Aer Lingus has flights from New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago to Cork Airport (via Dublin). Alternatively, you can fly to Shannon Airport (near Limerick); from there it's only an hour's drive to northern County Cork. We booked our car through Auto Europe (800/223-5555; fax 207/842-2222).
WHERE TO STAY
Many of Ireland's best accommodations are listed in The Blue Book, the register of a private association of noteworthy country houses and restaurants (view its Web site at www.irelands-blue-book.ie). Inquiries can be made by phone (353-46/23416) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Full breakfast is usually included in the rates.
Longueville House Mallow; 353-22/47156, fax 353-22/47459; www.longuevillehouse.ie; doubles in low season from $135; dinner for two $76. Lovely, family-run Georgian manor on 500 acres, less than an hour's drive from Cork City. The restaurant is one of the finest in the country.
Ballymaloe House Shanagarry; 353-21/465-2531, fax 353-21/465-2021; www.ballymaloe.ie; doubles from $70; dinner for two $69. Beautiful inn famous for its restaurant; the well-known Allen family also operates a cooking school nearby.
Blairs Cove House Durrus; 353-27/61127, fax 353-27/61487; doubles from $76; dinner for two $75. Four suites in a Georgian manor, about 10 miles from Bantry, with yet another top-notch restaurant (unfortunately closed in winter) and spectacular views across a pasture to Dunmanus Bay.
Arbutus Lodge Hotel Montenotte, Cork City; 353-21/450 1237, fax 353-21/450-2893; www.arbutuslodge.net; doubles from $97. Wonderful rooms, though after a recent change of ownership the atmosphere is rather more officious than at many family-run places.
RESTAURANTS AND PUBS
Isaac's Restaurant 48 MacCurtain St., Cork City; 353-21/450-3805; dinner for two $32. Draws crowds with good international dishes, such as curries, steaks, and prawns cooked with chilies and garlic butter. After dinner, go across the street for a pint of Murphy's at the Shelbourne, one of the city's better pubs.
Blue Haven Hotel & Restaurant Kinsale; 353-21/477-2209; dinner for two $68 in the dining room. Excellent seafood; don't miss the smoked salmon cooked over a fire of oak chips.
Ahernes Seafood Restaurant 163 N. Main St., Youghal; 353-24/92424; dinner for two $65. Easily one of the top fish restaurants in Ireland.
Literary Guide to Ireland by Thomas and Susan Cahill (Wolfhound)
A Writer's Ireland: Landscape in Literature by William Trevor (Viking Press)
The Collected Stories by William Trevor (Penguin Paperback)
Irish Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (Dufour Editions Paperback)
A Book of Ireland Edited by Frank O'Connor (Collins)
Classic Irish Short Stories Edited by Frank O'Connor (Oxford University Paperback)