July 22, 2017

Family Vacation: 10 Reasons to Stay in Cork, Ireland

cliff walk 2Last summer, we spent three weeks in Ireland. Most people assume Dublin, but no, we stayed in Cork. Actually, we stayed in a small village just 10 minutes outside Cork called Douglas as part of a home exchange with an Irish family. It was the perfect base and from Douglas we were able to do so much. Take a look at 10 must-do family activities that are fun and easy to do from Cork.

1. Cork Sightseeing. Our second day in Cork, we took a sightseeing tour of the city. I think we would have been better served had we waited until the third day since we all fell asleep on the open-air bus tour. We did, however, get off the bus to check out the sights, like St. Anne’s Church, where we got to ring the Shandon Bells, and the Cork City Gaol (jail). We also took time out for the Cork Butter Museum.

2. Ring of Kerry Bus Tour. Just 90 minutes from Cork, it was easy to drive west to Killarney for a bus tour around the Ring of Kerry. Tour buses depart daily at 10:30 am and return at 5 pm, enabling travelers to take in views that would be difficult to enjoy when driving on your own. My favorite part was the stop to see the sheep herder with dogs that could bring sheep down from way up the mountain.

kinsale

3. Colorful Kinsale. It’s a must to make a stop in the colorful town of Kinsale. Walk around the shops and head over to Charles Fort to learn the role the fort played at various points in Irish military history. The views are fantastic and kids will love exploring the stone fort. Make a stop back in town to see the boats and get an ice cream cone.

4. The Blarney Stone. Not far from Cork is Blarney Castle, which of course, is home to the world-famous Blarney Stone. It’s not easy to do, but if you want to kiss the Blarney Stone, you’ll need to lay on your back and lean way back. My daughter, Clare, kissed the stone, but Kate got nervous. The grounds around Blarney Castle are lovely, so take time to walk and explore.

model railway village

5. The Train in Clonakilty. One afternoon, we drove to nearby Clonakilty to check out the Model Railway Village. The kids loved exploring the miniature town and watching the model trains chug-a-chug all around the village. As a bonus, we bought tickets for the Choo Choo Tour, which took us on a tour of Clonakilty, even providing lovely views of Inchydoney Beach.

6. The Beach in Ardmore. When we visited Ireland last summer, we were truly blessed with lovely weather. One day, we spent several hours splashing and building sand castles on the beach in Ardmore. You’ll also find cute shops, pubs and festivals in Ardmore from time-to-time. It’s a little bit of a walk to the seaweed-free section of the beach, but it was well worth it for us and the kids.

greyhound racing

7. Greyhound Races. One evening, we made the short drive to Curraheen Park Greyhound Stadium. The kids had the best time betting on the greyhounds running in the various races with my father-in-law. They also loved just watching those greyhounds run their fastest trying to catch the “rabbit” that raced around the outside of the track.

8. The Fishing Village of Cobh. It’s a must to drive over to Cobh to learn about what life was like for the Irish ready to make their way to Ellis Island. Cobh (formerly Queenstown) is also the last stop for the Titanic before its fateful trip to New York City, so pay a visit to the Titanic Experience. It’s also worth popping in the lovely St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh.

ballycotton cliff walk3

9. Ballycotton Cliff Walk. Your kids will enjoy this safe walk up high on the cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea on the Ballycotton Cliff Walk. The views are spectacular on a clear day and it was fun to walk down to the rocky beach about 30 minutes into the walk. Take off your shoes or bring a swimsuit to take a break and splash in the water before the walk back to the car. 

10. The Stars at Blackrock Castle. You may think you’re going to an Irish castle when you pay a visit to Blackrock Castle, but really, you’ll be visiting an observatory. Kids will love learning about the moon and stars (look for a kid-size StarDome planetarium show) and exploring hands-on space activities. As a bonus, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the towers and dungeon in this “castle.”

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