Flung out on the far-western reaches of Ireland, Cork comes very close indeed to the misty-eyed vision of the country many visitors hold in their imagination.
Follow the country’s three bony-fingered peninsulas out into the Atlantic and you’ll find an epic, wind-lashed coastline riddled with vibrant seaside villages, their harbours bustling with fishing boats bringing home the day’s catch.
Meander east and you’re swept along by half a millennium of struggle and turbulence, the tide of history leaving an enduring mark on the towns of the south coast. Away from all this potentially overwhelming drama, the gentler, rolling hills of the north ooze a more sedate charm.
And, of course, there’s Cork city, nonchalantly pushing Dublin out the way as it swaggers into the 21st century. If you want cocktail bars, modern-art galleries and avant-garde theatre, they’re all here.
What will stay most with you, though, in both city and countryside, is that stomping live-music session in a creaky old pub, that meal of the finest, freshest Irish produce, and the steady humour of a population fiercely proud of its past and confident of its future.