Don’t let Cork’s nickname of the Rebel County scare you off. Ireland’s largest county, County Cork is the perfect family destination with something to cater all ages and interests. Here are some of our favorites.
On a dry, sunny day everyone loves a trip to the park. Cork City’s Fitzgerald’s park has created an urban green space that combines nature and heritage alongside playspaces for children. The park is well maintained with manicured gardens and trees. A stroll through the park will take you through the Sky Garden and past the amphitheatre. On summer weekends you’re likely to find a daytime concert or evening film, but when not in use the green area in front of the amphitheatre makes a great space to kick a ball, or have a game of hurling (Ireland’s national field sport). The park also houses the Cork Public Museum. The Cork Public Museum is free to enter and well worth visiting to learn about Cork’s local history and heritage (closed Sundays). Grab a coffee or an ice cream from the café and stroll along the picturesque banks of the River Lee to find the children’s playground at the other end of the park. Completely renovated in 2015 the playground boasts some truly unique features and is an all inclusive play site suitable for children with disabilities. No trip to the park seems complete until you’ve strolled over Daly’s Bridge connecting the park to the Sunday’s Well area. Affectionately called ‘The Shakey Bridge’ for the sensation of shaking as you walk/run across.
Every little girl knows Tinkerbell lives in Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World…what they may not know is she grew up in County Cork! Cork is home to many, many fairies and visitors to Cork will find their homes easily by going on on of County Cork’s many ‘Fairy Walks.’ Come explore the fairy forests around Cork. Some whimsical fairies chose to decorate their houses with colourful cheery doors, while woodland fairies keep with more traditional houses of fairy rings (a perfectly formed ring of trees found in a forest). Be sure to visit one of our favourite Fairy Walks listed below, leave a teeny, tiny gift if you wish and if you’re lucky you might hear the faint laughter of fairies hiding near by!
Killbarry Woods, Fermoy
Rineen Woods, Union Hall
Ballincollig Regional Park
Blarney Castle Grounds (Fairy ring) admission to enter
Tir Na Sí, Watergrasshill- admission to enter
Glenview Gardens & Hobbit House, Enniskeane- admission to enter
While in Ireland, don’t forget to buy your very own fairy door so fairies can come and visit your own home!!
Garinish Island is located in Bantry Bay and is accessed by ferry from the town of Glengarriff – 1.5 hour drive from Cork City. The 15 hectare island is home to many different species of plants and gardens and makes a wonderful day trip for the whole family. The fun starts on the ferry, where you might spot some of the 400 resident seals swimming or basking on the rocks.
There is a self guided trail with 13 numbered stops around the gardens which keeps the kids entertained. It’s all about the vistas on Garinish Island. The Italian Garden and the Temple boast stunning panoramic views.
The kids love the stepping stones which lead to long flight of steps up to the Martello Tower, constructed by the British War Office in 1805. The tower is the highest point of the Island. Here the views of Bantry Bay & Whiddy Island are incredible.
If you have a stroller, there is a lot of uneven ground and some cobbled paving, which can make a visit to Garinish Island awkward, but not impossible. The island is open to visitors each day from 1st March to 31st October.
Fota Wildlife Park
No trip to Cork is complete without a trip to Fota Wildlife Park. Much more than a zoo, Fota Wildlife Park offers a unique up close experience, much more thank viewing animals. Let kangaroos, peacocks and lemus be your guide as the roam freely around the park. Time your visit to see the famous cheetah run where you can see cheetahs running to catch their food (12:45 & 4:00 daily).
The park has recently expanded to include the new Asian Sanctuary and Tiger Forest. Bring a picnic lunch or eat at one of Fota’s two cafés. Little ones will love the chance to be roaming amongst animal, feeding the birds and hanging around like monkeys at the playgrounds within Fota. For weary feet a train is available to the front of the park from the Oasis Café. Fota has a number of wildlife experiences available from a standard admission ticket to a VIP Family experience and even a Warden Experience.
Blarney Castle & Gardens
No trip to County Cork is truly complete without a visit to Ireland’s most popular attraction: Blarney Castle & Gardens in Blarney, Co Cork.
While most visitors come to kiss the world famous Blarney Stone and get the ‘gift of gab’ Blarney Castle’s magic extends to the gardens that surround it. Perhaps Ireland’s most recognized tourist destination Blarney Castle & Gardens can be very busy in the summer months. Tour buses stop regularly but don’t stay for long. The best way to visit Blarney Castle is to pack a picnic and spend the day exploring!
Younger children and those less agile may find it difficult to climb the stairs to the top to kiss the stone, however, the vantage point from the top of the castle provides truly magnificent views of the village and countryside. Once back on solid ground visitors could spend the day exploring the several gardens and rock close. Don’t forget to bring your torch (flashlight) so you can explore the cave and dungeon under the castle. Tread carefully past the Witch Stone, legend has it the Witch of Blarney is imprisoned there and escapes only after nightfall. Perhaps she spends dark nights in the Witches Kitchen nearby. Don’t forget to walk the Wishing Steps and make your wish.
There’s plenty more to do for families in Cork on our website. If you’re planning a visit to Cork with your family make sure you come prepared for all weather. But don’t let the weather spoil your trip, Cork has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, the people are friendly and children are welcome almost everywhere. We hope to see you soon. Céad Míle Fáilte (A hundred thousand welcomes)
Bio: Denise is originally from the USA but has lived in Cork for over 10 years. Married to an Irishman, this mother of two loves her adopted homeland and believes Cork has much to offer families. Denise shares her love of Cork on her blog – CorkFamilies.ie