East Cork rarely hits the tourist pages. Many writers routinely extol the attractions of West Cork and its friendly people. That friendly bit annoys. As if somewhere between Kinsale and Glounthaune, you draw a line between the friendly natives and the unfriendly.
But we know down here that East Cork is a gem of a place to visit and, yes, the people are just as friendly. From the fantastic 13th century St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal to high class Fota House Gardens and Arboretum , both free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
Let me take you on a day trip to see some of it. We’ll have some food in between as East Cork is a foodie’s paradise with top notch restaurants, Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.
Coming from the city on the main Cork-Waterford road, take the Cobh exit ramp and head for breakfast at Bramley Lodge. Now, set up for the morning, go over the nearby bridge to Fota Island and its many attractions.
If you have kids, go the Wildlife Park ; if not, from the same car park, walk through the renowned Fota Arboretum and maybe add a tour of the Georgian House. If you like it around here, you may also try the high class Fota Island Hotel and Golf Resort.
Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge and you find yourself on Great Island where the cathedral town of Cobh is situated. Much to do here including the Sirius Art Gallery, walking tours (including the Titanic Trail), harbourside bars and restaurants and of course the Cobh Heritage Centre which tells of forced deportations and the later exodus caused by the famine and also the tales of the ill fated liners, The Titanic and the Lusitania.
Time now to head out of the islands and bear east for Midleton and a tour of theJameson Experience. If you give the right answers here, you’ll end up with a certificate of proficiency in Whiskey!
You may have lunch at the cafe here. I have two favourites just outside on Distillery Walk: Raymond’s and The Pantry. There are many more.
Next stop is Ballymaloe, the home of modern Irish food. You could spend a day here but, with time getting scarce, take a look at the impressive Cookery School gardens and call to the cafe for a mid afternoon coffee.
You could also take that coffee in the Kilkenny Design Shop in Shanagarry village before heading on to the seaside village of Ballycotton.
Take a stroll down to the pier and see the fishermen come and go. If you feel you need to stretch the legs, then there is a spectacular walk laid along the cliff tops.
Time now for dinner at Nautilus, a French influenced restaurant in the village with views over the harbour and the island lighthouse. Nautilus is a seasonal restaurant and not open throughout the year.
If closed, head back towards the city and make a stop at the estuary village of Glounthaune and the Rising Tide Bar Bistro. Enjoy your meal here, as Lady Gaga did, and take time for a deserved pint of the local stout, Murphy’s or Beamish (Guinness also allowed!), in the bar afterwards.