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A Tour of East Cork

All information regarding these tours has been used with permission, M. O'Callaghan.


East Cork has a character all of its own. Rich plains, clean and unspoiled sandy beaches, historic towns and heritage centres, rocky bays and dramatic coastal cliff walks and scenery, forested landscapes and walks, less crowds, more peace and quiet. There are small towns and villages, castles, ruined monasteries, a living cathedral and a beautifully preserved round tower at Cloyne, a unique coastal bird sanctuary and at Fota a unique Wildlife Park. This is ideal cycling country, and motoring country too. In East Cork there are still undiscovered places and secret sandy bays for you to discover and explore.


Ballycotton - Ballymacoda - Carrigtwohill - Castlemartyr - Shanagarry - Cloyne - Cobh - Fota Wildlife Park & Arboretum - Glouthaune - Midleton - Whitegate - Youghal

Ballycotton Area
Ballycotton fishing village is located on the Atlantic coastline. The village is shielded from the sea gales by an offshore island, with its Lighthouse. Ballycotton is a famous sea-angling resort. A colourful fishing fleet occupies the inner harbour. There is a cliff walk with lovely views rising to 200 ft. above sea level. Steps descend to a swimming point. The Wildfowl Sanctuary at Ballycotton is visited by extremely rare seabirds during stormy weather. The area offers a wide variety of habitats and species. Birdwatchers are recommended to visit Ballycotton Island, Capel Island and Ladysbridge.

The village of Whitegate overlooking the inner harbour is an ideal touring base and lively evening resort. From Ballycotton to Roche's Point the coastline changes from the open sandy beaches of Garryvoe to cliffs, rocky coves and small sandy bays. There is much to explore along this stretch of coast, like the little rocky cove at Ballyandreen, Ballyshane, Inch Strand, or the picturesque sunny village of Guileen with its own little beach, its cliff walks and private rocky bays. At Roche's Point lighthouse you can look across the entrance of Cork Harbour, with its splendid and varied traffic of yachts, trawlers, cargo-ships, and assorted small boats.

Ballymacoda / Killeagh
If you are coming from Youghal on the N25 there is a signpost left to Ballymacoda as you leave the town, taking you onto the coastal route. Ballymacoda is a peaceful picturesque little village overlooking Youghal Bay, an ideal place to relax and enjoy the old world atmosphere of quiet and tranquility. There are quiet beaches, coves and inlets, lanes and roads perfect for walking and cycling. From Ballymacoda you will see Knockadoon Head and Capel Island in the distance. Many roads will take you to the waters edge. Capel Island was (is) Ireland's first bird sanctuary and is a bird-watchers paradise. Salmon, lobster and shrimps are plentiful in the waters near Knockadoon.

Between Midleton & Youghal on the N25, at the end of the village of Killeagh is the entrance to Glenbower Forest Park, with its excellent facilities, walks, and beautiful lake. Part of the wood has a fine echo, giving seven or eight repercussions from one call. There are other forests in this area suitable for walks and picnicking: Ballyedmond (2km N of Midleton) is elevated and provides attractive views; East Ferry with its coastal woodlands, and Rostellan (NW of Killeagh Village) also close to the sea.

Glouthaune, Carrigtwohill
Close to Cork at Little Island there is a beautiful Golf Course open to visitors. 3.5 miles from Cork on the Waterford road (near the Dublin round-about) is Dunkathel House, a living example of a 18th c. house overlooking the estuary of the River Lee. See Section 6.40 for full details. Further east is the village of Carrigtwohill, a busy commercial town between Midleton and Cork.

Barryscourt Castle at Carrigtwohill dates from the same period as Bunratty Castle & Dunguaire Castle. It was built on a strategic site in 1206 by Philip de Barry, and was the seat of the Earls of Barrymore until about 1700 when the hunting house at Fota was built. In May 1990 Barryscourt Castle was reopened to the public, after extensive and continuing restoration. The area surrounding the Castle, including the existing Castle out-buildings, is now a Crafts Centre, with a shop and small quality Restaurant. Unlike other castles, the Courtyard and flanking towers are intact. A free brochure is available.
Opening Times. Barryscourt Castle is open to the public from 11am to 6.30pm daily. Guided tours are given on request, and arrangements may be made for visiting groups.

Castlemartyr / Shanagarry
Castlemartyr, off the N25, is an attractive country village with monastic ruins, a Geraldine castle and a nearby forest walk by the lakeshores of Lough Aderra, complete with picnic areas. The lake itself is a managed trout fishery and offers the angler good returns. A few kilometres south of Castlemartyr is the quiet rural village of Ladysbridge, and further south, 4 mls E of Ballycotton at Garryvoe you'll find a fine stretch of level strand. Shanagarry, 23 miles from Cork City on the main Cork-Waterford road, is the birthplace of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania State. His ancestral home is now in ruins. Nowadays Shanagarry is more famous for its Stephen Pearce pottery centre. A second pottery was established in 1993 in the grounds of Penn Castle. This new facility of 12,000 sq. ft. houses a pottery workshop downstairs, and upstairs an Emporium and Cafe. Visitors are welcome to visit the workshops and emporium and stroll around it at their ease. At nearby at Ballymaloe you'll discover the famous Cookery School & Gardens. The Edwardian Gardens here have been restored by Darina Allen and greatly extended to incorporate a herb garden laid out in French parterre style, a formal vegetable garden and an ornamental fruit garden. Recent additions include a pond garden with folly, a water garden and memory arboretum.

Cloyne Area
At Cloyne St Colman MacLenene (died 604 AD) founded his principal monastery. Only the Round Tower and a firehouse remain of the ancient monastery which was plundered 5 times by the Norse between 822 and 916 AD. The tower is 100' high, each storey containing a window pointing in a different direction. A small building nearby is believed to be the ancient oratory of St. Colman, who founded the diocese of Cloyne in the 7th c. Cloyne Cathedral, a much altered 13th c. building, was the seat of George Berkeley, the celebrated philosopher, who proposed an alternative basis of understanding to the material-based outlook of Newton and his followers, stressing the ultimately subjective nature of human reality. Newton won the day, while Berkeley must be content with having a Californian University named after him.

Cobh (pronounced "Cove") is situated 24km (15mls) from Cork city on the southern shore of Great Island. Cobh developed especially in the 18th c. when the harbour became an assembly point for fleets sailing during the Napoleonic wars. Formally named Queenstown, Cobh is a uniquely preserved Victorian town, with steeply terraced houses, Victorian facades, and a (palm) tree-lined promenade complete with bandstand. By 1830 Cobh had become a noted health resort ideal for the typical Victorian holiday. At this time the architecture began to copy features of the English south coast towns such as Brighton. Cobh is a busy fishing harbour, a water-sports centre, a historic cathedral town and heritage centre, wonderfully free of modern developments.

The town may be easily reached both by car and by train, with trains departing from Kent Station approximately every half hour. The train journey runs on one of the most beautiful and charming waterside lines in the world. A Ferry Service operates to/from Carrigaloe, near Monkstown, across the harbour, cutting out a 20 -mile road trip and Cork city traffic.

The town is dominated by the magnificent St. Colman's Cathedral. The whole area has a lot to offer - all within 25 mins of Cork - seaside promenades, harbour boat trips, fishing, sailing, boating, windsurfing, pony trekking, forest walks, golf, sea angling, nightly entertainment, woods, a wildlife park and arboretum, coastline, historical sites and monuments, castles, as well as the new exhibition centre - `The Queenstown Experience'.

Situated on the quayside, the Lusitania Memorial is named after a ocean liner torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale in 1915. The German Admiralty claimed that the Lusitania was carrying arms as well as civilian passengers. This was denied. Many of the survivors landed in Cobh, and many of the bodies were washed up along the south coast. The incident was instrumental in bringing America into the 1st World War. The memorial is the work of sculptor Jerome Connor (1876-1943). The Old Church Cemetery, 2km East of the town contains mass graves of the victims of the disaster . Cobh's own Jack Doyle, 20's film star and world-class boxer, is buried here.

Because Cork Harbour is one of the world's finest natural deep water harbours, (often compared with Sydney Harbour & San Francisco Bay), Cobh was once the country's premier port of call for transatlantic liners. The Sirius - first steamship to cross the Atlantic from Europe - sailed from Cobh in 1838. Cobh was also the last port of call of the ill-fated Titanic. In the 18c. Cobh was an assembly point for ships sailing during the Napoleonic Wars. From Cobh upwards of 1 million emigrants left for the United States in the century following the Great Potato Famine of 1847, and it was largely the money they sent home that helped to build Cobh's beautiful Cathedral.

St. Colman's Cathedral
The towering edifice of St. Colmans dominates the town of Cobh. The Cathedral is a Gothic revival edifice built on the steep side of Great Island, overlooking Cork Harbour. The foundation stone was laid in 1868. The exterior is of Blue Dalkey granite, with Newry granite used for the entrance doorways. The interior columns use Fermoy, Midleton and Connemara polished marble. The Cathedral, designed by Edward Welby Pugin and George C. Ashlin houses the largest carillon (47 bells) in Ireland or Britain. The bells are rung 4 times a day. There are carillon recitals on Sundays at 16.30H, with religious, classical and popular music; for details contact Adrian Gebruers 021-811219. A Guide Book is available.

Cobh Heritage Centre / The Queenstown Experience
Cork Harbour is one of the world's natural deep water harbours, often compared with Sydney Harbour or San Francisco Bay. Its colourful history, from the convict ships of the 18th century to the days of the great liners of the White Star Line and the Cunard Line are excellently portrayed at the Queenstown Experience. The buildings and emigration halls near the railway station have been transformed into the Cobh Heritage Centre, with period furnishings, costumes and an ancestry research centre.

The new £2.2 million Heritage Centre brings to life again this onetime departure point for over two million Irish who sailed out from here to a make a new lives in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. The Centre attracts over 100,000 visitors per year. Their story is illustrated with life-size figures from the different phases of emigration. In the 18th c. troop ships left from here for the War of Independence in the American Colonies, and later for the Napoleonic, Boer and Crimean Wars. The Sirius - first steamship to cross the Atlantic from Europe - sailed from Cobh in 1838. Cobh was also the last port of call of the ill-fated Titanic. These and many other events of history are vividly re-created here. There is an excellent Cafeteria for snacks, soups and sandwiches, etc. This multi-media permanent exhibition covers centuries of fascinating history and is located in the Old Railway Hall. This is more than a heritage centre TEL 353 (21) 4 813591, FAX 353 (21) 4 813595, Email This is an Experience !

Sirius Arts Centre
On the seafront at Cobh, overlooking the harbour, is the Sirius Arts Centre (previously known as the Old Yacht Club), a magnificent Italianate building recently restored to its original glory, and housing a number of Exhibitions in its three Galleries . The Old Royal Cork Yacht Club was founded in 1720, with a valid claim to be the oldest in the world. The Building was designed by Anthony Salvin and constructed in 1854, where it was home of the Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) until 1969.
It is a lively centre for contemporary fine art, community arts, music recitals and a high profile artist in residence programme which is funded by the Arts Council. Cobh Tourism recently launched the Titanic Trail and this building is included in that as the Old Yacht Club. For more information Click Here

Cobh Museum
Cobh Museum is housed in former Scots Presbyterian Church on the main road into Cobh from Cork. Its many exhibits relate to Cobh's long maritime history. Artifacts include a model of Cork Harbour, grim reminders of the Lusitania disaster, model boats and ships, an Irish Naval Service display, and mementos of a Cobh lady of the early 19th c. Most unusual are copies of three watercolours of the harbour and a pencil sketch of Black Rock Castle done by Queen Victoria on her visit to Cork Harbour in 1849 and other Marine artists such as Atkinson and Stopford. It is open weekdays during the summer from 11 - 1800H & Sundays all year 'round 15-1800H. Adm. Adults 50p and Children 20p. Tel. 021-814240.

Fota Wildlife Park & Arboretum
Situated on Fota Estate off the main Cobh Road, Fota is Ireland's only Wildlife Park, set on rolling pastureland, and includes rare & endangered species of wildlife, as well as Giraffe, Zebra, Ostrich, Antelope, Cheetah, Gibbon & Monkey. There are Pools for Flamingos and Penguins, while Peafowl, Kangaroos, Macaws & Lemurs wander freely. Swans enhance the lake. The aim is to breed selected groups of animals that are endangered in the wild. Amenities include signposted Walks, a lakeside Coffee Shop, a Tour Train, Children's playground, Picnic Benches, and a Souvenir Shop with a wide range of crafts and books.
Opening Hours (April to Oct. inclusive): Weekdays 10am; Sundays 11am; Last Admissions 5.00. Park Closes 6pm 021-812678/ 812736. Dogs and pets are not allowed.

Fota Arboretum is one of the finest in Ireland. It contains trees and shrubs from the temperate and sub-tropical regions of the world. There are collections from Japan, China, South America, Australia, New Zealand, the Himalayas and North America. Car and coach parking facilities are provided.

Midleton, 15 miles E of Cork is a thriving business town situated on the main Cork - Waterford Road, in the middle of a rich fertile plane on a tidal section of the Owenacurra River. The rich land supports local meat processing and whiskey distilling - this is the home of `Paddy' and `Jameson' Irish Whiskey (see Jameson Heritage Centre, below). There are numerous castles and historical sites easily reached from the town centre and Midleton enjoys proximity to the coastal beaches of East Cork - Inch, White Bay, Garryvoe, and Ballybrannigan.

In the early part of the 12th c. Cistercian monks from Citeaux founded several monasteries in Ireland - including one called `The Abbey of the Choir' - Mainistir na Corann now Midleton. The monastery was destroyed under Henry VIII. In the 19th c. Midleton had thriving woollen and flour mills. The former Town Hall, once used as a market house, is now a public library. Erected in 1789 it features five Roman Arches and an imposing time-piece topped by a Weather Cock. The Church of the most Holy Rosary, designed by J.C. Ashlin and built with local stone features a 166 ft. spire. St. John the Baptist Church has records goiing back to 1302. Midleton House Gardens, with Italian Gardens and a Japanese area features a rare collection of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. The Gardens are open from May to August.

Jameson Whiskey Heritage Centre
The finest Irish Whiskey has been made here in Midleton since 1825. A tour through the Jameson Heritage Centre is a journey through the history of Irish whiskey. Everyone who visits the Centre is invited to sample the famous Jameson brand.

The Jameson Heritage Centre comprises 11 acres of grounds and is both architecturally and historically unique. The Mills, Maltings, Corn Stores, Stillhouses, Warehouses and Kilns have been lovingly restored and extensively refurbished. Today it is the only self-contained 18th c. industrial complex of its kind in Britain and Ireland. There are historic illustrations and photographs, audio visual shows, exhibitions, demonstrations, graphic panels, intriguing display cabinets, timeless artifacts and working models.

The Waterwheel which provided motive power is still in operation. Here you will see the largest Pot Still in the world with a capacity of more than 30,000 gallons, preserved in the building where it has been located for more than 150 years. Prior to 1825 the site was used as a Woollen Mill which commenced production in 1795. The visitor also encounters superbly restored machinery and dramatic recreations of many of the steps in whiskey production. A beautiful souvenir brochure /poster is available. Afterwards you may wish to browse through the gift and craft shop or relaxing in the Centre's elegant restaurant.

Youghal (from Eochaill- a yew wood), is both an historic town and a popular seaside holiday resort at the mouth of the River Blackwater, with a long promenade and 8km of safe, sandy beach. The climate is milder here - you'll find myrtles, nectarines and a few sub-tropical shrubs flourishing in the area. Amenities are well developed and good food and entertainment are plentiful in season. Golf, tennis, fishing, boating, amusements and nightlife are among the many ways to enjoy your stay here.

Youghal began as a Danish walled seaport. In the time of the Normans the town received a Charter from King John, and in return supplied him with 3 fighting ships. It was a well fortified town, and portions of the old walls and towers may still be seen. Later it became a centre of pilgrimage. Youghal is full of old abbeys and interesting buildings, reflecting its colourful and varied history. In the late 16th c. Queen Elizabeth I granted the land to the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh, who planted the first Irish potato here (see Youghal Potato Festival, Chap 4) and, it is said, smoked the first cigar in Europe! His stately Elizabethan house, Myrtle Grove, although privately owned and occupied, is open to groups by prior arrangement. Youghal Heritage Centre entertains the visitor with a spectacular audio and visual presentation of life in centuries past, entitled 'Youghal - Historic Walled Port'. It is open daily, 0930-1730, 024-92390

One of the recent additions to Youghal's tourist attractions is Fox' Lane Folk Museum, which contains a vast collection of domestic gadgets and appliances used by past generations. Items range from an egg topper to a cucumber straightener, a moustache cup to a wasp trap, a hat iron to a wool winder. See this fascinating display of some 400 bygones as well as an authentic country kiltchen giving an insight into domestic life from c1850 to c1950. A Cead Mile Failte is assured by the very friendly staff.

The Church of St Mary (C of I) dates from 1250 and 1464, and contains some very interesting tombs, effigies and monuments. Among them is the elaborately sculptured tomb of Richard Boyle (1566-1643) and the tomb of Margaret Countess of Desmond who danced with Henry VII after the battle of Bosworth and died at the age of 147 in reign of James I - after falling from a cherry tree! Much of the interior is very beautiful, especially the great east window. The massive tower adjoining the church was for defensive purposes, while the ancient churchyard is reputed to be haunted - many times over! The Clock Tower (1777), spans South Main Street and served as the town gaol and public gallows until 1837. South Abbey Street commemorates the Franciscan Abbey founded there in the lifetime of St. Francis (1224) - the first to be established outside Italy. Tyntes Castle, a 15c. fortified castle on the Main Street was built by the Walshes, a family of Norman descent. The College, located at Emmet Place, was Ireland's first post-Norman University, founded in 1464 by Thomas, Earl of Desmond. The Red House a Queen Anne style parochial house dating from 1703, was built by Leuventhan for the Uniackes, landowners and mayors of the town.

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