Looking for an outdoorsy holiday that lets you soak up the beauty of nature and get away from the bustle of city life? The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to trek to a remote destination or forego modern comforts in order to enjoy just such a break.
Cork in western Ireland offers many excellent outdoor activities that are suitable for families, all within easy driving distance of the city centre. With its own international airport and excellent road, rail and ferry connections, Cork itself is easy to reach – so you won’t use up your valuable holiday time and energy before you even get there. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors around Cork:
Meet the animals at Fota Wildlife Park
Get up close and personal with a menagerie of animals you may not have expected to meet on holiday in Ireland. Located on Fota Island in the middle of Cork Harbour, the charming Fota Wildlife Park is home to an array of monkeys, lemurs, giraffes, flamingos, peacocks, kangaroos and more. Uniquely, most of the animals are free to roam around the island, meaning visitors get to experience these fascinating creatures while immersed in their own environment. The one exception is the cheetahs, who have the run of a large enclosure that gives them plenty of space to stretch their legs. Be sure not to miss the daily “cheetah run”, in which the big cats are fed by encouraging them to chase down their food, just as wild cheetahs would.
Admire the view on the Ballycotton Cliff Walk
Just a 30-minute drive east of Cork, the picturesque fishing village of Ballycotton is the starting point for the stunning Ballycotton Cliff Walk. Enjoy fabulous views of the harbour, lighthouse and open sea while keeping an eye out for whales and over 300 species of bird which live in the area. The full trail runs for 9km along an old goat track, so allow a few hours for your trip. Although the terrain is rugged, it’s not a particularly difficult walk, making it a great outing for all the family.
Take to the waves with a kayak tour of Cork Harbour
Kayaking presents a superb opportunity to see Cork and its many attractions from the water, all while savouring the fresh air and peace of the open waves. Spot dolphins, seals and seabirds while enjoying a unique view of historic sites along the harbour’s scenic shores, and benefit from the knowledge of the highly qualified guides/instructors. Kayak Cork Harbour & Adventure offer courses for complete beginners, as well as a variety of half, full and multiday tours of Cork Harbour and its surrounds tailored for all levels of ability. For the really adventurous, there is also the option to combine your kayaking trip with a variety of other activities, including fishing, snorkelling and rock climbing, or even to take part in a nighttime paddle.
Test your nerves at the Ballyhass Lakes Activity Centre
For the truly daring with energy to burn, the Ballyhass Lakes Activity Centre offers an extensive selection of outdoor activities that will test your skill and – in some cases – your bravery. Try your hand at archery, abseiling, raft building and rock climbing, or take a heart-pounding ride on the centre’s 160-metre zipline. The clear Ballyhass Lakes are also a great place for those interested in angling or fly fishing, with outstanding opportunities to hone your skills at their designated fishing centre. Bear in mind that it’s necessary to book ahead for most activities, and you’ll need a group of 6 people – perfect for families or groups of friends visiting together!
Choose an environmentally-friendly hotel
Don’t forget that you can continue to enjoy the peace and greenery of the great outdoors even after your day out exploring. The Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Cork, is located in 9 acres of lush, verdant gardens just outside Cork city centre, making it a restful base for nature lovers eager to put their feet up and relax after the day’s adventures. The hotel is also a Gold recipient of a Green Hospitality Award Ireland, meaning you can rest assured your stay is having minimal impact on the environment.