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Blarney Castle, Cork

A wonderful and welcoming city in itself, Cork is also the perfect gateway to the treasures of the Republic of Ireland's south. Many visitors combine a driving tour of the gorgeous surrounding landscapes of the Emerald Isle with a city break in Cork.

It's a compact city, with much to see and do, many bars in which to enjoy the good old Irish craic, many shops in which to splash the cash, and a number of eateries where you tuck into the very best Irish produce. Hotels in Cork are also in abundance, and you can book rooms in budget hotels or the very best luxury hotels - it's just a matter of choosCork coasting where to stay in this city.

The central area of Cork is on an island formed by two channels of the River Lee. Staying in Cork hotels on the island is the best way to ensure you are only minutes away from the heart of the action. There's a buzzing nightlife scene in Cork, with bars, pubs and clubs offering food, warm fires, local hospitality, and everything from traditional live music to the latest dance tunes. Check carefully when booking your hotel to be sure you're in a street that suits your night-time preferences.

In the city centre there's a mix of modern hotels with dull facades but good facilities, and new, slick-looking buildings that offer more in the way of amenities and views. These high-end hotels are mostly located in South Mall. Don't expect many international names, they are in short supply and only represented by Radisson, Travelodge and Best Western. However, the many individual and locally-run properties offer a huge range of choice in both style and price range.

Still within walking distance of the central island area are the hotels of North Mall, which is just across the northern river channel. For charm and tradition, consider hotels in the Shandon area, which is close to North Mall. It is an historic district with many old buildings still standing and a number of appealing hotels run by amiable hoteliers. Or if you fancy a drive and getting around then hire a car and explore Kery and Wexford which can be reached by road.

Top five attractions

Cork City Gaol

Take a stroll out of the central area, or hop on the city tour bus, to visit the eerie cells and mightily impressive structure of Cork City Gaol, which dates back to 1824.

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral

A Gothic Revival cathedral that stands tall and proud on the south side of Cork.

Church of Saint Anne

Visit the attractive area of Shandon and see this church, which is famous for its eight bells. See the workings of the bells and gain tremendous views from the bell tower.

Cork Butter Museum

This unique and surprisingly fascinating museum in Shandon showcases the history of Ireland's famous export. Learn about the world's largest butter market.

Blarney Castle

Less than 20 minutes from Cork is Blarney Castle, home to the famous Blarney Stone. Legend says if you kiss the stone, you'll never again be short of words!

Events

Midsummer Festival; June: See the best arts and cultural performances from this part of Ireland during this fortnight-long event. Hotels can get busy around this time.

Live at the Marquee; June-July: An annual music festival, held at the Docklands, which has attracted some huge names over the years, including Elton John, Lady Gaga and Kanye West. Early booking of hotels in Cork is advised, especially those around the docklands area.

Cork Jazz Festival; October: Thousands of jazz fans arrive in the city to tap along to the smooth jazz sounds that emanate from a variety of venues, including the street. This musical event also sees hotels in huge demand - so book early to avoid disappointment.