Cork's larger and smaller sights can be found in the Cork Walks. These are recommended routes that can be used as a self-guided city tour. Each tour lasts for around 1 ½ hours and has around 15 sights each. The panels can be easily found, the brochures on the website below can be helpful but are not essentially necessary.
Use the City Island tour if you need a quick overview over Cork or are in a hurry. Otherwise skip it as you will pass these sights many many times while strolling through the city centre. The Shandon and South Parish walks are the ones I really recommend. They will lead you to lesser known sights like the Red Abbey Tower, Elizabeth Fort or the Almshouses in Shandon. Unfortunately, I can not say anything about the 4th tour, the University Walk.
Only one little warning about the South Parish Walk: Don't take the suggested detour at Douglas Street to the former market. There is little to see beside two parking lots, a garage and an old horse watering through now used as a flower tub.
St. Patrick's Day in Cork
With St. Patrick's Day becoming more and more popular with non-Irish as well, many people (including me) visit Ireland to celebrate the Irish Patron Saint in Irishness in general. There are festivities all over the island, sometimes in a really big form, sometimes quieter. Dublin has a big parade and attracts most of the foreign visitors.
If you want to have a compromise between low-level rural Irish St. Patrick's Day events and the crowds around the pompous parades of Dublin, why don't come to Cork for March 17th?
Things are more easy going and familiar than in Dublin, but that can also mean more fun and more authenticity. Instead of the Pennsylvania marching band you'll see in Dublin, it's the children judo group or the Congolese community of Cork. Food stalls and framework programme are on a lower level as well. The interesting thing comes in the late afternoon when the pubs get involved and the first musicians get onto their stages. Almost every somewhat larger pub has several bands on stage. And the pub scene in Cork is as good as Dublin's, just with more locals and far less tourists – especially on St. Patrick's day when the tourists go to Dublin.
Check out the web for upcoming Paddy's Day activities in Cork
Church of the Holy Trinity
The church of the Holy Trinity is the church for the Capuchin Friary and one of the most beautiful neogothic churches in the city. It was designed in honour of Capuchin Friar in 1832, but was not completed until 1850 due to architectural issues and the socio-economic problems related to the famine in the mid-19th century. The spire was added in 1890 to commemorate the centenary of Father Matthew's birth. Theobald Matthew's work in the field of teetotalism (alcool abstinence propagation) is associated with this church. A statue of him can be found on the western side of the church.
Inside, the Gothic structures are visible as well. The church can be visited for free as of 2013.
It was only after I came back from Cork that I realised that you get a better view on the church if you have a look from George's Quay on the other side of River Lee.Related to:
Red Abbey Tower
Long ago, many priories and abbeys were located within the boundaries of Cork City. One of them was the Augustinian Monastery, founded in the 13th of 14th century. Due to the red sandstone used for construction, it was known under the name Red Abbey. It was abandoned in the 17th century and fell into decay.
Beside the tower, there is nothing left of the abbey. The tower, however, is the oldest preserved building in Cork. The little square in front of the tower has stones laid out to form church-related motifs like a stained glass window. Beware where you walk here as the area around the tower is full of bird crap.
The nearby South Presentation Convent is made of reddish stone as well, but not related to the former Augustinan Monastery. However, it may stay on some of the grounds which were part of the monastery a century earlier. Have a look at this building complex as well while you are here.
The monument on Grand Parade stands for the squashed Irish Rebellions against English rule of the late 18th and 19th century (1798, 1803, 1848, 1867). The foundation stone was placed in 1898 to mark the centenary of the 1798 rebellion and the monument was finally unveiled on St. Patrick's Day 1906. It clearly shows the neogothic elements which were a t the hights of fashion of that time. The small statues on the corner depict Wolfe Tone, Michael Dwyer, Davis, and O’Neill Crowley – all key people in those rebellions. Between them in the middle, there is Mother Erin, the personification of the Irish Nation.
Oval Public House
This building was designed as an attached pub for the Beamish & Crawford Brewery which was once located just over the street. It was designed in 1918 and has an interesting mix of art nouveau elements with celtic decor. The name comes from the oval-shaped ceiling. Unfortunately, I can't say anything about how the Oval is as a pub. It was closed at the time I was there. However, it is listed among the seven „Heritage Pubs“ in Cork which speaks in favour of the pub. Just do me a favour if you visit this pub: Remember the Beamish heritage and don't order a Guinness!Related to:
Counting House (Former Beamish Brewery)
The so-called „Counting House“ is the best known building of the Beamish & Crawford brewery complex and a landmark of Cork. Unfortunately, it i also one of the ugliest blends of architectural styles I have ever seen: Mock-tudor meets early 20th century concrete and a crow-stepped gable – not to forget the industrial compley of a large brewery in the background. The building was designed by Alfred C. Houston and finished in 1920.
In 2009, Heineken closed the Bewery and moved all activities in the Cork region to the Lady's Well Brewery. Now that everything is closed, the Counting House doesn't look only ugly – but also sad. The former brewery will be pulled down and the area will be redeveloped. As a listed building however, the Counting House will be preserved.
The nearby Oval Public House, architecturally interesting on its own, belonged to the Beamish Brewery as well. A short history of the Beamish Brewery is found in a general tip section.Related to:
Built in 1601, it was part of the city fortifications until such star-shaped forts became obsolete by technological advances. In 1719, it becmae a barracks while it was converted to a prison for women in 1835. In the Irish war for Independence, the Black and Tans seized it as a stronhold and finally the fort was destroyed in the Irish civil war.
The current walls are from the 1620s after the initial fort was burnt down in 1603. There is little to see beside the walls and a couple of buildings, the inner court is partly used as a parking lot today. The mentioned buildings are used by the police (Garda) and are not accessible for touristical purposes. A viewing platform will be opened in the future.Related to:
Every city has a special area with special citizens which is considered even more specially well-known for pubs and cafés. In Cork, it's Shandon. The area north of River Lee is among the oldest parts of the city and has been left in peace by professional citiy developers (as well as by floods and fires) for quite a long time.
The most famous building is St. Anne's Church which is described in a separate tip. Other interesting places include the pub area along Coburg Street, the Butter Museum and the Franciscan Brewery.
Skiddy's Almshouses from 1715 – 1719 are amongs the oldest preserved strctures north of River Lee. They have been converted into appartments and a hotel in the 1960s and 1970s. Firkin Crane Centre, formerly part of the Butter Market, is a good example for 19th century architecture and now in use as a dance and music venue.
To see all small and big sights in Shandon, I recommend to use the „Cork Walk“, a path marked by red signs (other colours for other areasof the city) and accompanying explanatory boards. End the tour with a pint of Beamish at Sin É.Related to:
A little old-fashioned, maybe not the most exciting topic but surely not bad. The Butter Museum has everything you wanted to know but never dared to ask about Ireland's most important export product: Butter. There is an documentary clip about how the marketing of butter was changed to be united under the Kerrygold brand as well as ads from the past decades. Other exhibits in the main floor include items used to make butter, mainly from the late 19th and early 20th century. The upper floor focuses on the history of butter making and butter as a trading good.
I didn't expect much from this place, but was satisified with my visit. So if you want to know some more about one of Ireland's most important economical factors – this is the place to go to. It's worth a visit if such specialised museums can attract your attention. Plan about an hour to go through, the entry fee for adults is 4,00 EUR (2013).
The butter museum is located in the old Butter Exchange in Shandon, close to St. Anne's Church.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Cork Pub Crawl
Run by sympathic young locals, it is surely one of the better pub crawls I have been on. No big fuss, no big company behind – just a good night out and a good chance to meet fellow travellers. For 10 EUR (2013) you get free entry where entry is required as well as a shot in every pub and club. The crowd consisted of a good mix of locals and backpackers alike, including people from USA, Canada, Norway, Britain, Germany and many more. If having a drink with other travellers is your thing, I would definitively recommend it!
The meeting point is in front of the post office at Oliver Plunkett Street at 08:15 pm. The pubs I went to were the Old Oak, Door 51, The Gateway Bar and Eclipse/Grafton. Pubs may vary – if this is very important to you, ask your pub crawl guide beforehand. Some of the pubs are described in the nightlife section.Related to:
- Beer Tasting
The Echo Boy Memorial - Cork City Center
I always enjoy walking through cities when I travel to see little know memorials that you don't always read about in guide books. I found one in Cork. This memorial is the the Echo Boys. They were poor and often homeless children who sold the newspaper The Evening Echo in Cork.
Father Matthew Memorial - Cork City
I don't usually think of Ireland and temperance together. But one of the most beloved historic figures from Cork was Father Matthew, the Apostle of Temperance. He was born in 1790 and spent most of his life in Cork. In the first half of the nineteenth century he was know for leading temperance crusades of the late 1830's to 1840's. But he was probably best loved for his efforts in Cork during the cholera epidemic and the great famine. This photo is of his memorial in Cork.
St. Anne Chruch and the four faced liar - Cork
St. Anne's Church of Ireland is located on a hilltop in the Shandon district of Cork City. The church is known for its eight bells in the tower. A famous Irish folk song "The Bells of Shandon" was written about them. The bells first rang in 1752. Today tourist are allowed to climb the towers and at special times are allowed to actually ring the bells. We were not able to do this on our visit. We had very little time in the city of Cork, so we did not climb the towers. Instead we spent more time walking and sightseeing.
The four clocks on the the tower are known as The Four Faced Liar. We were told this by locals, our guidebook, and in our internet research. The reason is because the time on each face is a little different and never agree. One reason I read for this is because some of the wood on the clocks is thicker in places than the others which causes the hands to stick when they reach certain numbers.
Visit The English Market
Cork makes claim that the English Market is one of the oldest markets of its kind. Trading as a market since 1788, it pre-dates most of the other markets like it. According to its web site it has survived the Famine, revolutions, wars, fire and economic decline. I found it interesting and fun to visit but not unlike many other markets I have visited throughout Europe. Queen Elizabeth stopped by here on her visit to Ireland just a week after we left. I guess we are glad we missed the crowd!
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