The Best Parks to Visit Near Cork

The green spaces and gardens around Cork offer plenty of scenic places to relax
The green spaces and gardens around Cork offer plenty of scenic places to relax | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Justin McDonnell
4 August 2020

As green as it is beautiful, Cork provides no shortage of parks and public gardens in the city centre – and beyond. From the historic Fitzgerald Park, lined with museums and ornate fountains, to the ancient Ballybrook Woods, there are plenty of scenic places to unwind. Here’s our lowdown on the best parks to visit in and near Cork city in Ireland.

Fitzgerald Park

Bridge, Museum, Park
Map View
There are few public places in Ireland quite as beautiful as Fitzgerald Park, an impressive set of gardens located on the outskirts of Cork’s city centre. The park was named after Edward Fitzgerald, who helped establish Cork’s International Exhibition in 1902; the fair showcased contemporary designs from France and the USA. The results are still visible today, namely in its lavish Exhibition-era pavilion and fountain. The park also plays host to the Cork Museum, a Georgian building that houses the city’s collection, and the wooden Daly’s Bridge, which connects Sunday’s Well Road to the stately gardens. Fitzgerald Park is located on the Mardyke, a hop from the centre and University College Cork.

Fota House and Gardens

Architectural Landmark, Botanical Garden
Map View
Fota house and gardens; County Cork, Ireland
© Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
A 19th-century estate surrounded by pristine gardens and a fragrant arboretum, the handsome Fota House provides one of County Cork’s most splendid attractions. There’s a small fee to enter Fota Gardens, but it’s well worth the outlay; there are acres of tropical gardens to explore. You’ll also discover a unique walled garden, an Italian arboretum, a fernery and a lavish orangery. You can spend an hour dawdling around the Victorian Working Garden, which boasts an orchard, pit houses and greenhouses. It’s a short 20-minute trip to reach the stately mansion, situated on Fota Island near the charming town of Carrigtwohill.

Ballybrack Woods (Mangala)

Natural Feature
Map View
When you reach this forested glen, a 15-minute drive from central Cork, it’s hard to believe you’re so close to the city. Known locally as ‘Mangala’, this woodland escape offers an impressive array of wild flora and fauna – including herons, otters and brown river trout. Once overgrown and uninhabitable, these woods have been reclaimed by locals, who constructed a relatively new walking route that now zigzags across the river and through the forested foothills. As public parks go, this is one of the wildest Cork has to offer.

Ilnacullin Island (Garnish Island)

Natural Feature
Map View
A bounty of tropical vegetation that sits incongruously on a craggy island, Ilnacullin Island (also known as Garnish Island) is home to Asian trees, shrubs and exotic flowers. Set across 37 acres (15ha), the plants benefit from a distinct microclimate, sheltered by the warmth of the sea in Bantry Bay. It’s a sublime sight, and a short 15-minute ferry trip transports you from Glengarriff Pier to this tropical-themed island. Regular ferries run from April to October, and the drive to the port takes an hour and a half, recommended as an overnight stay or a longer day trip.

Barryscourt Castle

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Well preserved medieval castle in the outskirts of Cork in Ireland.
© Andrzej Bartyzel / Alamy Stock Photo
One of Cork’s most stunning castles, Barryscourt’s grounds are equally impressive. The garden offers a beautiful replica of a medieval garden, laid out in the same fashion as Tower House Gardens would have been in its prime, with an orchard of native fruit trees and an authentic 16th-century herb garden. This is an atmospheric place to spend an afternoon, so consider packing a picnic and making a day of it. Located near the pint-sized town of Carrigtwohill, there’s an on-site tearoom that offers refreshments, set in a converted coach house.

Curraheen Public Walk

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
Map View

A two-mile-long (3km) riverside walk that winds its way around the River Lee, this trail ends with panoramic views of Cork’s centre. The path runs parallel to the Twopot River and past the scattered ruins of Bishopstown House, which includes an ornamental lake and a crumbling limestone hut. Across the river, there’s a stone-encircled grassy field – a rural, out-of-the-way park that’s blissfully close to the city centre. You’ll need to hike a short while to get here, and the park is worth exploring as part of a more extensive walking tour – but it rewards visitors with impressive views of the city. This destination is a 15-minute car journey from Cork’s centre, and public transport is also available.

These recommendations were updated on August 4, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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