The 17 Best Day Trips from Cork, Ireland (2023)

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Cork is one of the best places in Ireland to set as a “home base” while you explore. Accordingly, this post will detail all of the best day trips from Cork, from the super close by to some of the furthest reaches from the city. Remember, Ireland is a relatively small island, approximately the size of South Carolina, so much of the country is within a few hours’ drive from centrally located Cork. 

Ireland is known for its iconic landmarks, many of which you can visit on a day trip from Cork. You can choose from the majestic Cliffs of Moher, the quirky town of Kinsale, or the iconic Blarney Castle, home to the Blarney Stone. If you’d like a more local spot, check out Limerick or Gougane Barra or Tramore.

You can do any of these day trips from Cork at your own pace with a rental car. If you don’t rent a car, or if you’re intimidated by driving on the left side of the road, I’ve included a section on how to get there without a car whenever possible. Unfortunately, there are some destinations in Ireland that are simply too cumbersome or too remote to reach without a car. 

The sun shines on the Cliffs of Moher, one of the top day trips from Cork
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most iconic places to visit in Ireland.

Top Day Trips from Cork

Here are some of the top day trips from Cork, including a selection of the greatest hits of Ireland, a few hidden gems, and some spots that are local favorites. There are a few day trip destinations that could be combined, like Kinsale and Garretstown Beach or Blarney Castle and Midleton. 

Whichever day trip you choose, be sure to prepare for the weather with warm clothes and plenty of layers. 

1. Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are one of the best places to visit in Ireland, offering incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean and cliff sides laced with green. This area is a UNESCO Geopark, a designation for areas with unique geological and cultural features. During some parts of the year, you can spot puffins as they nest along the cliff sides, and on a clear day you can see out to the Aran Islands. 

You can hike along the Cliffs of Moher, either as a short out-and-back from the visitor’s center or as a longer journey from nearby Doolin to the north or Moher Tower at Hag’s Head to the south. The path is clearly marked and follows the cliffs from Doolin to Moher Tower, so there’s little risk of getting lost. Even if you don’t go into the visitor’s center, I’d recommend seeing the cliffs near that area because it offers some of the most dramatic views. 

If you’re driving yourself, I’d recommend navigating to either Moher Tower for a longer hike or the visitor’s center for a shorter excursion. 

Additional stop: The Burren

The Cliffs of Moher could be their own trip, but if you have a little extra time you could also squeeze in a visit to the Burren. This geologically interesting area is largely covered in rock slabs that have a moonlike quality. There are a few walking trails, but you can simply park in a pull off and wander around on the rocks for a short ways (try not to lose sight of your car if you’re not using a marked trail). 

Flattened rocks cover an expanse in the Burren in front of the Burren Perfumery
A example of the rock formations you’ll find in the Burren.

Another worthy stop is at the Burren Perfumery, a small boutique fragrance shop. The perfumes are formulated to invoke the scents of the Burren, with options like “frond” and “spring” available for purchase. The shop also has a wellness line, with lip balms, soaps, and moisturizers available for purchase. As a bonus, they’ll ship to the US for free with a minimum purchase (great if you’ll be traveling with a carry on bag!).  

How to visit without a car

The easiest way to visit the Cliffs of Moher without a car is to join a tour, which will also include a stop at Bunratty Castle and a drive through the Burren. The upside to taking a tour bus is that you’ll probably learn more about the history of the area than you would on a self-guided tour. The downside is that you probably won’t be able to hike as much of the cliffside as you would if you’d decided to drive yourself and go at your own pace. 

Water crashes along the base of the Cliffs of Moher, one of the best places to visit on a day trip from Cork
The Cliffs of Moher on a clear, sunny day.

2. Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park has some of the best hikes in Ireland, following Glendalough and the hike along the Cliffs of Moher. It is also the first national park in Ireland and it was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve 1981. Located within County Kerry, Killarney National Park is also part of the Ring of Kerry. 

Torc Waterfall is probably one of the most popular spots in Killarney National Park, accessible by a short walk from the main parking area. My favorite hike, however, was to the top of nearby Torc Mountain. You can shave some time and distance off of the hike by parking at the Killarney National Park Car Park (located above the Torc waterfall).  

A bit of personal preference here, but if I’m planning to stop in a nearby town to wander around and have a coffee, I prefer Kenmare to Killarney. Killarney is a bit more touristy and has a great ice cream shop – Murphy’s – but is otherwise a bit overhyped. Kenmare is small and charming, with a bit more of a local feel than Killarney. 

How to visit without a car

This day trip is better suited to having a car, but it would be possible to do a version of it by bus. You could take public transit to Killarney, then walk a route starting at Killarney House and Gardens to Torc Waterfall (about 90 minutes each way). Unless you’re a very experienced and fast hiker, I would not recommend that you add the additional distance to the top of Torc Mountain. 

There are a few tours available from Cork, though few offer any chance to hike in Killarney National Park. For more of an overview of the area, this tour covers the Ring of Kerry and the town of Killarney, with pick up and drop off in Cork. 

The mountains of Killarney National Park on a cloudy day. This photo was taken on the hike up Torc Mountain.
Killarney National Park in the West of Ireland.

3. Blarney Castle

One of the easiest day trips you can plan from Cork is a visit to Blarney Castle. This castle dates back to 1446, though the area has been occupied since at least the 13th century. Blarney Castle is probably best known for containing the Stone of Eloquence, also known as the Blarney Stone. It is said that those who kiss the Blarney Stone will be blessed with the gift of the gab, imbuing the kisser with the gift of eloquence and flattery. 

You can wander through Blarney Castle, which has been partially restored and contains plaques explaining the various rooms and their functions. The pathway up to the Blarney Stone requires some maneuvering, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes with some grip in case it has been raining. When you get to the top, you’ll have the chance to kiss the stone and have your photo taken (later available for purchase, like you might see after a roller coaster – it makes a great souvenir!). 

Blarney Castle is surrounded by some beautiful gardens and you’ll want to take an hour or so to wander through them. The crowd favorite portion is the Poison Garden, which contains plants that have been used as poisons over the years. 

How to visit without a car

Although it’s nicer to visit Blarney Castle with a car, especially on a chilly or rainy day, you can absolutely get there without a car. There are public buses that leave from the center of Cork and travel to Blarney Village throughout the day. Once you get to Blarney, you’ll just walk a few blocks to the entrance to the castle (ask anyone you see in town if you have trouble finding it). 

You could always take a taxi to and from Blarney Castle, if you prefer. I like to use Satellite Taxis, but note that you’ll need to call to reserve your ride. Alternatively, your hotel will probably be happy enough to reserve a taxi for you. 

The sun shines on Blarney Castle on a winter day.
Blarney Castle is a top day trip destination from Cork.

4. Kinsale

Located just a short drive from the center of Cork City is the quirky little fishing town of Kinsale. The town is brightly colored and whimsical, with fun bookstores, jewelry shops, and other boutiques to explore. Kinsale is a holiday destination for people in Ireland and abroad, so there are plenty of things to do for visitors. 

One of my favorites restaurants in Kinsale is the OHK Cafe, a small operation that serves breakfast and brunch dishes made with local ingredients. If you’re only looking for coffees and breakfast pastries, they have a small takeout window for much faster services. 

After you’ve eaten, take the Scilly Walk from the center of town. This walking path meanders through the charming homes of Kinsale, along the water, and through the trees to Charles Fort, the ruins of a 17th century fortress. There are spots along the walk to stop and admire the scenery along with the Bulman Pub, which serves seafood and is located right along the water. 

How to visit without a car

You can easily visit Kinsale without a car. There is a bus line that goes from the center of Cork to the center of Kinsale and it runs throughout the day. 

Brightly colored buildings in the town of Kinsale. One of the signs reads "Stone Mad"
A view of the quirky town of Kinsale.

5. Cobh and Spike Island

Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown, is a popular place to visit in County Cork because it’s the only dedicated cruise terminal in Ireland. Further, it was a major transatlantic port and the final stop for most Irish emigrants who moved to the United States. In fact, the Titanic last stopped in Cork before setting off for its fated journey across the Atlantic. 

Today, Cobh is a lively town with a beautiful cathedral and a few nice restaurants to enjoy. You won’t need more than a few hours to explore Cobh, but you will want to see the iconic “deck of cards” houses and take a few minutes to admire the inside of the St Colman’s Cathedral. There’s also a small Titanic Museum along the water. 

Spike Island

Spike Island is a small island off of the coast of Cobh that has served as a military fort and then later a prison. Known as “Ireland’s Alcatraz,” Spike Island is only accessible by boat and has long been used to hold political and common prisoners. You can visit Spike Island by ferry, which runs across the hard to to the prison’s museum. 

There are tours of Spike Island that highlight the area’s history, some of its unique inhabitants, and its use as a military fort for many years. It’s a great fit for military and prison history buffs. 

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    How to visit without a car

    You shouldn’t have any trouble at all getting from the center of Cork to Cobh. The easiest option is to take the train, which runs from the Cork (Kent) station to Cobh and takes less than 30 minutes. The route is also accessible by bus or taxi, if you prefer. 

    For a more adventurous activity, you could rent a bicycle and cycle to Passage West. From there, take a ferry across to Carrigaloe then cycle the rest of the way to central Cobh. There are some restaurants and cafes in a small shipping container park in Carrigaloe if you’re ready for a snack and a break when you arrive. 

    If you’re too tired to bike back the way you came, you can take your bike on the train or bus back to Cork City when you’re finished exploring. 

    A view of the colorful houses in front of Cobh's cathedral
    An iconic view of Cobh.

    6. Midleton and Jameson Distillery

    If you’re a fan of Irish whiskey, a day trip to the Jameson Distillery in nearby Midleton could be the perfect addition to your itinerary. The distillery offers tours for many interest levels and budgets, from short tasting experiences to a full day “Whiskey Academy.” If you’ve ever wanted to learn about Irish whiskey, this is the place to do it. 

    After you visit Midleton, you can continue on to Youghal. There is a small beach that is popular during the summertime, as well as a cute city center. Perhaps the biggest draw is the Regal Cinema, Ireland’s oldest movie theater that was originally built in 1936.

    If you love Irish whiskey but you’d rather do a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher (or another location), be sure to visit the Shelbourne Bar in the Victorian Quarter in Cork. The Shelbourne Bar is known for having friendly and knowledgeable staff along with an extensive collection of Irish whiskeys to choose from. You’ll also find the best Irish coffee – a warm drink made with coffee, whiskey, and cream – in Cork at the Shelbourne Bar. 

    How to visit without a car

    You can easily get to the Jameson Distillery by bus, so a car is not necessary for this day trip. The bus from the center of Cork City to the Jameson Distillery takes about 30 minutes, and buses run through the day. If you wanted, you could catch another bus to Youghal to explore a bit before returning to Cork. 

    Be sure to check the bus schedules before you leave so that you don’t miss the last returning bus. 

    Jameson Cooper's Croze, Jameson Single Pot Still, and Jameson Crested whiskeys with tasting glasses at the Shelbourne Bar.
    If you can’t make it to the Jameson Distillery, visit the Shelbourne Bar to try a selection of Irish whiskeys.

    7. Mizen Head & Three Castle Head

    Mizen Head is the most southwestern point of Ireland and a classic West Cork destination. Here, the peninsula juts out towards the sea and is surrounded by breathtaking cliffs. The edge of the peninsula is separated by such a deep chasm that it almost looks like an island, so a bridge has been added to allow visitors to access the old signal station and lighthouse. 

    A major transatlantic shipping route passes near Mizen Head, so it has long been the first (or last) sight of Europe for many ships. 

    After visiting Mizen Head, you can travel just a bit further to Three Castle Head. Once you park, you’ll need to walk up a somewhat steep hill for about 30 minutes to reach the castles. The castles overlook a lake, and the whole area has a very heavy (and slightly creepy) energy. You can hike on and explore further if you wish, but beware that fog can roll in very quickly and limit your visibility. 

    How to visit without a car

    Mizen Head is not accessible by public transit, but you can take a tour from Cork if you’d like to see the area. This tour includes a visit to Mizen Head, Gougane Barra, a stop in the town of Bantry, and some time in the town of Clonakilty. 

    A view of the cliffs of Mizen Head
    You can cross the pedestrian bridge to visit the lighthouse at Mizen Head.

    8. Gougane Barra

    Gougane Barra is more of a locally popular destination in Ireland, so you won’t find my tourists here. This beautiful park is set along a lake and covered in hiking and walking trails that are gentle and clearly marked – not always a given when hiking in Ireland. The area is thought to have first been settled as a monastery during the 6th century. 

    Today, you can visit this idyllic spot as part of a day trip from Cork. Take a few minutes to admire the lake, poke your head in the church near the entrance, and admire the award winning toilet at the entrance (seriously, they have a plaque and everything!). Then, you can either drive to the car park and pay the fee or enter on foot. 

    You can walk for a short loop or weave your way through the woods for a longer hike. There are plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the sounds of nature, but the area only has a few picnic benches if you’d like to eat lunch. If you have time, you can pass Budds Restaurant for lunch on your way back to Cork for a tasty meal.

    How to visit without a car

    Unfortunately, Gougane Barra is not accessible by public transit. You can, however, visit the area if you take a tour from Cork. This particular tour includes a visit to Mizen Head, Gougane Barra, a stop in the town of Bantry, and some time in the town of Clonakilty. 

    A gravel path cuts through a forest on a cloudy day in Ireland.
    A nature trail in Gougane Barra.

    9. Waterford Greenway

    I’ve included two greenways in this list because I think they’re a fabulous way to experience a place. I love to visit the greenways in both Paris and London because they are typically popular with locals but almost unknown to visitors who don’t go looking for them. 

    The Waterford Greenway is a paved pedestrian and cycle path that travels from Dungarvan to Waterford City. There are incredible views of rolling hills, blooming yellow gorse, and adorable cows that you can enjoy as you leisurely cycle past them. You’ll also have a chance to see a few impressive viaducts and cycle through the Ballyvoyle tunnel.

    The easiest way to experience the Greenway is to rent bikes in Dungarvan and cycle to Coach House Coffee, a restaurant that is about 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the starting point. From here, you can grab lunch and a coffee to refuel, then cycle back to Dungarvan to return the bikes. If you’d like an additional snack once you return to Dungarvan, swing by Churriosity for a fresh churro snack. 

    How to visit without a car

    You can easily visit the Waterford Greenway without a car, but you’ll want to start in Dungarvan and not Waterford. There is a bus that runs from Cork City to Dungarvan and it takes about 90 minutes each way. 

    Gorse and hedges line the cycle path from Dungarvan to Waterford City.
    A view from the Waterford Greenway.

    10. Tramore

    Tramore isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but it’s definitely off of the main tourist tracks. This little seaside town has a fabulous beach, perfect for families or just relaxing in the sand. The water is swimmable, but the water will be chilly so you may not want to swim for long (if at all). If the idea of a cold swim sounds appealing but you’re not quite sure, instead try the sauna by the sea at Garretstown Beach near Kinsale. 

    After you spend some time at the beach in Tramore and explore the small boardwalk area, you can venture into town. There is a beautiful set of gardens dedicated to Lafcadio Hearn, a 19th century Irish travel writer and one of the first Japanologists. If you’d like to learn more about him and the time I met his great, great granddaughter, you can read this post about Ayuko Moriya

    Tramore also has a fabulous bakery called Seagull, which typically has a line out the door. If you visit on a day when they’re open, it’s well worth a visit. 

    How to visit without a car

    I’d struggle to recommend that you try to visit Tramore without a car. While you can reach Tramore by car in less than 2 hours if you leave directly from Cork, it’ll take over 3 hours each way by bus. Further, you wouldn’t really have the opportunity to get out and explore along the way. 

    As Tramore is not really on the tourist track, you’re not likely to find any dedicated tours that leave from Cork. If you wanted to rearrange your trip, however, you could consider this multi-day tour, which leaves from Dublin and includes many of my favorite stops on Ireland’s east and southern coast. You’d have a chance to visit Glendalough in Wicklow, Blarney Castle, and Kinsale. 

    Grass covered dunes near Tramore, Ireland
    The dunes just outside of the center of Tramore, Ireland.

    11. Garretstown Beach and Sauna (near Kinsale)

    One of the more unique day trip activities is a visit to Garretstown Beach. This beach is a mix of sand and pebbles, the perfect spot to enjoy a little time by the sea. Garretstown Beach is also home to a surfing school, so you can watch the surfers out on the water when the waves are large enough. 

    The best part of Garretstown Beach, however, is the Wild Wellness Collective sauna that overlooks the sea. I first discovered the Wild Wellness Collective saunas when researching saunas in Cork, and I immediately knew I wanted to try it. Essentially, you alternate between sitting in the sauna and running into the frigid ocean water. The experience is invigorating!

    During my first visit to the sauna, I learned that you’re supposed to start and end by diving into the ocean. I found that having a big towel and some sandals are very helpful, and reserving a spot in advance is essential. 

    There are saunas along the coast throughout Ireland, so you could always have a similar experience at a different beach if you weren’t able to make it to Garretstown. Be sure that you practice caution when entering any body of water. 

    Note: you could easily combine a trip to Garretstown Beach with a visit to Kinsale. I would recommend that you end the day at Garretstown Beach because you’ll definitely want to shower and rest after using the sauna. 

    Related Post: Looking for Hot Springs in Ireland? Here’s What You Need to Know

    How to get there without a car

    You can reach Garretstown Beach and the Wild Wellness Collective by bus from Cork City. You can take the bus to Kinsale, then switch to a bus towards Clonakilty and get off at Garretstown Beach. It’s worth noting that this is a 45 minute drive from Cork City, but a nearly 2 hour bus ride each way. I would recommend renting a car, if possible. 

    A wooden sauna with a small porthole looking over the parking lot. People can be seen in the water in wetsuits.
    The Wild Wellness Collective, a sauna that overlooks Garretstown Beach.

    12. Dingle Peninsula 

    The Dingle Peninsula is one of my favorite spots in Ireland, and it’s where I try to take all of my guests if we’re traveling together. There’s so much to see and do on the Dingle Peninsula that I often plan an overnight or two, but if you’re ambitious, short on time, and have a car you could do it as a day trip. 

    Start your visit to Dingle by stopping at Inch Beach, a long stretch of sandy beach where you can see surfers bob in the water and admire the dunes. You could spend a few hours walking along the beach with your feet in the water, picking up seashells and admiring the views. If you like to run on the beach, Inch Beach is the perfect spot because it’s long, flat, and densely packed enough for cars to drive on. 

    Next, make your way into Dingle Town, where you can enjoy a coffee at My Boy Blue, fish and chips at the Fish Box, or a fresh juice from Juice for Thought. There is also a Murphy’s creamery location in Dingle, so you can try a cone of brown bread or Irish gin flavored ice cream. If you have time, join a Dingle Sea Safari tour to go out to see the Blasket Islands. 

    Finally, check out Coumeenoole Beach, my favorite beach in Ireland. When the tide is out, this beach is covered in beautiful black rock formations that jut out into the sea. There are also fascinating clusters of tide pools, and I even found a live starfish here once. 

    How to visit without a car

    The only way to visit Dingle on a day trip without a car is to join a tour, as public transit is too sparse and slow to be a viable option. 

    Ocean water froths at Coumeenoole Beach
    Coumeenoole Beach on the Dingle Peninsula. You can visit this beach while on a day trip from Cork.

    13. Bunmahon Beach and the Copper Coast

    Bunmahon Beach is located along the Copper Coast, an area that has been designated a UNESCO Geopark. The Copper Coast is so-named because of its history of copper mining, not because of the color of the coastline. Here, you’ll find a beautiful sandy beach that is surrounded by dunes. 

    Surfers love Bunmahon Beach, so you’ll often see them out on the water trying to catch waves. There are walking paths along the dunes to either side of the beach, so you can see the coastline from above if you’d like. The area behind Bunmahon Beach is also a popular free campsite, so if you fall in love with the Copper Coast you could consider returning and car camping

    My favorite spot is a small cove called Trá na mBó that is a short walk from Bunmahon Beach. This little spot feels like a secret hideaway when you get it to yourself. You can sit on the sand and meditate or just admire the scenery. The climb down to Trá na mBó is fairly steep, so this spot is not a good choice for someone with mobility issues. 

    How to visit without a car

    As with a few other day trip locations on this list, you could reach Bunmahon by public transit, but it would make for a very long day. With a car, the drive takes a little less than two hours each way, but the bus adds another hour in each direction. Frankly, if you don’t have a car I’d redirect you to another nearby beach or day trip from Cork. 

    A sandy beach with a small set of cliffs in the background at Bunmahon Beach, one of the top day trips from Cork.
    A view of Bunmahon Beach along the Copper Coast.

    14. Rock of Cashel

    The Rock of Cashel is a beautiful spot to visit in Tipperary that is full of history. This area was originally the seat for the kings of Munster over periods dating back to the 10th century. Legend has it that Saint Patrick himself visited the Rock of Cashel to convert King Aenghus to Christianity. This fortress is visually stunning, especially when viewed from below. 

    Today, you can visit the Rock of Cashel and optionally join a guided tour. It’s recommended that you pre-book your ticket, if possible, to reduce waiting times after you arrive. Double check the website before you leave Cork, as the attraction is occasionally closed due to adverse weather conditions. 

    **Be sure that you navigate to “the Rock of Cashel” on Google Maps, as this is a different location than simply “Cashel.” Don’t ask me how I know. 

    Kilkenny

    It would add another hour each way by car, but you could also visit Kilkenny after exploring the Rock of Cashel. This town is popular with visitors and is known for its art galleries, historical buildings, public gardens, museums, and performing arts. If you’d like to join a walking tour of Kilkenny, this tour combines comedy and history for a unique experience. 

    How to visit without a car

    You’d definitely save time if you drove to the Rock of Cashel, but it is also accessible by public transit. The drive takes about 75 minutes, while you’ll need about two hours to travel by bus. Be sure to carefully plan your journey and try to take a direct bus; there are train options that add nearly an hour each way. 

    A castle atop a hill surrounded by trees and visitors
    The Rock of Cashel is one of the places you can visit on a day trip from Cork.

    15. Limerick and the Limerick Greenway

    The Irish city of Limerick could make a great destination for a day trip if you want to see a less touristy and more local urban area in Limerick. While it doesn’t have the traditional music scene of nearby Galway, Limerick offers a glimpse into daily life, with quiet cafes and markets to explore. 

    There are some fabulous restaurants in Limerick like Rift Coffee and the Republic of Grill, both of which are located near the city center. You can also visit the nearby ruins of Bunratty Castle, which is surrounded by a folk park and staffed by reenactment actors. Bunratty Castle also holds medieval feasts for visitors, where you can listen to live music and enjoy dinner like a medieval king. 

    Limerick Greenway

    Cyclists will love traveling along the Limerick Greenway, a sort of hidden gem in Ireland. The Greenway is a cycling and walking path that was built along an old railway line from Kerry to Limerick. The Greenway runs about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Listowel to Rathkeale, never actually reaching the city of Limerick. 

    You can rent bikes at various stops along the Greenway, and the city of Limerick maintains a list of rental companies. It’s recommended that you reserve a bicycle ahead of time if you’ll need to rent one, both so that they know you’re coming and you can be sure that a bike is available.  

    How to visit without a car

    You can easily access Limerick without a car from Cork, as these two cities are connected by public transit lines. I’d recommend taking the train, which runs between the two cities and takes only a few minutes longer than driving. 

    Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to access the greenway without a car. You could take an additional bus from Limerick to the end of the line in Rathkeale, but it will add an additional 40 minutes each direction. 

    A tunnel along the Limerick Greenway cycle path.
    A tunnel along the Limerick Greenway.

    16. Saltee Islands

    A visit to the Saltee Islands is definitely a hidden gem sort of day trip from Cork. The Saltee Islands are a pair of islands off of the coast of Wexford, best known for the robust population of birds who use the area as their breeding grounds. The birds’ habitat on the Saltee Islands is partially protected by the European Union as both a conservation area and a protected area.

    Visitors can take a ferry from Kilmore Quay to the islands, where you can wander around the area admiring all of the birds who call the area home. On a given day, you may see puffins, razorbills, gannets, or fulmars. Grey seals are also known to frequent the islands. 

    Be aware that the ferry requires a wet landing, meaning that you’ll need to exit the boat and walk through wet and potentially slippery surfaces to reach the islands. This activity is demanding in nature and may not be appropriate for people with limited mobility. Bring extra shoes in the likely event that yours get wet when entering/exiting the ferry. 

    How to visit without a car

    This day trip is already a bit ambitious with a car because the driving time is nearly three hours each way. Because you don’t need more than a few hours on the islands, you can definitely visit the Saltee Islands on a (long) day from Cork. Without a car, however, it’s not possible to make it to the islands. 

    If you wanted to visit the Saltee Islands without a car, you’d need to make your way to Wexford and stay overnight near the ferry. This way, you’d have time to make it to the ferry and back within a day. 

    A puffin looks off to the side.
    The Saltee Islands can be a great place to spot puffins and other birds while in Ireland.

    17. Galway

    If you have very limited time in Ireland and won’t be able to make a separate trip up to Galway, you could certainly go as a day trip from Cork. I like to think of Galway as being the Nashville of Ireland, a place that is known for live music, fabulous nightlife, and plenty of crowds out enjoying the city. 

    The central area of Galway is known as the Latin Quarter, a place where you’ll find restaurants, lively pubs, and plenty of shops. One of my favorite spots is the Coffeewerk + Press cafe, which is both a fabulous coffee shop and also a store with unique and hip gift options.

    For food, I always make a point of stopping at Xi’an Street Food, a budget-friendly Chinese restaurant with a selection of more traditional dishes. 

    Although you can enjoy traditional or “trad” music in Cork, Galway is known as a destination for live music. Not only will you find bands or solo performers in the pubs, there will be crowds gathered around musicians as they play on the streets. The city has a festive energy throughout the week, but it’s intensified on Friday and Saturday nights.

    If you take the train to Galway for a day trip, plan to take the last train home to enjoy as much of the nightlife as possible. 

    How to visit without a car

    Galway is accessible by both train and bus from Cork, with options that run throughout the day. If you have a choice, I’d recommend taking the train to Limerick because it’s a bit more relaxing. Always double check the schedule so that you know when the last bus or train leaves. 

    Flags of the world are draped over High Street in Galway City, one of top day trips from Cork
    A view of the city center in Galway.

    Bonus: Edinburgh, Scotland

    You read that right! If you wanted, you could do a day trip to Edinburgh some days of the week from Cork because there are short, direct Ryanair flights between these cities. The morning flight usually leaves quite early and then the return flight is quite late in the evening, so you’d have a full day to explore Edinburgh. 

    You could spend a day exploring Edinburgh Castle, wandering through the House of Holyrood, and strolling through the Old Town. You might even try to see a ballet at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, provided they have a matinee performance on the day you’re visiting. 

    How to visit without a car

    One of the best parts of visiting Edinburgh is that you won’t need a car – you can navigate the city on foot or by public transit. In order to catch your early morning flight and to ensure an easy transfer back to your hotel in Cork in the evening, be sure to pre-book a taxi. 

    Depending on your timing, you might be able to visit Edinburgh, Scotland on a day trip from Cork.

    Best Day Trips from Cork: FAQs

    Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about taking a day trip from Cork. 

    Which day trips from Cork are best for avoiding crowds?

    There are plenty of day trips from Cork that will allow you to avoid the crowds. Although you may encounter some locals and visitors at any of the locations I’ve mentioned, you probably won’t find crowds at: Gougane Barra, the Limerick Greenway, the Waterford Greenway, Tramore, the Saltee Islands or Garretstown Beach. 

    The Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Blarney Castle, Cobh, and Edinburgh are all likely to have large crowds, especially during the summertime peak travel months of June, July, and August.

    A lake at the base of a set of cliffs at Coumshingaun Lake.
    A view from the Coumshingaun Loop Walk. I’d recommend that you only hike to the lake unless you’re traveling with experienced hikers and all of the appropriate gear.

    How many days should I spend in Cork? 

    Try to spend at least two days exploring Cork, especially if part of a day will be spent at Blarney Castle or in nearby Cobh. You can easily explore the city center area in a day, but there are lots of fabulous things to do in Cork that could take up two or three full days. 

    I recommend that my guests stay in Cork as a home base for several days while they explore the city and surrounding areas. Then, I usually send them on to the West of Ireland to spend a few days in Dingle and Galway, two of my other favorite spots in the country. I’ve included both Dingle and Galway as day trip destinations, but they certainly would be worth an overnight if you had the room in your itinerary. 

    Can you do a day trip to Dublin from Cork?

    The drive between Dublin and Cork is about 3 hours, and it’s marginally faster to take the train. Thus, I wouldn’t recommend that you try to see Dublin on a day trip – it would make for a rather exhausting day. If you have the time and space in your itinerary, I’d plan a night in Dublin or nearby Wicklow, where you can more easily plan a day exploring.

    There aren’t many, if any, tours that will take you from Cork to Dublin for a day trip, but you can easily do the opposite. This tour from Dublin includes stops at Blarney Castle, Cobh, and in Cork City. 

    What are the best tours in Cork?

    If you’d like to stay in Cork, some of the best and highest rated tours are the Rebel City Walking Tour, the Guided Historical Walking Tour, and the City Cycle Tour. For an in-depth cultural experience, Dara of the Rebel City Tours also offers smaller group experiences. You can choose from activities like pouring a pint of Guinness, listening to traditional Irish storytelling, or live music when designing your tour. 

    I also wrote a whole post on this topic, The 10 Best Cork Walking Tours, if you’re interested.

    Do you need a car to visit Cork?

    If you’re simply exploring Cork and heading to nearby Blarney Castle or Cobh, there’s really no need to have a car. The city is small enough to be walkable, so you’ll probably leave your car parked at your hotel for most of the time you’re exploring Cork. I live in the city center of Cork and do not have a car (nor do I want one), but I occasionally rent one if I choose to do a day trip.

    Accordingly, a car is helpful if you’d like to do a day trip that includes hiking or other outdoor activities. While many of the most popular day trips are accessible without a car, you’ll be limited to excursions that are a bit more heavily traveled and/or urban if you can’t drive yourself. Further, having a car allows you to stop at various points along the way, or even just to leave when you’re ready to head home. 

    Rock columns extend up from the sea and are covered in a light layer of green.
    A view of the Blasket Islands from the Dingle Sea Safari, a boat tour that leaves from Dingle.

    Final Thoughts: Best Day Trips from Cork

    Cork City is a safe place to visit and a fabulous spot from which to do day trips. After you’ve spent a few days exploring Cork, you can take a day to explore any number of destinations nearby. From the classic options like Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher to the more unique destinations like Edinburgh or Garretstown Beach, there’s sure to be a day trip from Cork that’s perfect for your group.

    If you don’t have a car, there are still plenty of day trip options that you can enjoy. Many destinations are accessible by public transit, or you can join a tour that leaves from Cork. Any day trips you’re not able to squeeze in on this trip can certainly be bookmarked for next time!