As the second-largest city in the Republic of Ireland, Cork is home to scenic drives, excellent food and charming hotels and B&Bs. No wonder people choose to stay. Here’s our selection of places to rest your head after a full day of adventure.
Despite being steps away from Cork’s vibrant city centre, the vibe at the River Lee Hotel is all about relaxation. There’s a 20m pool, sauna, whirlpool tub plus gym with free exercise classes on site, while the Vanilla Brown spa offers everything from waxing and facials to massage and manicures. Book in for the Rosé and Stay offer, and you’ll get a welcome bottle of crisp Whispering Angel wine and sweet treats on arrival.
As Cork’s very first hotel, the Imperial is an Irish institution for good reason. While you’re perfectly situated to enjoy the city’s restaurants, pubs, art galleries and even the opera house, there’s everything you need within its grand walls, including a gym, large pool, plus the Aveda Escape Spa and delicious tapas. Former illustrious guests include Maria Edgeworth, Sir Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens.
From the commanding double-wing oak staircase to the beautifully manicured gardens, there’s something very Downton Abbey about Hayfield Manor. Close to University College Cork, this five-star retreat has a top-hatted doorman on hand to welcome you. Looking to splurge? The master suite overlooks Cork city and has a working fireplace, whirlpool bath and large lounge area. Elsewhere there’s a small gym, 16m pool, outdoor hot tub, the Beautique Spa and two restaurants serving up everything from black pudding salad to fish and chips.
A true family-run hotel – owner Myrtle Allen raised her six children at Ballymaloe before converting it into a 30-bedroom hotel – this country retreat, known as the birthplace of modern Irish cuisine, is one for foodies, serving a six-course dinner, including cheese, dessert and coffee. Vegetables are grown in the grounds, while the beef, lamb, pork and fish are all locally sourced. Myrtle’s daughter-in-law founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School, too, if you want to get your hands dirty.
A grand country estate constructed by the first Earl of Cork, this spectacular manor house is set amid 220 acres (89ha) of grounds, including streams, a lake and an 18-hole golf course. The lavish interiors stretch from the lobby, with its grandfather clocks, rich tapestry curtains and dramatic wood furnishings, to all 103 guest rooms, which come garnered with original artworks, and White Company products in modern marble bathrooms.
If you’ve had your fair share of grand manor houses and are looking for something a little more modern, look no further than the Montenotte Hotel. One of the city’s most popular hotels, people flock to this eclectic enclave, which houses a cinema, screening free nightly movies, a heated terrace for al fresco dining, and a health club with gym, jacuzzi and 20m pool. The best views of Cork harbour can be enjoyed from the rooftop terrace, martini in hand.
Owned and run by the same family for over 50 years, exquisite service and attention to detail is at the heart of Garryvoe Hotel, next to a mixed pebble-sand beach. With a 25m pool, designated lane swimming, aqua jog area, water massage section, hot tub and exercise classes, wellness is key at this hotel. As is food: adventurous menus rotate with the seasons to ensure all locally sourced produce is as fresh as can be.
A five-star escape ideal for families and bigger get-togethers, Fota Island Hotel houses tennis courts, a golf course, spa and gym among its 500 acres (202ha) of ground, while nearby nature walks abound for explorers. While impressive in size, the hotel manages to maintain an exclusive atmosphere, with a number of homely two-, three- and four-bedroom self-catering lodges on site alongside your standard rooms and suites. It’s ideally located, too, just 15 minutes from Cork’s busy city centre.
What once was an Edwardian tobacco warehouse is now a stylish boutique hotel, bang in the middle of Cork’s theatre district. A real coup, guests on the ground floor have access to their own enclosed courtyard with tables and chairs, but it’s the multi-award-winning Greene’s Restaurant that draws visitors time after time – the focus is on local, organic ingredients including seared scallops and Skeaghanore duck breast. It’s also a classy setting, with white linen tablecloths, a heated terrace and its own natural waterfall coming down the cliff-face outside.