Planning Your Time

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Planning Your Time

When you plan a trip to County Cork, you'll need to make a pick of the ports. The biggest one, Cobh, to the east of the Cork City, was the point of embarkation for most 19th-century Irish transatlantic passengers and it retains a strong whiff of nostalgia. Dominated by its tall-spired cathedral, the town, filled with 19th-century buildings, climbs vertiginously up- and downhill and faces southward out to sea. Kinsale is more of a village than a town, built by a hill at one end of an unspoiled fjordlike harbor. With its yacht marinas and tempting restaurants, Kinsale has a cosmopolitan air, but it also offers serious history at Charles Fort. Timoleague is a sleepy hamlet, nestled beside the romantic ruins of its abbey. Many visitors regard Castletownshend as the prettiest village, while others prefer the sheltered waters of subtropical Glengarriff.

If You Have Three Days

If you're here for a short stay—three days or fewer—you'd do well to base yourself in Cork City, which is easy to explore on foot. Allow a day to take in the sights of the city center, including the Crawford Art Gallery, the indoor English Market, and Patrick Street's boutiques. On the second day, visit Blarney Castle; from there it's a half-hour drive to Cork Harbour, where you can visit Fota Island and Cobh. On the third day head for Kinsale, worth a day itself, or you can head to the scenic coast of West Cork, which can be comfortably driven in a day. The narrow roads here meander through attractive waterside villages to the splendid prospect of Bantry Bay, overlooked by the stately Bantry House. A few miles farther west is another highlight, the sheltered inlet of Glengarriff. Return that night to Kinsale or Cork, both handy for the airport.

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