Cork named as one of world's top tourist cities

Cork has been ranked among the world's top 10 tourist cities for its youthful buzz, sophistication and mouth-watering eateries, it was revealed today.

It was the only Irish destination to make the coveted list by renowned travel guide Lonely Planet, sharing space with other global spots like Singapore, Vancouver and Istanbul.

Praising the city's unshakeable self confidence and pride, the roll-call of must-see destinations also described the Corkonian lilt as 'musical'.

Tom Hall, Lonely Planet travel editor, said the south-west tourist hub had forged its own distinct identity setting it apart from Dublin.

"Cork has been in Dublin's shadows for far too long, it has emerged as a fantastic destination in its own right with great restaurants, galleries, bars and shops as well as stunning scenery on its doorstep," Mr Hall said.

But for residents it's their famed hospitality that wins the hearts of tourists the world over.

Elizabeth Kearns, manager of Cork City Gaol, said the region has a wealth of attractions for the curious traveller.

"Cork has really been developed in the last 10 years. It was a bit dowdy, but now it's a vibrant city, lots to do," Ms Kearns said.

"People will go the extra bit for the visitor to Cork, if anyone is lost or anything, it's not unusual for someone to say I'll hop into my car and you just follow me and I'll take you there.

"Cork's time has come."

The Gaol, which details 19th Century crime, punishment and social history, has some 75,000 visitors every year.

The top travel guide claimed the south-west city, named European Capital of Culture in 2005, was at the top of its game, bursting with an impressive array of restaurants, bars and shops.

For the culinary intrepid the book highlights Drisheen as the city's most bizarre delicacy - a pudding combination of sheep's intestines filled with meal and sheep's blood.

The book said the city centre was crackling with youthful energy thanks to the presence of University College Cork, which "pumps" out new graduates every year.

"Cork is at the top of its game right now: sophisticated, vibrant and diverse, while still retaining its friendliness, relaxed charm and quick-fire wit," the book said.

Meanwhile further up the west coast Co Clare was praised as a cycling hotspot.

The travel guide highlighted the fertile lowlands by the Shannon estuary, the dramatic Cliffs of Moher and the "music hotbed" towns of Doolin and Milltown Malbay.

Fine Gael's Cork Senator Jerry Buttimer branded the Lonely Planet accolade a marvellous achievement.

"This recommendation from one of the most renowned global travel guides is a tribute to the industry, vision, hospitality and cultural creativity of the people of Cork.

"As the gateway to the south, Cork offers travellers vibrancy, a unique culture and a warmth of spirit which is second to none.

"This good news story underlines the potential in Cork which must continue to be built upon if the city is to continue to grow."

Senator Buttimer called for the scrapping of the Government's airport tax to help boost tourism.

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