Cork and Southwest Ireland

Blarney Castle, Cork, Ireland
Blarney Castle (home to the famous "Blarney Stone"), Cork, Ireland

County Cork, Kerry and Limerick

Famous for its natural beauty, ancient castles and historic sites, the South of Ireland encompasses the picturesque counties of Cork, Kerry, and Limerick. County Cork, located in the Southwest, is the southernmost and largest county in Ireland. Its spectacular coastline, ancient castles, historic sites, fabulous food, and fun outdoor activities make it one of Ireland’s top destinations. 

Map of Ireland Counties, Ireland
Southwest Ireland - featured in brown on the map above

County Cork Attractions & Festivals

  • Blarney Castle – popular tourist attraction located in County Cork. Be sure to kiss its famous “Blarney Stone.”
  • English Market – the indoor covered market is one of Cork’s top attractions and fun for foodies. West Cork is reputed to be one of Ireland’s top gourmet spots.
  • Schull and Skibbereen – visit these quaint fishing villages.
  • Dun na Sead Castle
  • Mizen Head
  • West Cork Model Railway Village
  • Midleton Distillery
    – Ireland’s largest distillery and home to Jameson Irish whiskey.
  • “A Taste of West Cork” Food Festival (10-day September event)
  • Ballydehob Jazz Festival (late April/early May)
  • Guinness Cork Jazz Festival (late October)

County Kerry Attractions

County Kerry is home to several of Ireland’s most popular destinations. It’s also home to some of Ireland’s best spas, so be sure to pamper yourself with a relaxing spa treatment. Top attractions include: 

Dingle Bay & Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula is one of the most picturesque destinations in Ireland. At 30 miles long and up to 12 miles across, the spectacular peninsula sits on the westernmost point in Europe. Home to over 2,000 archaeological sites, the scenic area is scattered with forts, Bronze Age standing stones and pre-historic huts. The town of Dingle is regarded the prettiest in all of County Kerry. Dingle Bay makes a great day trip from Cork or Killarney.

Killarney & Killarney Lakes 

Take a boat trip on its famous lakes and see some of the best scenery in Ireland. Visit Killarney’s magnificent National Park. It’s home to 25,000 acres of woodlands, islands, waterfalls, historic houses and beautiful gardens. It’s a fun place for walking, hiking, cycling, boating, and fishing.

Gap of Dunloe

The spectacular glacial valley is located across the water from Killarney. The narrow mountain pass winds its way for six miles between Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the Purple Mountains. The best way to explore the Gap of Dunloe is by biking, hiking or local “jaunting car” (light, horse-drawn passenger wagons) as no cars are allowed.

Ring of Kerry

Nature lovers from around the world are drawn to Ireland’s famous Ring of Kerry. Renowned for its natural beauty, mystical stones, ancient castles and ruins, it’s one of Ireland’s most visited attractions. Its circular tour route offers visitors some of the most spectacular landscapes and stunning coastline along Ireland’s southwest coast. If you’re driving the full 110-mile Ring of Kerry loop, it should take you about three hours, without stopping and no traffic. However, it’s worth taking more time to get out and explore the magnificent scenery and sights along the way. And it’s great for picture-taking!

Ross Castle

The 15th century castle is located on Ross Island, near Killarney, on the shores of Lough Leane. It’s one of the most popular sites in Ireland’s southwest region. The castle overlooks the Lower Lake of Killarney and offers fabulous views of Innisfallen Island, Purple Mountain and Ross Island.

Access to Ross Castle is limited. It’s recommended that you pre-book a tour or expect a long wait to get in, especially during peak Summer season. Enjoy a romantic getaway weekend at the historic castle and make your vacation in Ireland a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

Killarney - Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry and Gap of Dunloe © Tourism Ireland
Killarney – Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry and Gap of Dunloe © Tourism Ireland

More Southwest Ireland Attractions

  • Aghadoe Ruins – monastic ruins date back to the 12th century.
  • Bantry House & Gardens – historic house and gardens are located in Bantry, County Cork.
  • Barryscourt Castle – 13th century courtyard and three towers.
  • Desmond Castle – located in the town of Kinsale in County Cork.
  • Doneralie Wildlife Park – a hidden gem in County Cork. The landscaped park is home to biking and walking trails, deer, ducks and swans.
  • Dungarvan Castle – tour the historic barracks, castle grounds and exhibits.
  • Garinish Island – beautiful island garden is located in Glengarrif Harbor in Bantry Bay.
  • Gougane Barra & Gougane Barra Lake – located about a 90-minute drive from Cork, the peaceful valley offers breathtaking scenery. Walk the nature trails in Gougane Barra Forest Park. Visit St. Finbarr’s Oratory (a small church) set on a tiny island on the lake.
  • Muckrock House & Gardens – popular attraction set in the heart of Killarney National Park.
  • Skellig Islands – Skellig Michael, 7th century monastic ruins and nature reserve.

Book Cork & Southwest Ireland Sightseeing Tours & Day Trips

Get Skip-the-Line Tickets and tour the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, Cork. Sample Jameson whiskey, the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey. Take a fun Day Trip to the magnificent Cliffs of Moher from Cork. Enjoy a fun 4-hour Dolphin and Whale-Watching Cruise around Dingle Bay. Book a Private Day Tour and explore the Dingle Peninsula. Travel in luxury as you tour the famous Ring of Kerry.

Cork Sightseeing Tours

Dingle Bay & Dingle Peninsula Tours

Ring of Kerry Tours

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The Best Time To Visit Cork & Southwest Ireland

Ireland enjoys mild temperatures year-round. Summer (June-August) is usually sunny warm weather. It’s also peak season and the most crowded. Spring can also be a busy time (St. Patrick’s Day Festivals and Parades). May and September are good times to visit. September tends to be drier than most months, especially near Cork. Expect rain year-round, so be sure to pack an umbrella and a light windbreaker jacket.