After four months of level five restrictions, the Universe and Micheál Martin have finally aligned to extend our lockdown limits to countywide boundaries.
As a native Corkonian, you could say I’ve drawn the geographical long straw, blessed with our unrivalled span of countryside, mountains and 1094km of coastline to reacquaint myself with. And it wasn’t long before I did so either.
Living a teasing 7kms from the beach, Ardnahinch Beach in East Cork was my first stop on Monday, where myself and my madra lapped up those Celtic Sea views like never before. Roll on the weekend, and county is indeed our adventure oyster so I’ve chosen five great Cork day trips and food-stops to discover below— one of which I’m probably on right now.
Like all counties, Cork is gearing up for bumper exodus of day-trippers this weekend and this week, Seamus Heaney of Pure Cork (the county’s official tourism brand), told me of his delight — and relief — to see the county reopening.
“For the six weeks of last summer, Cork did exceptionally well in attracting an influx of Irish visitors and I think the lifting of restrictions this week now affords Cork people a unique opportunity to see what’s on their own doorstep,” he says.
“The positives, for now, are that restrictions are lifting and outdoor attractions will be available from the end of the month. In my opinion, outdoor dining will be key to ignite the tourist season in both the city and every town across the county as people start to travel again.”
Just one of those businesses at the ready is the Celtic Ross in West Cork where GM Neil Grant is hoping the hotel’s prime position along the Wild Atlantic Way will woo road-trippers to make a Rosscarbery stop-off. “Cork folks love a spin to West Cork, so we’ve been very active in anticipation of the easing of restrictions,” he tells me.
“The two main items that we are delighted about are our new partnership with Stone Valley Coffee Roasters from Clonakilty and the launch of our CRAFT food truck’s brunch box.
It’s the creation of our executive chef Shane Deane’s creation and is packed with many of our famous brunch dishes like huevos rancheros with West Cork eggs and Rosscarbery Chorizo, our Clona Buttermilk Pancakes, and we’ve the most incredible Rosscarbery pork sausage rolls too”. If that’s not an incentive to head the road early this weekend, what is?
Garryvoe Beach has long been a popular draw for city day-trippers but you’ll bypass the crowds at its lesser-known neighbour, Ardnahinch. The Shanagarry beach offers the combo of sandy shores and Ballycotton views with a quieter wetlands loop, tweeting with birdlife.
For food; Garryvoe Hotel are currently offering a weekend take-away menu; the Fry Guys food truck will be offering fresh fish & chips in Shan along the caffeine brigade that is The Coffee Cartel. For dessert, the very cute Trawl Door deli in Ballycotton has just opened a new ice-cream parlour named Coney Island!
Many people drive to Guagán for St. Finbarr’s chapel and its legendary lakeside setting but you’ll find the crowds really peter out at Guágán Barra’s forest park. The 2hr mountain loop is an epic spot to stretch your legs with Cronin’s Café (next to the hotel) offering teas and tasty cáca milis.
Note for any road-trip West, Castle Hotel Macroom are creating a food buzz in the town thanks to their sustainable, slow-food menu with highlights including West Cork Wagyu steak sandwiches and free-range pork gyro.
If you’re looking for an alternative excursion to iconic Inchydoney, Long Strand in Castlefreke brings a taste of Northern California to West Cork — not least thanks to The Fish Basket seafood shack whose fish tacos have already developed legendary status.
For a spin further west, pair a visit to Warren Beach or lesser-discovered Tralong with the food delights at the Celtic Ross, while if you’ve been missing Mizen, lace up for the 9km coastal Colla Loop in Schull before tucking into New England crab rolls from the Townhouse O D’s.
Did you know Mitchelstown has its own waterfall? The Ballard Waterfall loop is a 5km (90min) trail between the town and Kilworth which features one of Cork’s most undiscovered cascades.
The trail covers a decent country road stretch so is best suited for hikers versus families. In Mitchelstown, pre-order delicious picnics from Praline (€24; praline.ie) while The Town Coffee Company offer excellent coffee and sambos (try their signature Reuben!).
If you’re seeking a buggy and wheelchair friendly day-out, Youghal’s recently extended boardwalk now runs 2km from Front Strand to Red Barn beach.
For a more unplugged atmosphere, head across the bay to Ring Strand; a gorgeous horseshoe beach which is no stranger to seal and dolphins sightings. Hungry? Try Luigi’s or The Old Imperial in Youghal while The Hunted Hog in Castlemartyr have delicious food & cocktail options when heading abhaile.
- Note: check the social media pages of the above businesses for weekend opening time updates. Many (but not all) also have toilet facilities available to customers.
- Cork County Council informed us that they have 61 public toilets countywide with the majority currently open to facilitate outdoor recreation. Nevertheless, never look a passing Circle K in the mouth!