Cork is renowned as the Food Capital of Ireland. And we are very proud of our reputation for world class produce and cuisine, which has been decades in the making. You could even say that with our centuries long history of global trade - in butter, beef, pork, fish, beer and tea - we’ve been focused on food since ships first sailed.
Today, Cork is Foodie Heaven. Whether it’s seafood from our pristine Atlantic coast or the fruits of our green and lush family farms, fine-dining, rustic restaurants or our many farmers’ markets, we take great pride in our fabulous food. It’s all there for you to discover and savour, wherever you go in Cork. And this three-day itinerary will give you a taste of the very best of food and adventure on our rich maritime coast.
It’s time to feed all of your senses!
Arrive in Cork city. Drive 45 minutes or so around our great harbour to historic Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry (East Cork). You could stay in this Norman castle or locally in the Shanagarry/Ballycotton harbour area. There may be still be time to take a late breakfast in the dining room of this old family manor, with many of the ingredients sourced from their own fields, orchards and vegetable rows (in Cork, we take “locally sourced” very seriously).
Take a short stroll around the grounds before borrowing bikes from the house and cycling down to the Shanagarry Pottery - home to the leading Irish potter and designer Stephen Pearce. You can see the potters at work, pick out a special piece from the store and then have a delicious lunch at the Lighthouse Bar at Garryvoe Hotel on Garryvoe beach instead.
Take the Ballycotton Cliff Walk – one of the jewels of East Cork. Starting in the old fishing village, this ancient coastal path will take you over cliffs and hidden coves, past sea-bird colonies and hidden beaches, with the wild sea on one side and wind-swept meadows on the other.
This looped 9km walk can be done in stages, without specialist hiking gear. But we would recommend some locally sourced snacks as you will want to stop and savour the views.
Make tracks to the much-loved Blackbird Pub in the fishing village of Ballycotton to sample some local craft drinks and enjoy to a live music session. Look for the Field Kitchen hut in the big beer garden at the Blackbird, where Adrian and Lisa serve up fresh fish & chips, home-made burgers and breaded mussels. It’s the perfect food to go with their range of local ciders and beers.
If you have booked into Ballymaloe House, catch the morning baking class with the head pastry chef. It’s for early-risers. At 7am you will head into the kitchen to meet the bakers and learn how to craft a traditional loaf of Ballymaloe bread.
You can then enjoy a slice of your own, hand-baked bread with breakfast before making the short trip to Inch Beach for a surf lesson with Swell Surf School
Lose a few hours in the surf or just walk and take a dip on one of the many unspoilt, rarely-busy beaches of East Cork.
You may need to warm up again after the sea – so make the short trip to the Midleton Distillery for the Jameson Experience - the most popular distillery and whiskey tasting experience in Ireland.
They have been crafting fine whiskey on this 15-acre site since 1825, and it’s aged very well.
The acclaimed Sage Resturant is a firm favourite for Foodies travelling in East Cork. They are famous for their “12 Mile Rule” – which sees the vast majority of their ingredients sourced from within a 12 mile radius of their front door (there are some obvious exceptions, East Cork not being famed for its olive groves).
The menu is a delight for all the senses and you could meet chef Kevin Aherne, a legend in his own lunchtime.
Visit the oldest farmer’s market in Ireland in Midleton (Early to Mid-Morning, Saturdays) the ancient market town at the heart of some of the richest farmland in the country.
There is no better place to get a sense of the bounty of the land around you and the care and craft which goes into our food. This is where most locals go to stock up on the very best of East Cork’s regional foodstuffs, and grab some market platters (and the odd free sample) from the many stalls and food vans.
You could happily shop, snack and sample your way around this colourful, vibrant market for hours.
Staying local, visit the Shanagarry Design Centre for the best of Irish design at the Kilkenny Shop, artisan cooking at the café or the chance to see local craftspeople and designers as they create in the downstairs studios and workspaces.
It’s all under one roof close by Ballycotton harbour, a fitting place to end your fine food, design and adventure odyssey of East Cork.