least a couple of hours to get the most out of the experience, so you might be better off staying in the nearby village of Doolin.
Those using public transport need to allow at least five hours for a one-way trip from Cork to the Cliffs of Moher, making it more suitable for a weekend getaway than a day trip.
#7 Muckross House and Gardens
You don’t need to pre-book tickets to Muckross House and Gardens, but you do need to plan ahead simply because there’s so much to see and do.
Strolling around the Victorian mansion gives you a sense of what life was like for 19th-century aristocracy, while the traditional farms give you a glimpse of farming life during the 1930s and 1940s when much of the work was done by horse.
You should also allow yourself enough time to explore the grounds, which include the lakes and rugged countryside of Killarney National Park.
The drive from Cork takes around an hour and a half and meanders through the Gaeltacht village of Ballyvourney. Some regular buses and trains will take you as far as Killarney Station, approximately 6km from Muckross House.
#8 Dingle Peninsula, a scenic town
Dingle Peninsula stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean and offers enough activities and attractions to keep you busy for a week.
That could prove problematic if you’re planning a day trip, as the drive from Cork to the town of Dingle takes around two and a half hours, so won’t leave you with much time to explore.
From the Peninsula, you can try your hand at kite surfing, take a boat ride out to meet Fungie, the friendly dolphin, or discover the historical secrets of the area at one of its many monuments.
If a day is all you have available, why not drive over to Dingle and browse through its eclectic collection of shops before sampling the local fare at one of the town’s 50 pubs?
While you can get from Cork to Dingle by bus, the journey takes around five hours, so if this is your only option, you’d be better off spending a night in one of its many hotels or guesthouses.
#9 The Ring of Kerry, a scenic drive
The only way to visit the Ring of Kerry in a single day is by car. The trip from Cork to the start of this scenic drive takes around two hours, after which you’ll need at least three and a half hours to complete the 179km route.
The Ring of Kerry takes you around the popular Iveragh Peninsula, starting and ending at the friendly town of Killarney.
If you want to soak up the visual history of the area, you might want to stop over in Killarney for the night or book into a B&B at one of the villages en route.
#10 Fota Wildlife Park, a wildlife sanctuary
Ireland isn’t a place many people associate with lions and tigers, but at Foto Wildlife Park, you can see these majestic animals, and many more, enjoying the highest standard of care.
In addition to the big cats, the wildlife sanctuary is home to a host of native species, including the red squirrel and harbor seal.
Although you can pay on arrival, you’ll save up to 10% by pre-booking online. Not only that but you’ll also be guaranteed entry and be able to avoid the long queues that build up during peak season.
The park is open all year round, from 9.30 am to 5 pm, although the last entry is at 3.30 pm. You can get there either by car or train. The drive takes just under half an hour, and the train is even quicker, giving you even more time to enjoy the wildlife!
Frequently Asked Questions about Day Trips from Cork
A. How can one reach the destinations for day trips from Cork?
Although driving is the best way to explore these destinations, many of the top spots for day trips from Cork can be reached using public transport.
More remote spots like Mizen Head and the Cliffs of Moher are a bit more challenging, but you can always join a guided tour if you don’t feel like driving.
B. Are there any tours available for the day trips?
There are many self-guided and guided tours available for day trips around Cork, with most departing from Cork itself. The majority of these are coach tours, but there are private options available that utilize SUVs and minibusses.
C. What is the approximate time needed for each day trip?
You need between two and three hours to enjoy most of these attractions, although a few take even longer, like the Ring of Kerry.
D. Are there any restrictions or entry fees for the destinations?
Most of these attractions are open all year round, but restrictions do sometimes occur. For instance, at the time of writing Mizen Head was closed for several months due to construction work.
The weather can also play havoc with your plans, especially if you’re planning to visit the Cliffs of Moher, which are often shrouded in mist.
E. Is it necessary to book in advance for the day trips?
For most of these day trips, you can pay on entry, but booking in advance is a great way to save money and guarantee you’ll get in.
F. Are there any guided tours available for the destinations?
There are lots of guided tours offered by knowledgeable local tour guides who can bring your destination to life with their stories and songs.
G. Are there any restaurants or cafes near the destinations?
Nearly all these destinations have eateries nearby, even those in more far-flung locations, like Mizen Head and the Cliffs of Moher, although you may need to drive into the nearest village to find them.
H. Is it possible to rent a car for the day trips from Cork?
Yes, you can hire a car for a day at several locations in Cork, although most car hire companies have their main offices at the airport.
I. Are there any restroom facilities available at the destinations?
There are restroom facilities at most of these destinations and in the various villages you pass through en route.
J. Are there any seasonal restrictions for visiting the destinations?
Nearly all these destinations are open all year round, except for a couple of days over Christmas, although some shorten their opening hours over winter.
You can easily while away a week in Cork without venturing beyond the city borders, but doing so would mean missing out on some of the best attractions the county has to offer.
Families will love the activities available in Cobh, while those hankering for the natural beauty of Ireland won’t be disappointed with a top to Mizen Head. Whether you’re looking for adventure or the best seafood in Ireland, you’re likely to find it right here in County Cork.
Why not make some plans and start looking for the best places to stay in Cork, that way you’ll already be on the road to fulfilling your Irish dreams.
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"Like many so-called Brits, I have a bit of Irish and a bit of Scottish in my blood, which is possibly where the red hair comes from. I’ve been fascinated by the history of Ireland for years, since I discovered the story of the Irish Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.