Though Cork had humble beginnings as a seventh-century monastic center, it's now Ireland's second-largest metropolitan hub and the EU's choice as the 2005 European Capital of Culture. Don't miss the old town's landmarks, like the Butter Exchange, which exported almost 30 million pounds of the yellow stuff annually in the late 19th century. Then stretch your sea legs in West Cork, 90 miles southwest, exploring the rocky shorelines via sea kayak. On a full-day trip with local guide Frank Conroy, you'll see the ruins of 13th-century Dunboy Castle. $93, including lunch; 011-353-27-70692, www.seakayakingwestcork.com
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