Cork and Kerry Ireland

With idyllic landscapes and quality highways, one the best ways to experience Ireland is by driving it. The uncrowded roads of Counties Cork and Kerry offer beautiful views of the rugged Irish countryside and coast. After passing through Cork’s small towns and kissing (or not kissing) the Blarney Stone, end the trip with a drive around the famous Ring of Kerry.

Shanagarry, Midleton, Co. Cork, Ireland
Myrtle Allen is Ireland’s answer to Alice Waters: The centenarian chef has lobbied the Irish parliament for better food policies, earned some Michelin stars, and, 50 years ago, opened a restaurant called the Yeats Room in the town of Shanagarry, an hour east of Cork City. She eventually added bedrooms upstairs and called it Ballymaloe House, and her sous-chef-turned-daughter-in-law, Darina Allen—who has written canonical Irish cookbooks and helped lead Ireland’s Slow Food movement—tacked on the Ballymaloe Cookery School and farm two miles from the main house.

This is thus the seat of Ireland’s food royalty, and it shows. The restaurant spins flavorful dinners out of whatever comes in from the farm or East Cork’s fishing boats, and the cookery school has become known the world over for teaching expert and novice chefs to make pizzas, ferment pickles, cook baby food, and grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Even without all that, the ivy-fronted house—and cabins and cottages on the farm’s grounds—make for a simple, pleasant country retreat.
Summercove, Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland
If you’re a fan of history and/or photography, be sure to spend time at Charles Fort in County Cork. This National Monument of Ireland is the bastion on the water’s edge near Kinsale, and is open year round. The fort was built on the site of an earlier stronghold known as Ringcurran Castle, that was featured prominently during the Siege of Kinsale in 1601. The fort you see today was built in the 1670s and 1680s to a star fortification design - a layout specifically designed to resist attack by cannon.
English Market, Grand Parade, Centre, Cork, Ireland
This covered food market dates back to 1786 (there has been a market on the site since 1610) and today it’s a bustling indoor food market with everything from fresh fish to spices, cheeses, oils and homemade cakes on sale. It’s also a hub of social activity for the city, where people meet for a shop and a chat. Wander around the market to sample some of the region’s best produce – from the fresh fish landed on the pier at east Cork fishing village Ballycotton (Ballycotton Seafood Ltd) to the Toonsbridge Buffalo Mozzarella from The Olive Stall. Farmgate Café on the market’s upper balcony level looks over the market hall and is a great place for people-watching and soaking up the atmosphere while tucking into fresh oysters or seafood chowder, or coffee and cake.
O'Connell Square, Shandon, Cork, Ireland
Admit it. Come on. You saw butter museum in the title and you giggled. Then you made a promise to yourself to visit this place the next time you’re in Ireland. I don’t blame you. I did the same thing. This may very well be the most boring museum in the entire world, but it’s boring in a great way - you’ll laugh and chuckle and poke your travel companion in the ribs as you tour through this place, as you sit through the excruciating 30-minute informational butter videos, as you churn, baby, churn! It’s all in good fun, and the museum is housed in a beautiful building in Old Cork, so it’s worth checking out on those merits alone. And you know you want to tell your friends you visited the Butter Museum in Ireland. You know you do.
You’ll have never seen a place more green. Hundreds of shades of it, with waterfalls and babbling brooks. Gleninchaquin is something out of a dream—yet it’s the beautiful reality in Southwest Ireland. This family-owned park, overseen by Donal and Peggy Corkery, is a long, narrow coombe valley on the northwest side of the Beara Peninsula, just outside of Kenmare. Entrance fees are five euros for adults, three for students, and free for young children. There’s hiking, sheep shearing, fishing, and outdoor educational opportunities. I’d encourage you to think about spending a full day out at the park, tackling the trail called “The Boundaries Hike.” It’s a six- to seven-hour round-trip hike and is for experienced hikers (since there’s scrambling involved and not many trail markers). The route will follow the boundaries of Gleninchaquin Park, which are defined by the high ridges of the Caher Mountain Range. Upon your return to Kenmare, be sure to grab a few pints at Crowley’s before your dinner. Stay at the Brook Lane or the Kenmare Park Hotel.
Inchinaleega East, Sneem, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Of all the continents, Europe especially needs to be seen and understood in its most simple, honest villages. One such place is located in Kerry County, Ireland in the unimaginably beautiful village of Sneem. Located 235 miles southwest from Dublin, this winner of the 1987 Tidy Town Contest is home to approximately 400 inhabitants and deserved this coveted title because of its fascinating and colorful surroundings and clear community unity. Off the beaten track, a traveler must intentionally want to find Sneem, as there is no bus service that regularly connects it with the larger nearby communities such as Killarney or Limerick. But once discovered, a visitor can quickly learn of its long history that dates back to 2000 BCE, before the Celtic settlement.
Crumbling Ballycarbery Castle, near the town of Cahersiveen, is a beautiful 16th Century ruin, and one of the most impressive ancient sites we visited on our Emerald Isle adventure. It was made even more glorious by the almost complete lack of visitors. We had the place to ourselves for over an hour, and unfurled a neat little picnic on top of the rubble. The castle did not crumble further while we ate our cheese and bread, so we were happy.
Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
The town of Dingle is by far the most colorful, lively corner in Dingle. The streets are lined with every type of restaurant, bar and shop. Irish music flows through the streets nightly and the people are very welcoming. It is easy to navigate the town by foot and wander down alleyways to discover tourist free hang outs and delicious food. Dingle Peninsula wraps around the town and is accessible to view by boat, horseback or car. The lovely shores stretch far enough from the town to enjoy a quiet stroll while admiring the fresh Irish atmosphere and cool breeze.
Main St, Grove, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Visiting this cheese shop was like touring Costco during Christmas. Samples, my friends. Samples. I’ve never tried so many different cheeses in my entire life, and I’m certain I left this little shop lactose intolerant. And I would do it over in a heartbeat. Ireland‘s cheese scene really is something to behold, and this is the place to stock up your picnic basket prior to touring the Dingle Peninsula. I’m a fan of the heavy, funky stuff - the more mold the better - but I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your fancy under this roof. Don’t forget the bread.
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