Cork, Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day parades, festivals, and excessive beer drinking may be over, but Ireland is still very much on your mind. The beginning of spring, when the trees are budding and the morning air is still crisp, is actually the perfect time to visit Cork. After weeks of rain, the Emerald Isle’s third-largest city looks refreshed and rejuvenated along the River Lee near the southern coast. Now would you like to start your Irish vacation on a classic or modern note?

Photo: Hayfield Manor Hotel
Photo: Hayfield Manor Hotel

Cork has a fascinating and tragic history. It was established as a monastic settlement in the 6th century, expanded into a Norse trading port, and eventually charted by the Lord of Ireland. Then the Black Death wiped out half of the town in 1349, and the British Black and Tans burned down most of the city during the Irish War of Independence. Georgian-style buildings and an accent different from the rest of the country remain to this day.

To get a feel for the city’s history, stay at an estate that once belonged to Cork merchants. Hayfield Manor Hotel is surrounded by private walled gardens near University College Cork. The family owned boutique hotel is known for its personalized service and returning guests. The Old World vibe is immediately apparent throughout the hotel. Striped wallpaper fills your spacious bedroom. Antiques and leather sofas decorate the Library. Finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and tea from silver teapots are served during afternoon tea. While a fireplace and flickering candles welcome you to the elegant Orchids Restaurant at dinnertime. You’ll feel right at home at Hayfield Manor.

Photo: Doyle Collection

The other side of Cork is modern and exciting. In 2005, the city was named a European Capital of Culture. The music, art, and design scene has only expanded since then. Jazz and film festivals overflow onto the streets during the summer, while art galleries keep popping up in unexpected places.

If this is more your scene, then the River Lee is your hotel in Cork. The contemporary hotel, with a glass facade, sits along the river near Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral. You’re welcomed into the lobby with purple couches and expansive views of the river. A huge picture window is also in your room, which features a duck-down duvet and heated floors for still-crisp nights. Fresh fruit smoothies are served at the Juicery. The Weir Rooms features seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. But it’s the Terrace on the Weir where you’ll spend most of your time. The waterside terrace is littered with comfortable couches, wooden tables, and Donegal tweed blankets. Locally crafted beer, like a Blarney Blonde, pairs perfectly with Toons Bridge mozzarella burrata with roasted tomatoes. Plus the Ballycotton seafood chowder will surely take away any lingering chill.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this makes your trip planning any easier. Instead of helping you decide where to stay in Cork, you’re now torn between two very different, but very relaxing, hotels. Your first spring trip might have just been extended.

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