Visiting Cork - What to See and Do
(Cork Airport ORK, Ireland)
Set along the winding channels of the River Lee and its tributaries, the southern Irish city of Cork
can be tricky to negotiate due to its 30 river bridges, especially for visitors who've overdone the draught Guinness! Nevertheless, charming Cork is a cosmopolitan, vibrant city perfect for a long-weekend visit or extended holiday.
Getting around the compact city centre is easy on foot, and most of the restaurants, pubs, bars and sights are located here. For short-term visitors, the city provides an orientation bus tour taking in the main attractions and highlights, starting from Patrick Street or the Parnell Place bus station. The riverbanks are lined with historic buildings, and Elizabeth Fort and St. Finbarr's Cathedral are the premier sights.
In 2005, Cork was named the European capital of Culture for its thriving cultural scene, still very much alive today. Festivals, live music, art, poetry and sporting events are ever-popular, while the city's buzzing nightlife owes a lot to its plethora of live music pubs and clubs. This city makes a good base for exploring the coastal beauties of southern Ireland
, whether by car or bus.
Ten things you must do in Cork
- Although it is not recommended for every visitor, the Barrack Street Challenge is a popular activity and attraction. Barrack Street is famous for its variety of pubs and bars, and the challenge is to still be standing after you've had one drink in every watering hole, starting at Nancy Spain's and ending at the Brewery!
- For lovers of fine foods, Cork's English Market, set centrally in an impressive heritage building, is the place for fresh Irish butter, homemade cheeses, Irish soda bread and all manner of other local delicacies. In addition, there is a good café serving light meals Irish-style.
- Taking a Cork Historic Walking Tour is the best way to get to grips with the city's fascinating history, which includes its foundation by St. Finbarr in the 6th century and various Viking raids. Its brief late 17th-century Golden Age was mainly due to its safe harbour for sailing ships plying the perilous North Atlantic waters.
- Visiting nearby Blarney Castle and kissing the famous Blarney Stone is a favourite with visitors. The stone is also known by its nickname, the Stone of Eloquence, as it bestows eloquence to all who can lean out far enough over the castle battlements to place a kiss.
- Exploring St. Finbarr's Cathedral on Dean Street means treading the stones over the first-established settlement here. The cathedral itself is a 19th-century Gothic masterpiece with a marble mosaic interior and splendid stained-glass windows.
- Taking a leisurely stroll around Fitzgerald's Park gives a pleasant break from shopping and sightseeing. In the park is the Cork Public Museum, the Georgian House and a lovely café. At the riverside end of the park is the Cork University College, with its Honan Chapel's display of Ogham Stones.
- Small but perfectly formed and in fine condition is the city's Blackrock Castle, set where the River Lee joins Lake Mahon. This quaint defensive fortress is now Ireland's first interactive centre for astronomy, linked with other world centres in the search for extraterrestrial life.
- Wandering the pedestrianised streets of the Huguenot Quarter is a journey back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when French Protestants fled persecution and arrived in Cork. With them they brought their skills as gold and silversmiths, and set up businesses in the narrow streets.
- The grim grey stones of Cork Gaol are an introduction to its even grimmer interior which, naturally, is reputed to be haunted. Used as a prison for over 200 years, the building's tiny cells, creepy passages and room where hangings took place all emphasise the cruelty of the Georgian and Victorian penal system, which imprisoned the starving for stealing a loaf of bread.
- If a holiday isn't a holiday without exercise, Cork is the perfect base for golfing, horse riding and other recreational attractions. The local golf courses here are excellent and the greens are incredible due to the rainy Irish weather. Ireland is the 'Land of the Horse', with stables offering everything from riding instruction to wild gallops along the sands.