The Rebel City
At quite a desperation for this weekend since we did have nothing booked until 5 days before travelling, we managed to get a super deal once again with Ryanair on a very last minute rush. It involved going to one airport to return from a different one since returning from the same airport would have set the costs to double and more. Furthermore, a route we had already planned last year but could not manage in time when we went to Limerick and Galway. So Cork would be on Saturday, and the Ring of Kerry on Sunday.
Cork is the 3rd largest city in Ireland, just a bit larger than Limerick. Located on the banks of the River Lee and at the mouth of one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Founded in the 6th century as a monastic settlement, was in the 915 when the Vikings created a trading port and the city developed from there. At one point it was entirely walled when it was an outpost of Old English culture among the predominant Gaelic countryside.
There is a rivalry between Cork and Dublin, similar to the rivalry between London and Manchester or Madrid and Barcelona. Both “competing” to each other in offering “better” than the other. This leads nonetheless in Cork having a great and huge choice of activities and entertainment as Dublin, much larger city and capital, has also too.
While in Cork there is no need to rush nor plan too much time, you will be able to enjoy the entire city bearing in mind a day is more than enough. It’s for this reason that those flight combinations worked perfectly for us saving on the need to drive back from one or the other place back to the origin.
Outside of Dublin, Cork is perhaps the next city boasting the largest collection of Georgian architecture. On every street around the city center you will see such elegant buildings, and the typical colourful doors, specially on the hills. Very lively and thriving, in similar way it was Galway as I remember, but larger. Plenty of beautiful traditional Irish pubs and restaurants everywhere along the city centre, most of which with live music bands specially towards the evening. You will definitely not get bored in the city.
A bit of disappointment was not being able to find restaurants serving mussels, something that was in every place in Galway. Sometimes even if you think a short distance between cities should not impact on the customs or food, it really does, and this case was a good example. Although you will have plenty of choice for food, it was not as great as I remember from Galway, plus more expensive overall.
For more information about Cork check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Ireland’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Cork
- Red Abbey Is one of the oldest constructions in the city. An Augustinian abbey from the 14th century. All what remains today is the bell tower of the church, which is also the last remaining Medieval structure in the city.
- St Mary’s Cathedral Is the Roman Catholic church, built in 1808, with the tower being added in 1860. It is also known as the North Cathedral.
- St Finbarre’s Cathedral Is the Protestant church, built in 1879.
- Saint Patrick’s Street Is the main half pedestrianized street cutting through the old town filled with shops, restaurants and bars. It follows the former shape of one of the channels of the River Lee. Notice the great amount of Georgian style architecture everywhere around the city centre.
-General Post Office Occupying the place of a former theatre, although a much older theatre was built here in 1760 that was destroyed in a fire.
-Grand Parade Avenue Another of the main arteries in the city centre, a tree-lined avenue with many shops and financial institutions.
- Old Financial Centre Near Saint Patrick’s Street in the area called South Mall. Many beautiful buildings are around here as those of banks whose interiors still show their 19th century glorious like the Allied Irish Bank.
- County Hall Tower Was for decades the tallest building in Ireland, now only surpassed by the Elysian building, also in Cork.
- Our Lady’s Psychiatric Hospital Which is Ireland’s longest building is located across the river from the County Hall. Converted by architect William Atkins into luxurious apartments.
- Shandon Church Is one of the main landmarks in the city due to it’s tower, which is in fact the symbol of the city.
- City Hall Although an older building was in this place with the same functionality, it was destroyed during the War of Independence by the Black and Tans. The current building is a nice and elegant limestone construction.
- English Market The most famous of all the markets in the city. The current building dates to 1786 and is one of the major attractions in the city.
- Opera House Originally built in 1855 and having survived the bombing of the city by the British Forces in 1920, it burnt down however due to electrical fault. Was rebuilt in 1963 and the square at the front also refurbished to become one of the main hangouts.
- Elizabeth Fort Built in the 17th century as a defensive fortification originally located outside the medieval walls, the city quickly expanded around it and took other uses. Although not entirely open for visitors, it’s only since recently that it’s being transformed to be enjoyed as a tourist destination in its full.
- River Lee The entire old city is an island with the river Lee running on the northern side, and the south channel to the south. Both split and meet at the eastern and western edges of the old city. The views from the many bridges towards the city and hills in the distance are a great sight on its own.
The city is served by one of the principal airports in the country with flights to many European destinations. Located 8 kilometers to the south of the city it is well connected by frequent buses. Bus Éireann number 249 goes to Kinsale, while 226 to the city center of Cork with single tickets at 5.5 Euros. Another option is Shannon airport located 100 kilometers away offering more flights abroad, including the USA as it is one of the very few airports in the world with US border pre-clearance
City buses serve the entire city and are easy to understand with a network consisting of around 20 different lines. For longer distances, buses arrive/depart from the bus terminal at Parnell Place, with some international routes as the one to London Victoria. In any case within the city you will not need any public transportation at all. Distances are too short and you will be able to walk pretty much everywhere a tourist would need to go.
Getting a bed and breakfast around this region is very easy and won’t bee too expensive. In fact there is not really need for you to book in advance if you think your plans might change, this way you don’t fix yourself to a plan. There is a good choice of hotels in any case, but prices can go really go high. After all, this is Ireland and prices are higher than what you might expect for accommodation. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Rose Lodge Guest House, in Mardyke Parade. Some 20 minutes walk to the Grand Parade. Nicely located at a quieter area to the west of the city but with easy and direct access to the old town either on foot or bu public buses (not really needed, but the bus stop really next door). It was a very nice guest house, with large rooms and all the facilities you would need. It seemed to have been recently refurbished, and the bathroom was extremely nice with a huge walk-in shower. The owner, Chines, was really nice and friendly lady who made us feel comfy straight away. For an extra 5 Euros you can get breakfast, served from 8.30am.