Ever since those heady days when St. Finbarr first set foot in Ireland’s striking south-west, a whole host of visitors have been compelled to visit its second largest city, Cork. But while the city has more than its fair share of first-rate attractions, it’s the outer limits where you’re likely to get lucky.
Anyone seeking the luck of the Irish could do worse than to visit its most famous lucky charm. Fewer than ten miles to the north-west of Cork lies Blarney, home to the infamous stone said to proffer the gift of eloquence to all who kiss it. Set into the battlements of a 15th century castle, folk legends abound about the origins of the ritual, which requires a daredevil act of limbo to perform.
This charming village amid pleasant woodland is well worth a visit. You can even go to the woollen mills around the corner to buy a genuine Aran sweater and a few local handicrafts. It's best to avoid peak holiday times, which are likely to be packed with tourists.
The picturesque fishing port of Kinsale has a reputation for being the place to sample great Irish cuisine. The food goes beyond traditional Irish stout and stew. Chefs make the most of fresh, local produce, with seafood being a specialty. The town hosts a gourmet festival every autumn and also plays host to Guinness’ Jazz Festival.
Water enthusiasts will enjoy yachting, deep sea fishing, and whale and dolphin watching. Swimming at Sandycove during the warmer months is popular.
Just beyond the bay, Charles Fort is one of the world’s best examples of a star shaped fort, dating back to the 17th century.
Clonakilty is a colourful seaside town set in a patchwork of emerald farmland. Known as a centre for live music, the town hosts a variety of festivals every year and is home to many famous venues. Local talent offers a taste of Ireland’s rich musical heritage.
With many sandy beaches, such as the beautiful Ichydoney Beach, and secret coves, the area is very family friendly.
Sample the town's specialty — black pudding — and investigate the Shambles, a historical extension to the local market and central square. Nearby, reconstructed monuments like Lisnagun pay tribute to the town’s Norman heritage.
Offering intrepid travellers much more than just a ordinary day trip, Killarney National Park's beauty has inspired generations of Gaelic poets.
Ireland's highest peaks, MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, rise from three lakes and are nestled among 26,000 acres of lush, green woodland. These "Black Stacks" spew waterfalls beneath cloudy skies. Watch for the native red deer that abound on the deserted plains.
Visit the Muckross House, an imposing Victorian mansion with perfectly manicured gardens and traditional farms, or take a horse-and-cart ride around town and listen to the driver's colourful tales.
The village of Schull on the beautiful Mizen Peninsula offers bracing Atlantic sea breezes and delectable dining. Take a walk along the craggy coastline to encounter concealed coves, unexpected piers and charming lighthouses.
Afterward, venture to Schulls lively cafés, pubs and cosmopolitan shops. They've earned high praise from one of Ireland’s most prestigious chefs, slow food legend Darina Allen. Jot down her recipes and head to the country market to gather the ingredients for a memorable meal.