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Cork is among Ireland's most vibrant cities, with a rich history stretching as far back as the first Millennium, when it began life as mere marshland. In Cork, tourists can enjoy shopping on St Patrick's Street, great nightlife around MacCurtain Street and fine dining on either North Main Street or Paul Street. The attractions are varied, with modern offerings such as the Cork Vision Centre sitting alongside Cork City Gaol and St Finbarr's Cathedral. While the centre is easily explored on foot, venturing into the idyllic surrounding countryside in West Cork is definitely best enjoyed with the help of a vehicle.
Who to Book With
Cork has several well-known international car hire companies within its confines. The likes of Thrifty, Europcar, Budget and Sixt can all be found easily at the airport, in the centre or on the outskirts of the town. Online bookings made in advance often result in cheaper rates.
Best Time to Go
The summer months of June to August are the most ideal for visiting Cork, as this is when the notorious rainfall is at its lowest level and the sun shines on most days. As Irish children and teenagers take their summer holidays over this period though, making advanced vehicle hire and hotel reservations is highly advised.
Need to Know Essentials
Bring the following if you are collecting a vehicle in Cork:
- A valid driving license
- A secondary form of ID
- The credit card the booker used to make their reservation
- Some form of booking proof
Cork's compact size means that traffic can sometimes build up in the town centre, as many of the roads are either narrow, steep or a combination of both. Because of this, it can take a few days to get used to the road system here. On the other hand, roads in and out of the town are well-developed and in good condition. Parking spaces on the street can be difficult to find, which is why many drivers leave their vehicles in council-owned or private car parks.
As mentioned, the centre of Cork is small enough to explore on foot, but trips out of the area must almost always be completed with the use of a hire vehicle. Buses and taxis are the primary public transport options for those in Cork that have not arranged car hire.
Cork is too small to have its own rail network, but there are a few options for getting in and out of the city by train. Irish Rail operates all services, with the main destinations being Dublin, Cobh, Midleton, Tralee and Mallow. If booked online in advance, some of these fares can be as low as €10.
There are several taxi ranks scattered throughout the centre of Cork. Fares will always go on the meter, even if a passenger wishes to travel out of town. Cabs will always be fitted with a yellow bar that often reads 'TACSAI' as opposed to 'TAXI'. For a price guide, the taxi regulator website is a useful point of reference.
Bus services run through the city centre and to the residential suburbs that surround Cork. The majority of buses can be caught on St Patrick's Street and at other prominent locations such as Merchant's Quay, the South Mall and the Grand Parade. Bus services in Cork are supplied by Bus Eireann, which runs transport, not just around the town, but to and from the airport to other destinations around mainland Ireland too.
While also having its own talking points, Cork acts as an ideal base for those looking to explore other destinations with car hire vehicles. Most attractions, such as Blarney and Cobh, are located in the countryside or along the coast, and feature historic landmarks or other points of interest.
Blarney - This destination can be reached by following signs for the peaceful Blarney Village from Cork, is best-known for its iconic castle. As the grounds close at around 17:00 most of the year round, be sure to leave Cork in the morning or early afternoon.
Cobh - Once known as Queenstown, Cobh an important port town with an interesting heritage centre for tourists to visit. On the way to Cobh, a stop-off can be made at Barryscourt Castle.
Killarney - One of the highlights of County Kerry, and where visitors can truly get a feel for life in small-town Ireland. Even for such a small destination, Killarney can boast lakes, a castle and a vast wildlife park.