Touring East Cork
Lots of people wax lyrical about West Cork with its rugged mountainous scenery and wild Atlantic Ocean. Its opposite number on the other side of Cork city has more of an understated charm. East Cork couldn’t be more different in visual terms. This part of County Cork is a rural idyll. A place where lush agricultural land and large farm estates dominate the landscape. With a coastline bathed by the Celtic Sea which is part of Ireland’s Ancient East, this region also has rich maritime history. The best of both worlds in one beautiful area.
Places To See In East Cork
The Main town of East Cork is the distillery town of Midleton.
Jameson’s Distillery offers a fantastic visitor experience, where you can see how whiskey was made in the ancient stone building powered by the waterwheel in the courtyard, still in working order. Plus you can taste and buy your favourite whiskey.
You’ll also spot the new distillery next door, strikingly different with its contemporary structure and up to the minute whiskey making technology. Guided tours are available at the original distillery.
Midleton is also an ancient market town, now with a busy farmers market taking place every Saturday. Set up by Darina Allen in the early 2000’s, this farmer’s market showcases the best of local producers and growers. Kevin Aherne’s Sage Restaurant in Midleton has built its reputation on using the produce of the market and immediate locality. From its original Farmers Market Menu served on Saturday lunchtimes in the early days, to the full blown 12 mile ethos now employed in every aspect of the kitchen, Sage is known as one of Ireland’s leading ‘micro-local’ driven restaurants.
Also in Midleton, Ballycotton Seafoods have their flagship shop, located in the High Street. Fantastic fresh fish and shellfish caught by the family boats, plus ready made seafood dishes to go. More about Ballycotton Seafoods below.
Castlemartyr is a typical village serving the local community. Quaint Irish pubs rub shoulders with independent shops along its main street. The Village Greengrocers and Food Hall occupies a prime spot at the top of the street, right next to a babbling river. Dorothy and Sean Walsh have owned and run the shop for many years, expanding it from a small greengrocers to a full on food shop with deli and café.
Outdoor tables and chairs offer the chance to enjoy the scenic setting on a sunny day. If you’re passing through, don’t hesitate to call in to chat to the knowledgeable staff and buy some great local products and fresh seasonal locally grown vegetables.
Not far from The Village Greengrocer’s front door lies the turn off for Castlemartyr Resort. Five star luxury is what this comfortable stately home hotel is all about. A beautifully renovated and extended 18th Century Manor House, with 220 acres of gardens and woodlands, tranquil spa, treatment rooms, swimming pool and a world class golf course. Over a hundred well appointed bedrooms look out over the grounds and estate.
Shanagarry is a little East Cork hamlet which has been visited by chefs from all over the world, award winning food journalists and authors, documentary makers and movers and shakers of all kinds in the culinary world. Home to Ballymaloe House, Ballymaloe Cookery School and Ballymaloe Shop and Café. Ballymaloe House typifies the large farmhouses that are very much a part of the East Cork community. When Myrtle and Ivan Allen bought this house it was their family home and working farm.
It’s still a working farm, now supplying much fresh produce, and meats for the house restaurant and cookery school. Ballymaloe Cookery School attracts students from home and abroad. All come here to get a full on, all round education in how to grow, prepare and cook real seasonal Irish produce. While visiting the grounds at Ballymaloe, make sure to stop by Ballymaloe Shop & Café where to you will find delicious locally sourced foods for lunch and a quaint shop packed full with lovely cookbooks and kitchen utensils that will no doubt make cooking in your own kitchen easier.
Down the road from Ballymaloe Cookery School you’ll find Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon production. Finest Irish farmed salmon from Ireland’s west coast are salted and smoked in the small smokery on site at Bill’s home. Casey’s Smoked Salmon has been produced with skill and patience then prepared, sliced and packed by hand for almost forty years. Absolutely nothing has changed here in all that time - and that’s a very good thing.
Ballycotton is where the people of East Cork go to the seaside. A cute, old fashioned family resort and fishing community.
There are lots of beaches and cliff walks to explore, lighthouses to see, boat trips and water activities to enjoy. Best of all, for those who love their seafood, there is a working pier where you can see the catch of the day being landed.
Ballycotton Seafoods have their own family boats which fish from this harbour and land daily catches of white fish and shellfish at Ballycotton Pier. At the shop and processing house not far from the village, you can buy some fresh fish to take home, or choose one of the fresh fish or seafood ready meals made on site.
The historic seaside town of Youghal was once a walled town in the 1300’s, Youghal was an important trading port which transported goods all over the world. The town walls are still standing, as are the original almshouses, medieval church and tower house. In the 1500’s Youghal was the place where the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have introduced the potato into Ireland.
By the Victorian era, this seaside resort had become a popular playground for day trippers who took the train from Cork to walk the promenades and beaches. Youghal has lost none of that olde worlde charm and still attracts a lively crowd each summer season.
Joan Collins' Sage Café is located right by the landmark clocktower in the centre of Youghal town. Sage attracts a lively daytime clientele who come here to try fresh seasonal cooking and Joan’s home baking. A great place to refresh and revive after browsing the historical parts of Youghal and taking a bracing walk by the sea!