Top 5 best hidden gems in County Cork

From a converted workshop café to a secluded island getaway, here are the top five best hidden gems in County Cork.

Here are the top five best hidden gems in County Cork.

Located in the southwest of Ireland, Cork or ‘The Rebel County’ is a popular tourist destination best known for its towns with brightly coloured buildings, remote coastlines, and passion for all things culinary.   

From the Blarney Castle (and, subsequently, the Blarney Stone) to Cork City Gaol, the county is filled with many famous attractions. However, it is also home to other lesser-known things to see and do that not everyone who visits might be aware of.

To help with this, we have compiled a list of some of the best little-known locations which are a must-see for anyone visiting that part of Ireland.

Here is our list of the best hidden gems in County Cork.

5. The Workshop Café – a unique experience

The Workshop Cafe is one of the best hidden gems in County Cork.
Credit: Instagram / @datewithamate

This local family-run business was, as the name would suggest, formerly a carpentry workshop. Now one of Cork’s quirkiest tea rooms, it offers visitors a relaxed and homely atmosphere complete with a fire, record player, and old antiques.

The menu, filled with local produce, includes gourmet sandwiches, baked desserts, and gluten-free soups and cottage pies. Alongside offering freshly roasted coffee beans from East Cork, it also serves a variety of teas in vintage fine bone china.

The business also extends to restoring and selling antique and vintage items and the site is looking to become a hub through which to home community-based activities such as art classes, book clubs, and demonstrations – amongst others.

Address: Ballygarvan, Lios Cross, Upper Ballygarven, Co. Cork, Ireland

4. Lough Hyne – a bioluminescent beauty

Lough Hyne is Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve and unique sea-water lake.
Credit: Facebook / @WestfaliaDigitalNomads

Located in Skibbereen, West Cork, Lough Hyne is Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve and unique sea-water lake. One of Europe’s most significant marine habitats, its unique ecosystem is home to a variety of marine life.

The serene lake is favoured by walkers and also proves a popular choice among those who enjoy watersports, including swimming, diving, kayaking and paddle-boarding. Alongside its natural beauty, the lake is further famous for another incredible phenomenon: its bioluminescence.

This rare and incredible sight, which is best experienced at night on one of Atlantic Sea Kayaking’s starlight/moonlight tours, ensures Lough Hyne to be one of the best hidden gems in County Cork.

Address: Lough Hyne, Ballyoughtera, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Ireland

3. Gougane Barra – the ultimate secluded spot

Gougane Barra is one of the best hidden gems in County Cork.
Credit: Instagram / @loonies_little_world

Covering more than 137 hectares (339 acres), this hidden forest park at the edge of the Shehy Mountains offers stunning scenic views which are second to none.

The site is riddled with history. It boasts the land upon which Cork’s patron saint, St. Finbarr, founded his early 6th-century Christian monastery. This oratory, also known as the ‘Small Church,’ has since gained favour as an idyllic wedding location (with a super long waiting list!).

There are also multiple walking trails available alongside a cycling route and scenic drive loop – all of which offer incredible views of this secluded and fairy-tale like landscape.

Address: Coomroe, Co. Cork, Ireland

2. Tragumna Beach Rock Pool – a literal hidden gem

This naturally-formed and well-hidden tidal pool offers stunning cliff and sea views over West Cork.
Credit: Instagram / @lazylegscycling

This naturally-formed and well-hidden tidal pool offers stunning cliff and sea views over West Cork.

The hidden treasure was once the secret of locals. In recent years however, it has gained recognition. This is due to its increasing appearance on various social media platforms.

With its crystal clear waters, subtle position, and incredible surrounding views, it is no wonder this site places high on our list of the best hidden gems in County Cork.

Address: Bawnlahan, Co. Cork, Ireland

1. Garnish Island – a picturesque paradise

Garnish Island is one of the best hidden gems in County Cork.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Garnish Island, which is one of the highlights of the Ring of Beara, is a small uninhabited island located in the Glengarriff harbour in Bantry Bay on the Beara Peninsula. Garnish Island is home to a world-renowned garden. It’s famed for its lush plants and vegetation which are said to change with the seasons.

You can explore its beauty through a number of pathways which lead to an array of fantastic features. This includes the sunken Italian garden, Grecian temple, Casita, clock tower, formal lawn, walled garden, and an original Martello Tower.

Garnish Island is a must-see, with its incredible architecture, unusual microclimate, and magical scenic views.

Plus, the ferry trip over offers an added bonus as the route passes Seal Island. Here, you can spot these majestic creatures in the surrounding water or lounging on the rocks.

Address: Garnish Island, Ireland

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