Discover the harbour City of Cork on a private guided tour
Located in the Southwest of Ireland, Cork is a prosperous harbour city on the West Cork Coast. Ireland's second city is in the middle of the River Lee, which splits into two channels, effectively making the main business and shopping centre on an island.
Cork is the culinary Capital of Ireland with its famous "English Market" and access to fine local and global producers. Cork has many bridges and spires; it is a delightful city to tour. It is compact and easy to stroll around and enjoy the grand Georgian avenues, the cramped 17th-century alleys, and the many shops and markets.
Discover the turbulent history, the friendly people and wonderful restaurants on a private driver-guided tour of Ireland.
The Culinary Capital of Ireland
A brief history of Cork
Reputedly founded by St Finbarr and dating back to the 6th Century, Cork began as a monastic settlement. The Vikings arrived between 915 and 922 and were not slow to recognise Cork's importance as a port. Consequently, it became an important trading community dealing in animal hides and cloth while at the same time continuing as a monastery.
Two hundred and fifty years later, the Normans invaded and took over the town in 1173. Prince John granted a city charter (a document conferring certain rights and privileges) in 1185. Over time, a defensive wall surrounded the city. Sections of the wall remain visible today.
The middle ages and Tudor times
The 13th Century saw the arrival of both Dominican friars (called black friars due to their costumes) and Franciscan friars (grey friars). The 14th Century saw the arrival in Cork of the Black Death, which killed almost half the population and devastated their economy. At the end of the century, Perkin Warbeck arrived in Cork, claiming to be the rightful King of England. He must have had a good story because the following year, he, together with the mayor of Cork and several others, travelled to England determined to overthrow Henry VII. They were unsuccessful and all executed. Their actions earned Cork the reputation of being a rebel city.
Defence and Cromwell
At the end of the 16th Century, English forces built a fort on Cork to overawe its citizens. The stronghold was destroyed in 1603; it was rebuilt and burned down in 1922 during the civil war. By the middle of the 17th Century, Cork was flourishing with a population of some 5,000. Around the same time, the town was captured by Cromwell. Cromwell's invasion of Ireland resulted from the English civil war, which started in defiance of Charles I.
The history of Ireland is long and complicated, involving a mix of trust, land ownership, religion, civic rights, and English kings' attempts to impose the law, language, and culture. Even the Spanish intervened at one stage. Attempting to unpick and identify all the strands is not easy.
William of Orange
In 1690, the city of Cork was besieged during the Williamite war, a war between the Jacobite's, the supports of deposed Catholic King James II, and Protestant King William III's defenders. Incidentally, the Duke of Marlborough captured Cork, an ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill and victor at the battle of Blinheim (1704-Blenheim).
The 18th Century was a period of significant change for Cork. Early on, the city experienced an influx of Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France. During the same period, Cork's medieval centre was transformed into a Georgian architectural style town.
Emigration to Britain and America
However, over the 19th Century, Cork became very overcrowded due to an influx of people fleeing the countryside's poverty and the famine of the 1840s. Cork became a centre of emigration with large numbers of people leaving for Britain and North America.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, trade from Cork increased considerably with exports of large amounts of butter and beef to Europe and North America. The business grew to include shipbuilding, brewing, and distilling.
Today Cork and nearby Kinsale are regarded as the culinary capital of Ireland.
Highlights of Cork
There is so much to see around Cork. It's a city of busy markets, Georgian houses, hidden alleys, magnificent churches, and shops.
St Finbarr's Cathedral
A few of the 'must-see' places include: St Finbarr's Cathedral, with its three Gothic spires is visible across the city. The third Cathedral on this site completed in 1870 with an interior that includes some beautiful 19th Century stained glass, rich carvings, mosaics, and a stunning apse ceiling. Look out for a cannonball fired during the siege of 1690 and the memorial to Elizabeth Aldworth, the only woman ever to be made a freemason.
The English Market
Nearby is the English Market, an extremely popular covered market described as the best in Ireland and the UK. There's been a market on this site since 1788, initially a meat market; today, and fresh global produce is available. Fresh fish and meat remain its specialities.
The Butter Exchange
The Butter Exchange is an 18th-Century property that played an important part in Cork's prosperity. Merchants made deals for the export around the world of Cork and Kerry salted butter.
Elizabeth Fort; Queen Elizabeth in 1600 ordered the construction of a fort to guard against the threat of a Spanish invasion. The views of Cork from its high walls are worth the climb.
Black Rock Castle
Blackrock Castle is just a couple of miles out of the city centre. Built in 1582, to prevent pirates' carrying away' ships from entering the harbour. It now houses an observatory, visitor centre, and restaurant. The 16th Century Blarney Castle is just a few miles away and again well worth a visit.
Touring and accommodation
After your adventures in Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains, Waterford and Kilkenny, the obvious next stop is Cork. A short hope from Cork is the delightful town of the old fishing village of Kinsale, with brightly coloured buildings huddled together. It has become the culinary capital of Ireland, with wonderful cafes, restaurants and bars. There are plenty of independent shops and a lovely coastal aspect to enjoy.
Another short hop is the world-famous Blarney Castle, and please don't forget the gardens. Kiss the Blarney stone, stroll around the gardens before heading back to the hotel for spa treatment.
Our Recommended hotel in the region is Hayfield Manor Hotel, an elegant Georgian style mansion in Cork City. The hotel has three restaurants, a spa, pool and gardens.
Ireland's Culinary Capital
Ireland's Vibrant Second City
- Private Walking Tours
- Visit the English Market
- Visit St Finbarr's Cathedral
- Hop down to Kinsale
- Stay at Hayfield Manor Hotel
Help us make your trip exceptional
Our UK and EU office based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.
Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.
We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.
We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.