So I found myself with a few days off last week, and before we realised what was happening, we were on the bus to Cork, the “real capital” of Ireland.
We arrived in the evening. Excited, tired, but very hungry.
We had booked into a 14 bed dormitory in Sheila’s Tourist Hostel. I would recommend this place if you’re trying to save money whilst in Cork. It’s right in the city centre, and it’s absolutely huge in there. They have all kinds of rooms ranging from 7 bunk beds per room to private rooms for 2. There’s a common room, dining room, massive kitchen, and bathrooms everywhere. What more could you want? (Well, for €16 a night!)
After we’d claimed out bunks (by ruffling up the duvets), we headed out on a food mission and came across a good place only 5 minutes down the road. Lennox’s Fish and Chips on MacCurtain Street. There’s seating inside, nothing fancy but it does the job. The portions were a decent size too and the staff were friendly.
This is a nice place – a lake with a park around it. Ducks, swans, geese (with their ickle baby goslings!) everywhere, eels and terrapins, although I think they’re hidden amongst the trees in the middle so we can’t find them.
I feel I should mention that terrapins are not native to Ireland, in case anybody was confused! People bought them as pets during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze in the early 90’s. The owners didn’t realize that they would grow a lot bigger and then when they did they would take them down to The Lough and set them free there. Some of the terrapins survived and are living there to this day.
The very heart of Cork:
Patrick’s Street and Grand Parade have gotten a make-over in recent years, mainly as Cork was selected as the European City of Culture in 2005. It has a very modern vibe, with the latest stores, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Especially coffee shops! If you can’t find one you like on these main streets, take a turn into a side street, such as French Church Street, and have a nosey down there.
There is also the English Market which sells mostly meat, fruit and veg, but there are plenty of boutiques, second-hand shops and obscure little knick-knack shops aswell.
Bishop Lucey Park:
This park is on Grand Parade. It’s not a big park, but it’s nice to stop in with one of those takeaway coffees we got earlier. There’s a lot of benches, a fountain. I’ve been told that at Christmas it’s really nice because they have a Christmas market (which is a huuuge weakness of mine!), so I might have to come here again!
St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral:
Make sure you go to this one! I didn’t go inside but it costs €5 so it’s up to you, but outside is lovely enough. It’s a really beautiful church, it has carvings, gargoyles, wise virgins (you’ll have to go to find out, haha) and more. I must have taken at least 30 photos of it. There is a small graveyard beside it and a nice pathway with trees and it’s so nice on a sunny day.
Shandon is an area just over the River Lee but I promise it’s walking distance from the centre. In this historic quarter of the city are the Shandon Bells and the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne. I’m not going to lie, there are a couple of steepish hills here, but it’s really sweet and a nice change from the main streets of Cork the day before.
Shandon Bells & St. Mary’s Church:
You can go to the top of the clock tower here and have panoramic views of Cork city (€5). The bells of St. Mary’s Church were made famous from the song “The Bells of Shandon” by Rev. Francis Mahony.
Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne:
This was the first cathedral built in Cork (1808). When Bishop Francis Moylan returned from his work in mainland Europe, he was shocked to find there weren’t any churches and that the people of Cork were having mass in specially chosen houses.
Inside this (free!) church is a relic of Bishop Thaddaeus McCarthy which you can see down by the altar. There are other relics in churches around Cork, such as Cobh and Youghal.
This church keeps many memories within its walls – whether it be marriages of the local people, the ordinations of bishops and priests alike, or the funerals of Irish freedom fighters.
There is, of course, lots more than this to see in Cork, such as the University, and then outside of Cork (Cobh, Fota Wildlife Park), but if you’re not staying long for whatever reason, these are the places you should aim to see!