The convention committee has spent countless seconds and minutes compiling a list of some of the most exciting and tourism-appropriate places in our wondrous twinned city. In Cork, there are “Hop-on, hop-off” bus tours as well as guided tours available, but we do not recommend trusting any guides with “Wizzard” on their hats. Click on the headings below to find out more about the many things that one can do in and around Cork:
– St. Anne's Church, home to the Shandon Bells
Have you always considered yourself a bit of a Quasimodo? Have you been yearning to let the bells ring out? Have you always been jealous of the monks in that Mars ad (you know the one)? If you want to see the whole city but you only have 30 minutes, get yourself to the top of Shandon Tower. The best thing about the tower is that you can make the entire north side of the city listen to you play classics such as Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and Fernando on the Bells – the songbooks provided have a range from classic church pieces to Queen, or you are welcome to just freestyle. Better do it now before someone finally cuts those b*st*rding bells down! If you have a little time, at the foot of the tower you’ll find:
– Cork Butter Museum
As the New York Times says, “Visit this museum for a surprisingly engaging and multi-faceted view of history”. One of Cork's primary claims-to-fame comes from the fact that it was an international centre of excellence in butter production about 250 years ago. Not just butter, oh no, but all sorts of staples were produced in Cork and supplied to the West Indian Plantations, thanks to its only massive natural harbour. Such was the level of production that Shandon hill was known to have rivers of livestock blood flowing down it, a thing that my dynamic ancestors considered a terrible waste. As a result, blood sausage became a traditional Cork delicacy. Blood sausage and stomach lining, more romantically referred to as “tripe and drisheen” is still available from the Farmgate Cafe in the very lovely English Market in the city centre.
– English Market
A covered market at the centre of Cork City, the English Market has existed in Cork since the late 16th century. It provides a variety of fresh produce, including meat, fish and bread and is a source for traditional Cork fare such as drisheen, spiced beef and buttered eggs. There are also clothing boutiques, an artisan chocolate shop and an olive stall, though currently no reliable vendors for rat-onna-stick. The English Market is considered so nice that it was one of the two places we decided to bring the Queen when she made her historic visit in 2011, and she became besties with one of the fishmongers, Frank O’Connell. If it's good enough for the Queen, it's good enough for you too!
– Cork City Gaol
For a real sense of dark and gloomy Überwaldean horror, why not visit this atmospheric and imposing former prison? Opened in 1824, it was reportedly “the finest in three kingdoms”, until its closure in 1923 and subsequent reopening as a radio broadcasting station. The museum that occupies the building today is a moving and instructive experience, if only to get an idea of how crap life was for prisoners a century ago.
– Elizabeth Fort
This 17th-century artillery fort, just across the river from the city centre, has served many purposes through its storied history, including stints as a military barracks, prison, and police station. It’s recently been reopened as a free tourist attraction, allowing you to go up on the walls and enjoy views across the city, or take a guided tour.
– Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral
Any visiting Omnian missionaries would be well-advised to visit this magnificent (if small) cathedral dedicated to St Finbarr, Cork’s patron saint. There’s been a church on the site since the 7th century, but the current cathedral (built in the 19th century) has an ornate Gothic Revival exterior that is more than matched by its astonishing interior, replete with glorious stained glass and mosaics.
– The Peace Park
Technically the name for this oasis of green in the city centre is Bishop Lucey Park, but Corkonians have been calling it the Peace Park for too many years to change their minds now.
– Fitzgerald’s Park & the Shakey Bridge
Shockingly, TripAdvisor only ranks Daly's Bridge (a.k.a. the shakey bridge) as 92nd on the list of attractions in Cork. If you’re crossing the river on this, jump up and down – it shakes. It’s like magic. The park nearby is pretty beautiful as well, and you’ll also find the Cork Public Museum there too.
– Fota Wildlife Park
A short train ride from the city is Fota Wildlife Park, home to over 80 exotic mammal and bird species. Many of the smaller animals roam free, such as lemurs and monkeys mixing in with the giraffes, zebras and other large animals living in paddocks. The park is attached to Fota House, a beautiful Regency mansion and heritage site. The grounds also contain Fota Gardens which contain many rare and beautiful flowers and shrubs, an arboretum and a rose garden.
– Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle, found a half-hour bus ride from Cork bus station, is home to the legendary Blarney Stone – which, according to Tradition, confers the “gift of the gab” on those who kiss it. It only requires you to hang upside-down over a thirty-foot drop, but sure, it’ll be grand. The fabled silver tongue of the Irish is surely reward enough (and there are guard rails and such, it’s not actually medieval torture). The rest of the castle, its extensive ornamental gardens, and nearby stately home are all very nice too.
– CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory
Why not take a short bus ride to the east of Cork to visit this 16th-century coastal defence castle, recently repurposed as an observatory and museum? With the high-tech astronomy centre as well as the fairytale castle and grounds, this place has something for science and history nerds alike.
Cobh (pronounced “cove”), formerly known as Queenstown, is a picturesque port town to the east of Cork, and has been a tourist attraction since Victorian times. Museums in Cobh largely focus on the town’s rich maritime heritage, including the Cobh Heritage Centre and the Titanic Experience (Cobh was the Titanic’s last port of call before her iceberg encounter), and the town also boasts the second-tallest building in Ireland: St Colman’s Cathedral. Cobh is a short train ride from Cork.
Another beautiful harbour town, Kinsale is known for its brightly-coloured historic streets and is home to such attractions as Charles Fort, Blacks Brewery, and a number of yachting marinas and art galleries – not forgetting, of course, its famous range of restaurants and bars. You can get a bus straight to Kinsale from just outside the convention hotel’s front door.
– Hiring a car?
Drive down through beautiful West Cork – go through Glandore, Baltimore, Castletownsend, and consider staying on Cape Clear for a night. Get yourself out to Kerry on some small winding roads, and if the sea isn’t too choppy, get a boat out to the Skelligs, a stunning Unesco world heritage site (as featured in recent Star Wars films) – an ancient monastery built on a shard of rock on the edge of the Atlantic*. Kerry is certainly worth spending a couple of days in. Magical scenery, tiny winding roads, and adorable villages like Dingle abound. And there are plenty of seafaring types that will take you out to try and spot a friendly dolphin or a pod or two of whales.
* It's advisable to bring ziplock bags for your electronics if it's looking a bit blustery.
A Note on Stout: Many people enjoy some pints of the black stuff while in Ireland – but in Cork, Guinness is far from being the only stout. The Murphy’s brewery was founded in Cork in 1856 and has been providing a more subtle craft stout ever since. However, having one speciality stout wasn’t enough for the people of Cork, so now visitors can also sample a pint of Beamish stout. If all this stout is too much for you then why not try one of the many micro-breweries Cork has to offer? Some, like the Franciscan Well, have been titillating the taste buds since 1998, while other rising stars like the Rising Sons have opened their doors (and casks) more recently. Although there is plenty more to Ireland and Cork than alcohol, if you enjoy a tipple and want to try something a little different, Cork will have something for you.
– The Franciscan Well
There’s an incredible atmosphere in this pub, which was built on an old Franciscan Monastery and Well, dating back to the year 1219. Legend has it that the water from the well has miraculous and curative properties, and people would come from all over the country to drink it – so think the direct opposite of water from the Ankh. This pub brews its own beers, which are all-natural and do not contain any additives or preservatives – a step up from Winkles Old Peculiar. If you go out into the large, spacious beer garden, you can even see the huge serving vessels! On top of that, you can watch a delicious pizza of your choice being cooked in front of you in a natural stone oven before enjoying it with your pint!
– The Rising Sons Brewery
This microbrewery and brew-pub is on Cornmarket street. Their building was once the famous Guy and Co. printers, who at one time printed all the cheque books in Ireland. The brewery has released a pils in memory of those who worked on the site, called the Bouncing Czech – a pun almost worthy of Sir Terry himself. This pub serves its own brews, as well as brews from other local breweries. Its tall ceilings and different coloured lighting ensure that it has a unique atmosphere of its own. The Rising Sons Brewery often plays host to Bands With Rocks In, so if you’re looking for somewhere to let your hair down, this is the place to be.
Cork's premier gaming bar, packed with arcade cabinets and all manner of games. More detailed information on this establishment will be forthcoming as soon as our correspondent can be pried away from its screens – after all, it takes a lot of sampling!
– The Cornstore Restaurant
Speaking of cocktails, if doing a bit of “minge drinking” is on your timetable for your time in Cork, you’d do well to pop down to Cornmarket Street to try one of their award-winning cocktails. They’re not cheap, but they are good. These talented mixologists do just about every trick in the book, including a couple that aren’t written down at all. Not the place to get pished, but definitely somewhere to pop in at the start of your evening.
– The Edison
If you were hoping to continue drinking cocktails for the evening, The Edison is a great place to do it. Less pricey than the Cornstore, it still boasts a wonderful list of drinks, not to mention a very interesting and eclectic atmosphere. Think along the lines of somewhere Lacrimosa De Magpyr and her friends would have gone if they outgrew all that silly plaid and wine drinking, and got into the real stuff, like handlebar moustaches and PBR.
– The Mutton Lane Inn
The Mutton Lane Inn is another one of the oldest drinking establishments in Cork. When you walk in and see its curiously curved shape, low ceilings and the hundreds and hundreds of candles that keep it illuminated, you’ll believe it. Anyone looking to get in an Ankh-Morpork frame of mind would do well to visit this pub, located just off St. Patrick’s Street. Mutton Lane is one of the many alleyways that lead into the famed English Market and used to be where live sheep were run into the market, so walking down to it feels just like ducking down an alleyway into the Shades – well, maybe not exactly like the Shades, hopefully.
– Arthur Mayne's Wine Bar
This is definitely worth popping into: a wine bar that has been created in an old pharmacy – complete with shelves and shelves of recent and not-so-recent cures for all that ails you. Lotions and potions galore in this apothecary. A fantastic setting to enjoy some quality drinks and food.