Why is Cork City Ireland ideal for day trips?
Cork City is the ideal location to base yourself for day tours around the south, west and the east of Ireland due to its convenient location, good road, rail and airport infrastructure and excellent accommodation options. Some of Ireland’s most popular attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry and Blarney Castle are all possible as day trips from Cork. There are also lots of unique day trip opportunities to towns such as Cobh and Kinsale, as well as possibilities to check out fantastic scenery along the Iveragh and Mizen Head Peninsulas or experience unforgettable encounters with whales and dolphins off the coast.
Many blog posts give generic content about what can be easily reached from Cork. In this article we will tell you about the most popular and well-known day trips from Cork, as well as give you off the beaten track ideas. County Cork, Ireland’s largest county, certainly has a few hidden gems that are not on every tourist itinerary!
For complete flexibility, I would recommend making day trips from Cork by car, but if this is not possible, you can still manage to visit many great attractions using public transport. Day trips from Cork by train or by bus require a bit more planning and organization on your part to make sure that you all the connections suit and that you still have enough time to enjoy your destination. If you would like to have a guided tour and let someone else organize your trip, then there are several different options for private tours from Cork, with the Paddywagon tours from Cork being one of the most well known tour providers.
So whether you are planning a single day trip from Cork or have the luxury of having several days of single excursions, you will find some interesting ideas here to get you started!
1. Cork to Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are, without a doubt, one of Ireland’s most recognizable landscapes and are a must-see destination for many tourists. Located in County Clare on Ireland’s west coast, not far from the Aran Islands at the mouth of Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher are definitely one of the main highlights along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is quite easy to see why. Watching the ocean swells batter the Atlantic edge of the cliffs more than 200 metres (over 700 feet!) below, is a truly impressive sight!
Visiting the Cliffs of Moher is free, but there is an admission fee to enter the informative Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience and the adjacent car park. Try to plan some time to do a little exploring and enjoy the view of the Atlantic Ocean from the cliff top walk. One way to make this vista of Ireland’s Atlantic coast even more impressive is to see the cliffs towering over you from sea level. Cliffs of Moher Cruises take about an hour and depart from Doolin. For the best photos, try to visit the cliffs as late as possible in the day to get the best light (and a western sunset!).
How to get from Cork to the Cliffs of Moher?
The Cork bus to Ennis regularly departs from Parnell Place Bus Station and in Ennis you can get a local bus to the Cliffs of Moher (check the Bus Éireann website for bus schedules and fares per person). Alternatively, you could opt for a private Cliffs of Moher day tour from Cork, some of which also include stops at the historic Bunratty Castle, the town of Doolin (famous for its pubs and lively traditional Irish music) and may even include a stop in the Burren (a unique limestone environment, famed for its floral biodiversity).
Cork to Cliffs of Moher Drive Time
Driving from Cork to Cliffs of Moher by car takes about 2.5 hours, without any breaks. If you fancy taking some time out along the way, then one stopping possibility is Limerick City, with its famous King John’s Castle on the banks of the Shannon. The Limerick to Cliffs of Moher part of the journey takes about 1.5 hours. As there is a lot to see and experience along the way, make sure you plan an entire day for the Cliffs of Moher tour from Cork
2. Cork to Dublin
One possibility for a great day out is to take a day trip from Cork to Dublin. As Ireland’s capital city and one of the liveliest cities in Europe, Dublin has an incredible range of things to do to suit all tastes. If you are looking for some inspiration, you can find out more about Dublin in our 3 Day Itinerary, which focuses on Dublin’s main highlights. This includes all the information you need to know about the Guinness Storehouse, Book of Kells, National Gallery Of Ireland and Temple Bar. During your time in Dublin, you might like to explore some of Dublin’s Hidden Gems (such as the Chester Beatty Library, the Irish Film Institute or take part in a St. Michan’s Mummy Tour) or visit some of Dublin’s Unusual Attractions (including the Father Pat Noise Plaque on O’Connell Bridge, St. Valentine’s relics and the cat and the rat in Christ Church Cathedral). We also have a guide to Dublin’s Parks if you feel like taking some time out to chill. Of course, it will not be possible to fit all that sightseeing in on a single day trip from Cork, so just select a few attractions that interest you.
How to travel from Cork to Dublin?
It is easy to travel from Cork to Dublin using public transport by either by bus or rail. Cork to Dublin flights are also available, but as Dublin airport is located outside Dublin City, all in all, the travel time may not be a lot shorter than by traveling by road or rail.
How far Cork to Dublin?
The Cork to Dublin distance is 258 km (160 miles), which makes it a bit long for a day trip, but definitely manageable if you start early in the day. Depending on traffic, you can expect the Cork Dublin drive time to be between 2.5-3.5 hours.
Cork to Dublin by Bus
Direct bus services operate from Cork to Dublin City center leaving hourly during the day and limited services also run through the night. Plan about 3 hours for the Cork to Dublin drive time by bus. For more information about Cork to Dublin bus timetable and fares, check out GoBe Bus Cork to Dublin and Aircoach Cork to Dublin.
Bonus tip: How to get from Cork to Dublin airport?
The best way to travel is by bus. After stopping at the bus stop on Bachelor’s Walk in Dublin City centre, most of the direct buses from Cork travel on to Dublin airport. Personally, I always find this Cork to Dublin Airport bus connection very practical, especially as there is no direct train connection to Dublin airport and it saves time, money and hassle, especially when travelling with luggage.
Cork to Dublin by Train
Alternatively, you can travel by train from Kent Station in Cork to Dublin Heuston Station. The Cork to Dublin train times are available from Irish Rail. The train usually stops several times en route and the Cork to Dublin train travel time takes about 2.5 hours. There is a Luas (street tram) connection directly outside Heuston Station that brings you into the heart of Dublin in a few minutes. The Leap Visitor Card is a travel pass for Dublin that lets you have unlimited use of public transport within a certain amount of time. This is generally more useful for stays of longer than a day, but it is worth keeping in mind!
Cork to Dublin by car
If you have your own car, you can expect the drive time to be at least 2.5-3.5 hours each way. Depending on how much time you have to spend, you might have the option to include one or two stops en route. If you would like to know what to see from Cork to Dublin, then a trip to the Rock of Cashel or (a personal favourite) the Rock of Dunamase are certainly worth considering. The Horse and Jockey Pub and Restaurant in Tipperary is a good place to get a bite to eat and refresh before journeying onwards without travelling too far from the motorway.
All the motorways along the route are well signed. It is worth noting that there are also tolls along the way (N8 Rathcormac-Fermoy Bypass, M7/M8 Portlaoise-Castletown/Portlaoise-Cullahill and depending on where to travel to in Dublin the M50 Toll).
Bonus tip: Although the tolls themselves are mostly relatively inexpensive (for example €1.90 for a motorcar on the N8 (more information on the exact tolls can be found here), it is very handy to keep some small Euro coin in the car. Most rental cars have an electronic toll tag reader for the barrier free M50 toll and the charge will be directly taken off your credit card. If your car does not have the tag (usually on the windscreen behind the central mirror), you will have to remember to pay the charge yourself before 8pm the following day to avoid paying late payment penalties.
3. Cork to Ring of Kerry Day Trip
Kerry, known as the Kingdom, is one of my favourite places in Ireland and the Ring of Kerry is certainly one of the gems in the Kingdom’s crown. You might find yourself asking what exactly is the Ring of Kerry? It is a 179-kilometre-long (111-mile) loop drive around the Iveragh Peninsula that includes several charming towns including Killarney, Kenmare, Sneem, Catherdaniel and Waterville (check out our interesting Charlie Chaplin post here!). En route you will also pass the breathtaking beaches of Derrynane and Glenbeigh and enjoy the scenic views of Dingle Bay and the Dingle Peninsula.
It is easy to be distracted by Killarney town and Killarney National Park with the Kerry Mountains (Macgillycuddy Reeks), stunning lakes, Ross Castle and spectacular panorama from Ladies View, but if you want to travel the entire Ring of Kerry in one day, you will need to keep a lively pace! Star Wars fans might be interested to know that day trips to the Skellig Micheal, where scenes from “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” were filmed, depart from Portmagee. (But be warned, popularity outweighs demand so be sure to book well in advance!) Valentia Island off the coast of Portmagee also has some of the world’s best preserved example of tetrapod footprints dating back 350 to 370 million years ago and the short detour is well worth it! For those of you with a sweet tooth, then a stop at the small, but highly recommended Skelligs Chocolate Factory, just outside Ballinskelligs is a must! With so much to enjoy along the route, it is easy to see why day tours from Cork to Ring of Kerry drive is one of the most enjoyable and diverse of all the one day excursions from Cork.
How to get from Cork to the Ring of Kerry
There are several private Ring of Kerry sightseeing tours offering this road trip as a day excursion (such as Paddywagon Tours Cork). However, if possible I would recommend having your own transport as you will be more flexible with your itinerary and can spend time at the points of interest that appeal to you.
Most tourists start the Ring of Kerry tour from Killarney in an anti-clockwise direction. Tour buses also travel anti-clockwise to reduce traffic problems on the narrow sections of the road.
How long does it take to drive the Ring of Kerry?
You should allow yourself an entire day for this road trip. The Cork to Killarney drive time is about 1.5 hours each way, while the Ring of Kerry drive, without taking into account stops, takes at least 3.5 hours. But you will stop and quite often probably! There is so much to see along the route that it will be very difficult to resist taking photos and soaking up the unique atmosphere of the towns along the way.
4. Cork to Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle and its famous Blarney Stone, is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Ireland and one of the most popular of all Cork day tours. It is particularly well visited by tourists from the United States. Legend has it that whoever kisses the Blarney Stone (by bending backwards over a sheer drop at the top of the castle!) will have the “gift of the gab” or be able to speak eloquently for years. Perhaps you will have to just try and see for yourself if it works!
Aside from the Blarney Stone and the medieval castle itself, the castle grounds with their extensive gardens, winding avenues and mature arboretums provide a wonderful botanical show that should also be explored. Don’t forget to visit the fascinating Poison Garden and the Wishing Steps while you are there! There are also ample possibilities to purchase souvenirs and high quality woolen goods in the Castle Shop, Blarney Woolen Mills and in other shops in Blarney village. The 4 star Blarney Hotel is also located in the town, if you are looking for accommodation options nearby.
For more information about booking Blarney Castle tickets and opening times, please check the Blarney Castle and Gardens website.
How do I get from Cork to Blarney Castle?
Blarney Castle is located in Blarney town about 10 km (ca. 6 miles) outside Cork City. The Cork to Blarney Castle drive time takes about 20 minutes by car. A taxi from Cork to Blarney Castle costs between €20-35. However, it is also quite easy to make the day trip from Cork to Blarney Castle by bus.
Bonus tip: If you are short on time, the Cork to Blarney Castle tour can also be fitted into about half a day. This could give you the option to combine two Cork tours in one day: Blarney Castle and Cobh. The distance between Cobh to Blarney Castle is about 33 km (ca. 20 miles) and takes about 45 minutes. Many cruise liners that dock in Cork Harbour avail of this option and offer Blarney Castle Tours from Cobh.
Cobh is a pretty town with significant historical importance situated in Cork Harbour about 21 km (13 miles) outside of Cork City. (Some tourists are a little baffled at the Cobh pronunciation, it is actually quite easy, just think of it as “Cove”.) The town is very striking with its waterfront location and your first impression will likely be dominated by the towering spire of Cobh Cathedral (St. Coleman’s). You can take a few hours to saunter the Promenade, check out the Sirius Arts Centre, watch the passing boats from John F. Kennedy Memorial Park or brush up on maritime history, as well as Irish emigration and the Queenstown Story at the Cobh Heritage Centre (located next to the railway station). For those of you interested in Titanic, Cobh (or Queenstown, as it was known at the time) was the last port of call of the ill-fated liner. To learn more about the Titanic and its connection to this town, book a place on a Titanic Trail Walking Tour or visit the Titanic Experience Cobh. Boat tours of Cork Harbour are also a great way to explore this charming location.
If you get the chance, take a guided tour of the former prison and convict depot on Spike Island (aka Ireland’s Alcatraz). In the 19th century it was the largest prison in the world! It is well worth taking a walk around the island to get some great views of Cork Harbour and Roches Point. For some more inspiration about what you can do in Cobh, check out our other post here!
How to get from Cork to Cobh?
Cobh is one of several great day trips from Cork by train. The short train ride from Cork Kent station takes about 30 minutes and includes some nice views of Cork Harbour along the way. Details about fares and timetables can be found on Irish Rail.
Alternatively, Cobh can easily be reached by car from Cork City (ca. 30 minute journey).
6. Kinsale Day Trip from Cork
Kinsale in West Cork is a charming harbor town on the Wild Atlantic Way. As one of Ireland’s most picturesque towns, it is definitely well worth strolling around the little streets with beautiful hotels, sampling the internationally famous cuisine (in restaurants such as Fishy Fishy) and stocking up on the beautiful handmade jewellery, Kinsale Pottery and the other crafts on sale in the town.
Don’t forget to visit Charles Fort, a 17th century star-fort overlooking Kinsale Harbour, which offers unrivalled views of the town and has played an important role in Irish history. On the other side of the harbor lies the older pentagonal fort of James Fort. This fort is free to visit and also provides great views of Charles Fort.
How to get from Cork to Kinsale?
Kinsale is 27 km (ca. 16 miles) outside of Cork and can be easily reached by car or by bus from Cork City. The Bus Éireann Kinsale bus departs regularly from Parnell Place Bus Station.
7. Mizen Head
One of the highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way is definitely Ireland’s most southwesterly point, Mizen Head. This should definitely be a must-see destination for your itinerary and some reviews rate it as better than the Cliffs of Moher! The Mizen Head Peninsula in West Cork juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and offers visitors seemingly endless breathtaking views of the sea and sky (when the Mizen Head weather allows!). Once you get this view in your head Mizen Head will be one of you lasting memories of Ireland. If you are lucky, you will also get to see some spotted seals, basking sharks or perhaps fin, minke and humpback whales.
Stop by the Mizen Head Visitor Centre to discover more about the flora and fauna of the area, view the exhibit on maritime artefacts (including a model of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse), take a voyage with the navigational aids simulator and get acquainted with other navigational aids, and learn all about Marconi’s transatlantic telecommunications. From there you can visit the Mizen Head Signal Station, which is reached by walking down 99 steps and crossing the iconic (recently reconstructed) arched bridge. Your last stop will include the Lighthousekeepers’ Quarters in what was previously the Irish Lights Signal Station. This will be a day to remember and you can also pick up some souvenirs from the gift shop! Information about the Mizen Head opening times, entry prices and email contact details can be found on their website.
How to get from Cork to Mizen Head?
The Cork to Mizen Head distance is about 125 km (ca. 77 miles) and takes about 2 hours to drive. This is a long day trip from Cork and as public transport is very limited in this area, we highly recommend having your own car. Be warned that the road from Goleen to Mizen Head on the Mizen Peninsula is very narrow and might be busy in peak season!
Bonus Tip: If you have some time to spare, check out the nearby Barleycove Beach. Bantry is also a lovely little town where you can stop for some lunch or if you have time, also visit the beautiful Bantry House and Gardens overlooking Bantry Bay (travel time from Bantry to Mizen Head is about 50 minutes).
8. Fota Wildlife Park and Fota House and Gardens
Fota Wildlife Park combined with a visit to Fota House and Gardens is the perfect day tour from Cork for all the family. The spacious animal enclosures at Fota Wildlife Park enable the animals to have more space than in many traditional zoos. However, you can also get up close with many of the animals, including the cheeky lemurs. Fota Wildlife Park plays a very active role in animal conservation and is renowned for its highly successful cheetah breeding program.
Step back in time when you visit Fota House and experience the grandeur of a stately home complete with an excellent landscape painting collection. Guided tours of this house, which is a well preserved example of Regency Period Architecture dating back to the 19th century, are available.
Fota Gardens contain many rare plant and tree species and the peaceful setting with manicured gardens and arboretum is a lovely serene place to wander around free of charge.
These attractions are within easy reach of Cork city either by car or it is possible to travel from Cork to Fota Island by train as well. Visit Irish Rail for more information.
9. Whale Watching with Colin Barnes and Lough Hyne
Ireland’s coast is well known for its great biodiversity and is an ideal location for top-class whale and dolphin watching. Colin Barnes of Whale Watch Cork is an extremely knowledgeable whale watch operator who runs tours year round from Reen Pier near Union Hall in West Cork. He will try his very best to ensure that you get some close encounters with these amazing marine mammals. On a good day, it may be possible to see minke, fin or even humpback whales along the Irish coast, not to mention lots of other seabirds and other wildlife!
If time allows, you could also visit Lough Hyne, Europe’s only salt water lake near Skibbereen. This a nature reserve is a haven of biodiversity and also offers great opportunities for kayaking.
It is recommended to have your own transport for this day trip from Cork.
10. Sherkin Island and Cape Clear Island
From Baltimore in West Cork, it is possible to take a ferry for a day trip to either Sherkin Island or Cape Clear Island. Sherkin Island is the ideal spot to get away from it all and enjoy some easy walking trails and the beautiful Silver Stand Beach. Cape Clear is also a great location for loop walks and is famous for its great birdwatching. No trip to the island is complete without sampling the famous goats-milk ice cream made locally on the island! In the summer months the island fills up with students learning the Irish language, as the island is a Gaeltacht (or Irish speaking area).
Baltimore itself also has plenty to offer if you have some spare time. Be sure to visit the iconic Baltimore Beacon if you are in the area.
If you want to make the most of your day trip from Cork, you would need to take an early ferry from Baltimore to one of the islands. Without your own transport, this might be very difficult.