Planning to visit Cork city?
ONE OF THE easiest ways to get fit is to ditch the car and get those legs pumping on a bike to and from work.
Not only does cycling to work have the potential to improve your health, wealth and standard of living, but the combination of more cyclists and fewer cars on the road aids the environment and gives the whole country a boost.
With increasingly busy schedules, it can be hard to find the time for activities like cycling. But another good way to make the most of your time and get in some outdoor activity is to take a city break.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to put together something a little bit different: a guide that will provide a route through Cork that will ensure you can fit in all of Cork’s top sights and attractions and still enjoy the scenic views of the city.
The relatively short trips on the bike should suit all levels of cyclists.
Stop #1 – Kiss the Blarney Stone
Not too far from Cork city, the Blarney Castle and Gardens is the perfect place to start our journey. Built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, it is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations with over 200,000 people visiting every year.
It is best known for being the home of the Blarney Stone, the legendary Stone of Eloquence found at the top of the tower. Rumour has it that if you kiss the stone, you will be bestowed with the ‘gift of the gab’ and never again be lost for words.
But there’s far more to Blarney than just its famous stone. From the top of the castle you can take in wonderful views of over 60 acres of gardens, avenues, arboretums and waterways.
Once you’ve finished here, we take a nice 7km cycle through Killard and down the countryside. That will take us into Cork city on the Blarney road.
Stop #2 – Cork City Gaol
Our next stop is Cork City Gaol, a restored 19th century prison with exhibitions, night tours and, of course, a souvenir shop.
Take an audio tour around the restored cells, which feature amazingly lifelike figures, furnished cells and sound effects that allow the visitor to experience the day-to-day life of prisoners.
There also happens to be another very popular tour housed in the same unique building. The prison closed in 1923, re-opening in 1927 as a radio station, so the Governor’s House has been converted into a Radio Museum Experience.
So if you’d like to check out the restored 6CK Radio Broadcasting Studio, there is a great audio-visual presentation and collection of artefacts from the early days of radio.
After taking one, or both, of these tours, we’ve a short 1km cycle over the River Lee and into the beautiful Fitzgerald Park.
Stop #3 – Fitzgerald Park
Fitzgerald Park is situated on the picturesque banks of the river Lee, just minutes away from the city centre. It’s approximately eighteen acres and there’s plenty to do. The gardens play host to Cork Museum, the Riverview Café, a variety of sculptures, a playground, a waterlily-bedecked pond and even a skate park.
After you’ve strolled, or cycled, your way through Fitzgerald Park, we will begin our cycle through the city. Passing over the River Lee once again, it’s another short 2km trip to our next stop — Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
Stop #4 – Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral
When we arrive at St.Fin Barre’s Cathedral, we are right in the heart of the city.
There is a reason tourists flock to St.Fin Barre’s in their droves. The Neo-Gothic cathedral is a spectacular site.
It was designed by English architect William Bruges, made from Cork limestone, marble and Bath stone. The site is believed to be where a saint founded his monastic school in the 7th century.
The building contains more than 1,260 sculptures, with the most famous being a 24-lb cannonball, a legacy of the Siege of Cork in 1690. Other noteworthy features include its magnificent interior, with stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the ceiling portraying Christ surrounded by angels.
There is also a golden angel on the Church’s roof. It is said that its horns would announce the end of the world when it comes.
Our next stop is one of the most popular attractions in Cork city. Even Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made sure they visited Cork on the final day of the Queen’s State Visit to Ireland, just so she could see the English Market.
She went on a tour of the food aisles, meeting market traders and being shown samples of the fish, fruit, vegetables and other farm produce at various stalls.
And it’s only a nice, leisurely cycle away from the cathedral — less than 1km.
Stop #5 – The English Market
The English Market is a roofed food market and has been trading since 1788. Although, it can be traced back to the time of King James I in 1610, some four hundred years previously.
It was developed and is still owned by Cork City Council. The Market is one of the oldest municipal markets of its kind in the world.
It is the perfect place to relax, take a break and get some food, with a mix of a traditional range of Irish food and exciting foods from afar.
The long standing family-run stalls, under 21 year leases from the council, contribute to the unique appeal and atmosphere of this market.
Optional Stop – Cork Nightlife
Now, we give you a choice. You can continue on and take the longest cycle of our journey so far, a 17km trip to Fota Wildlife Park on the outskirts of the city, or put it off until the next morning and enjoy Cork’s vibrant nightlife.
There are many things to do in Cork at night. For those of you looking for entertainment, the Cork Arts Theatre, Everyman Palace or the City Limits Comedy Club might have what you want.
If you’re more interested in some live music and a lively atmosphere, there are a host of pubs that provide just that. And if you’re looking to really do the dog on it, there are also some great nightclubs.
Just keep in mind, there are 17kms waiting for you in the morning.
Stop #6 – Fota Wildlife Park
Fota Wildlife Park is the perfect way to round off your trip. Who doesn’t like the zoo?
The park is located in Carrigtwohill, just 15 minutes away from the city. It’s a joint project between the Zoological Society of Ireland and University College Cork.
What separates Fota from the majority of wildlife parks is that you will come face-to-face with the animals as they roam freely around the park. And it’s not just for children. If you want a break from the animals, the park also features a 2km Slí na Sláinte walking route.
Stop #7 – Cycle Home
Then, unfortunately, it’s time for home and the longest cycle of our journey. We leave Fota and cycle around the north of the city. We will pass through Blackpool Shopping Centre and Retail Park on our way, if you’re looking to break up the 26km journey or want to stop for food.
Then it’s up the N20 road heading toward Mallow, eventually making our way back to the beginning of our route at Blarney.
There is no shortage of challenging cycles in Cork. The county happens to be home to 470km’s of the Wild Atlantic Way, from the Kinsale Loop to the Beara Peninsula near the town of Kenmare.
Not just challenging, they are also among the countries’ most scenic. You’ll experience some spectacular views along the south-west’s rugged coastline – it’s packed with beautiful mountains and lakes, stunning headlands and colourful villages.
City cycling is a great way to experience Cork’s urban sights, whether you bring your own bike, rent a bike or use the city bike scheme.
It also happens to be one of the safest cities to cycle in, with a number of cycle paths running throughout the city and suburbs. They include the Blarney walk, Fota wildlife walk, Monkstown walk, Rochestown Walk and the Lee Fields walk.
The Rebel County also has super countryside and if you are looking for a fun day out or a serious challenge in West Cork then sign up for An Post Rebel Tour in Glengarriff on Saturday, 12th September. This is the last event in An Post Cycle Series 2015 with routes at 85km and 160km, taking in the beauty of the Caha Pass and the Healy Pass. For families there are 2km and 10km spins. Glengarriff, on the Beara Peninsula is a scenic 90minute drive from Cork City. For more information visit www.anpost.ie/cycling; www.corkrebeltour.ie