Originally founded as a monastic settlement in the 6th century, Cork is situated on the River Lee in Ireland's southwestern fourth province, Munster, astride one of the world's largest natural harbours. The rugged beauty of its landscape, charm of its ever-lively locals, ample nearby diversions, attractive historic and contemporary buildings, and world-renowned festivals – such as the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival and Cork Film Festival – have swiftly gained a reputation for Cork MICE events.
Cork Airport is conveniently located just five miles from Cork's city centre. While there are no direct flights to Cork from the U.S., major carriers such as KLM, Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Ryanair offer connecting flights via various destinations in the UK and Europe; it also offers direct flights from Toronto, Boston, San Francisco, and New York to Dublin or Shannon, from which groups can easily travel to Cork by car, bus or rail). Cork is roughly 75 miles/2.5 hours from Shannon via Bus Eireann, with buses departing approximately every 10 minutes. There is also a train link to via Iarnrod Eireann from other points across Ireland to Cork's Kent Railway Station.
Some of the larger, multi-function MICE venues in Cork include the prominent Cork County Hall, which offers spectacular views over the River Lee, four multi-function meeting rooms with a capacity of 200 (180 seated), as well as its uniquely vertiginous Vertigo restaurant ¬– a 17-story rooftop pavilion with panoramic views and seating for up to 220 guests theatre-style, 250 guests reception-style, and 180 guests for a seated formal dinner. MICE hotels in cork include the Silver Springs Moran Hotel, offering a choice of nine conference rooms over two floors, with space for up to 1,600 guests; and the sumptuous, 4-Star Rochestown Park Hotel, with two large conference rooms with a capacity of 380 each for meetings and 530 for a seated gala dinner (in addition to spa, beauty therapy, and golfing facilities at the nearby Douglas and Frankfield golf courses). The property is also only a 10-minute walk from the Cork City Opera and the famous Bells of Shandon, one of Cork's must-see attractions.
The city centre offers several unique historic and contemporary arts venues for group meetings, events, and dinners. Among the most atmospheric is the Aula Maxima (Great Hall) at University College Cork (UCC), a site of regular concerts and arts events that is widely regarded as "one of the most magnificent rooms in Ireland." It features a standing reception capacity of 300, conference capacity of 230 and a gala dinner capacity of 150. The formerly derelict Cork City Gaol, contained in a magnificent, castle-like building of exemplary Irish architecture that once housed 19th-century prisoners, was renovated and recreated as a visitor attraction and venue hire facility, with a capacity of 200 for a gala dinner (250 standing reception). And for a truly unique and superb group evening event with an authentic experience of Irish music and dance, head to cutting-edge contemporary arts venue Triskel Christchurch for the unforgettably unique 'Pulses of Tradition' show. The venue is available for hire privately, catering for up to 230 people downstairs, and another 20 upstairs plus 30 standing upstairs.
Cork has several Michelin-starred restaurants offering the best fresh, locally sourced ingredients along with warm Irish hospitality; a few firm favourites include the evergreen Jacques Restaurant; the bright, busy No. 5 Fenns Quay Restaurant, set in a 250-year-old, grade-listed building; and the 5 Star Orchids Restaurant and Perrotts Bistro in the Hayfield Manor Hotel, set in extensive gardens near UCC.
Outside of the city centre, MICE venues in Cork's surrounding towns and landscaped areas abound in gorgeous hotels created from former historic houses set in lush wooded grounds, many of which also offer superb spas, golfing facilities, and luxurious dining rooms guaranteed to create a memorable MICE event. A few of these are Ballynatray House, an 18th-century Georgian mansion set on the privately owned Ballyntray Estate on the Cork/Waterford borders, which was the former home of the first Earl of Cork, and site of the ancient Molana Abbey and Temple Michael; its rooms and cottages sleep between 54-60 people, with a conference capacity of up to 80 and a gala dinner capacity of 90. The 5-Star Ballincurra House, near Cork's gourmet capital Kinsale, a private estate house set on 40 wooded acres, with a conference capacity of 80, gala dinner capacity of 150, and 22 bedrooms. Longuewille House, near Mallow in North County Cork is set in 500 acres of woodland along the River Blackwater and offers opportunities for salmon and brown fishing, as well as horse-riding, clay-shooting, and hiking on the grounds. It has a conference capacity of 50, a gala dinner capacity of 150, and 20 bedrooms.
Of course, you can't be anywhere in Ireland without celebrating the national beverage – otherwise known in Gaelic as uisce beatha ("the water of life"). Along with an opportunity to learn about the art and history of whiskey distilling through the educational displays onsite, as well as sampling some of its fine whiskeys, the Jameson Whiskey Distillery offers various corporate function options for 60-300 people, including a special event package called "The Exclusive Shindig" – an evening of food, drinks, and live Irish music and dancing – set in its Malt House restaurant, which can cater for 200 people, as well as its Jameson Bar and Auditorium (which can host conferences with full audio-visual, etc., equipment for up to 120 people), Warehouse 8 restaurant for larger MICE functions, and smaller Distillers' Cottage for more intimate events.