Heavenly Music and Food
Ireland’s number two city hosts the country’s number one jazz festival during a fall weekend before settling in for a winter’s respite. Cork is the South’s sporting, commercial, and brewing center: Guinness’s two contenders, the well-loved dry stouts Murphy’s and Beamish, are both produced in County Cork. But it is Guinness—what James Joyce called “the wine of Ireland”—that sponsors this major music fest. Beer plays a big role in keeping the beat alive, though one overshadowed by the power, quality, and diversity of the music in a country in love with its musical heritage.
The big-time international names perform in the Opera House and a number of other theaters around town, but the pubs and street comers can offer up some of the festival’s most inspiring, and spontaneous, performances by up-and-coming talents. Nearby Kinsale (18 miles/29 km southwest of Cork; see below) has recently taken up the torch as a smaller, more intimate venue with a jazz fest all its own.
In Cork, stay above the hubbub at the late- Georgian former home of the Lord Mayor of Cork, the Arbutus Lodge, whose panoramic views are outdone by the hotel’s famous restaurant highlighting classic Irish cuisine and the most impressive wine cellar in the area. The Arbutus Lodge Hotel is the best in Cork and houses Cork’s very best restaurant. Although its fashionable location and hilltop vantage are part of the allure, the festival fever never feels far away: most of the festival headliners call this family-run place home.