The center of Cork is located on an island between two channels of the Lee River.
St Patrick's Street runs through the heart of the city. It offers a host of shopping opportunities and boasts some of Europe's largest retail chains. Oliver Plunkett Street, which runs partly parallel to Patrick's Street, bustles with smaller shops, life and color. Second-hand books, hand-made chocolates, an infinite array of surprises can be found in the alleyways and lanes around this central shopping district. Heading west, one comes to the
Further south is the
North of the City
The "North Side" is defined by hills rising up from the river, and toward the city's more hidden charms. Dominating the landscape is
On the eastern end, St Patrick's Bridge links the city center with the charming MacCurtain Street, a busy stretch of road offering everything from antiques to ice cream. Worth noting on this street is the majestic
South of the City
The Gothic grandeur of
The eastern end of the South Side is dominated by the
Beyond the City
Cork also makes an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding area. Buses leave frequently to the famous
There are many landmarks in Cork and one of the most notable is a good place to start our tour; St Ann's Church in Shandon. This church is famous for its bells and the salmon-shaped weather vane. Climb the tower, and you can ring the bells yourself. The view from the top is well worth the 120-foot ascent. Across the lane inside the Cork Butter Museum, is the Shandon Craft Centre. This is the home of thirteen craftspeople working under one roof. Browse through the Centre admiring the Blarney Irish Crystal, hand painted tableware, ceramics, jewelery, and textiles. The Cork Butter Exchange was opened between 1770 and 1924. In the nineteenth century it was exporting 500,000 casks of butter, and making 1.5 million pounds annually.
Now begins the main walking part of the tour. Walk down Church Street, on to Shandon Street, and turn left down the hill. Take the right immediately before the bridge to the North Mall. Sunday's Well Road veers right; there is a marvelous view of the city from the top of the hill. Continue along this road until it begins to descend. There will be a footpath to the left, this will bring you across Daly Bridge, or "The Shaky Bridge" as it is known locally due to the fact that it is suspended and therefore slightly flexible!
Here the River Lee looks its best, as the established gardens flanking the river add a lot of greenery. Fitzgerald's Park, which is across the bridge on the left, also adds a touch of greenery. A stroll through this beautiful park will bring you to Cork Public Museum which is sited in the old house on the park grounds. Set out down the Mardyke Walk toward town. Take a right so that you pass in front of the university's front gates. Two minutes walk will bring you to Cafe Paradiso on Lancaster Quay where you can take a break and enjoy some fine vegetarian food.
When you're ready, cross the road from the cafe, and take the road to Sharman and Crawford Street, turn right, and continue around the corner. The cathedral in front of you is St Finn Barres. On this site, St. Finbar founded his monastic school in 650CE, and the cathedral itself was built in 1870.
Turn left out of the main gate, and left on to Dean Street, which brings you onto Barrack Street. On your left you will see The Gateway Bar, the oldest pub in Cork, and some of the remains of the old city walls in Elizabeth's Fort. Continue down Barrack Street, turn right, then left over the footbridge. On your left is the South Mall. Note that the steps leading up to various offices have arches underneath them. These date back to the time when the South Mall was a part of the river, the arches were for tying up boats, and the steps lead up to the houses where the merchants once lived.
Take Prince's Street through to Patrick's Street. Next choose one of the pedestrianized streets and head for Paul Street. Turn right and walk towards the large red bricked building, it is the Crawford Art Gallery. Next take a stroll down to the Cork Vision Centre on North Main Street; here is a 1:1500 scale model of the city so you can look back at the route you've taken during the day.
The Triskel Arts Centre is hidden away on a lane between South Main Street and Grand Parade. It houses the excellent Yumi Yuki Club where there are special film deals. You get some sushi and sake and into a movie, the perfect end to the perfect day!
A Trip to Cobh
This tour starts at the Cork City Gaol situated on Convent Avenue, off Sunday's Well Road. It was still functional in the nineteenth century as a prison. Today furnished cells, models, and sound effects all combine to create an exciting exhibition exploring daily life as experienced by both prisoners and gaolers. Take the quickest route to University College Cork, down the hill from the gaol and across the Daly Bridge, and down the Ferry Walk. Keep straight and cross Western Road. Follow Western Road on the left until you come to the gates of the college. The university was established in 1845 as one of the three Queen's Colleges in Ireland (the others were at Belfast and Galway). Start with the Quadrangle Buildings built in 1849, and the Stone Corridor, which houses a good collection of Ogham Stones. The Honan Chapel possesses stained glass by Harry Clarke and a mosaic floor featuring the twelve signs of the zodiac; an unusual feature for a Catholic church.
Walk back down Western Road towards the city center. On the Grand Parade you'll find two entrances to the English Market. This old market sells all types of foods and provides an insight into the culinary culture of the city. Once you have finished feasting your eyes, follow Patrick's Street to MacCurtain Street and keep going until you reach Kent Railway Station.
The train to Cobh leaves at 25 minutes past the hour (except on Sundays), and takes about 25 minutes. Cobh is a beautiful harbour town; it's situated on The Great Island, one of three islands in Cork Harbour. The tiny windy streets (built for a horse and carriage only) are reminiscent of the back streets of Cork. The Queenstown Exhibition is in the railway station and will tell you all you need to know about the town and its history.
There is a lot to do in Cobh for the afternoon. The Blarney Woollen Mills in the station is a great place for picking up gifts for loved ones. The Sirius Arts Centre is located nearby and if you are interested in modern art you are sure to find much of interest. The Maritime Museum is another popular place to visit. St Colman's Cathedral dominates the whole town. This cathedral took 47 years to build and was constructed between 1868 and 1915. It has a carillon of 49 bells, the largest one weighing 3400kg. If you're feeling a bit tired from all this activity, why not enjoy a relaxing harbor cruise?
The return trains leave at five minutes to the hour. It is worth noting that this train also passes through Fota Wildlife Park, another of the islands. A visit here takes up a whole day, but is well worth it.
If you're wondering where to dine, try The Ivory Tower on Prince's Street. This is considered by many to be the best restaurant in Cork. The chef, Seamus O'Connell, is a culinary alchemist. If the idea of guinea fowl braised in Beamish Stout or a Bloody Mary Oyster appeals, this could be just the place for you!
Cork - The Cauldron of Good Food in Ireland
Many of Cork's best restaurants share the same philosophy of applying high standards in culinary training to fresh, locally grown, and organic produce used in season. Some are oriented towards the preservation of traditional Irish cooking, such as the Arbutus Lodge in Montenotte, which also offers spectacular views of the city, the Farmgate Café, overlooking the English Market, where Drisheen and tripe can still be sampled, and Ballymaloe, whose sterling reputation has been built on the principle that good food and wholesome food are inextricably linked, resulting in the establishment of modern Irish Farmhouse cuisine.
The Ballymaloe tradition is continued with a more contemporary flavour in restaurants such as Harold's in Douglas, and the Crawford Gallery Café. Spiced beef or Irish stew can be had alongside a pint in less formal surroundings at Reidy's Wine Vault on the Western Road. Fresh seafood is a specialty at the reasonably priced and ever popular Isaac's Restaurant, housed in a converted warehouse on MacCurtain Street. Next door, Greene's bar and restaurant delivers excellent fish dishes and overlooks a waterfall. No. 5 Fenn's Quay serves up delicious bistro flavors amid a wonderful atmosphere.
To sample a truly creative menu, check out the Ivory Tower where traditional European cooking is given a Japanese edge with startling results. The Yumi-Yuki Club in the Triskel Arts Centre is great for a quick sushi meal with sake. Although there isn't exactly a plethora of vegetarian restaurants in Cork, vegetarians will not be disappointed with the excellent Cafe Paradiso on the Western Road, where artfully prepared meals are served by a young and dedicated staff. The Quay Co-Op on Sullivan's Quay, a self-service vegetarian restaurant, is a Cork institution.
While Cork doesn't have the same diversity of cuisines present in larger, perhaps more cosmopolitan cities, there are nevertheless some places to go for those with an appetite for foreign food. Enthusiasts of Chinese food will love the Ambassador restaurant on Cook Street. For Indian food, the Eastern Tandoori restaurant, opposite the Opera House, provides diners with voluptuous meals and impeccable service, as does the award-winning Indian Tandoori on Princes Street. The recently opened Ruen-Thai serves the best Thai food in town and has some great lunch specials. Eco Douglas embraces a wide range of cooking styles from Thai to Mediterranean at reasonable prices.
New Irish cuisine has overtones of the Mediterranean at Jacque's Restaurant on Pheonix Street, while Proby's Bistro near Crosses Green is more overtly Mediterranean. Ristorante Rossini on Princes Street is an Italian restaurant serving delicious charcoal-grill, pizza, and pasta dishes, while those seeking value for money should try Bully's on Paul Street.
Pubs If you are looking for a sophisticated stylish watering hole, try the Bodega on the Coal Quay. An eclectic selection of musical tastes are catered for here, there are regular Sunday gigs by top Jazz artists such as James Taylor and Louis Stewart, while on Thursday nights patrons are entertained in the Love Lounge by the ever popular Miss Ken D. For a similar vibe but on a smaller scale, The Roundy, just up the street, is an excellent location from which to acquaint oneself with this vibrant city's nightlife.
Lots of bars and restaurants are popping up around North Main Street. The most recent addition is Le Cheile, where friendly staff, sumptuous surroundings, and a low-key music policy, make this an essential stop-off for those who enjoy a cold drink and good conversation in a cosmopolitan setting. Similarly, the newly refurbished Raven Bar has lent this old part of town a European flavor with it's continental coffees and cool cocktails. For those interested in local beers, Cork has a long tradition of brewing. Located on South Main Street is the legendary Beamish and Crawford brewery. Directly opposite this are The Oval and Spailpin Fanach. The Oval is renowned for its lively, energetic atmosphere, with an interesting mix of all types of people. The 'Spailpin' is one of Cork's top bars: there are traditional music sessions nightly, the staff are friendly and if they run out of beer they can always pop over the road and pick up a keg or two in the brewery. The Franciscan Well on the North Mall is a micro brewery and its Shandon Stout should be tasted—it's creamy and smooth with a slight kick in the tail.
With Latino music and a late bar The Vineyard is another city-center hot spot guaranteed to keep you on your toes into the small hours of the morning. For all you alternative rocker types, there's Fred Zepplin's. If you're feeling adventurous take a trip down to the Hi-B, have a seat on one of the old red leather couches, grab a beer and eavesdrop on the local cognoscenti discussing anything from Samuel Beckett to moving statues. Sin E and LV are two of Cork's quintessential bars—for funky sounds and service with a smile these are hard to beat. Sin E shows the Racing Channel in the afternoon and, with a turf accountant on the doorstep, is the perfect spot for those who enjoy an afternoon flutter.
On the south side, Union Quay contains the Strip, five pubs in a row, the perfect pub crawl for the weary or lazy. One of the most popular is The Lobby Bar, it is among Cork's most important live music venues and patrons can enjoy the sweet sounds of trad, folk, and country while enjoying a fine view of the River Lee outside. The bingo at Loafers is a lot of fun on Tuesday's, and all proceeds go to charity. The Exchange on Georges Quay is the place for the discerning wine drinker; it has the best selection of old and New World wines available and DJs play at night.
Whether you are on business looking for a comfortable room for the night or a family on a week's holiday, Cork offers prospective visitors a wide range of hotels, guesthouses and country houses from which to choose. Due to the compact nature of Cork, irrespective of where you stay, you will almost certainly be within walking distance of the city center.
The historic Imperial Hotel offers some of the best accommodation available in Cork and is situated in the city's banking and financial district on the South Mall. That famous denizen of the city, Michael Collins, spent his last night here; the suite where he stayed bears his name. South's Bar downstairs is one of the most popular in town. Along the banks of the Lee, Morrison's Island was the first all-suite hotel in Cork. The penthouses offer guests spectacular views of this intriguing area. Jury's Inn is also located on the river and is a great place for families as patrons are charged a room rate and there is a baby-sitting service available.
If you're in town for a spot of shopping, why not stay at the Victoria Hotel. It's located just off Patrick Street, the main shopping area, so you won't have far to go with those heavy bags. As Charles Stewart Parnell and James Joyce are former guests, you'll be in good company! Beside North Main Street, the city's oldest thoroughfare, are both North Gate Hostel and Seven North Mall. The former offers luxurious, relaxed, friendly accommodation at a reasonable price. Seven North Mall is a 240-year-old listed building. There are seven rooms and a small conference center available. If you happen to be superstitious and seven is your lucky number then, needless to say, this is the place for you.
North of the City
One of the most attractive districts in the city is around Shandon. Here one finds St.Ann's Church housing the famous 'bells', the old Butter Market and the Firkin Crane dance project. Shandon Court Hotel, located under the eye of the clock, is an elegant hotel that successfully combines old world elegance with modern comfort. Up the street, Kinlay House Hostel offers probably the best budget accommodation in the city and is very popular with students and backpackers.
The Metropole Hotel on MacCurtain Street is one of the most popular in the city; it does excellent weekend deals and houses a fine swimming pool and leisure centre. Each October it becomes the home of the annual Jazz Festival. Nearby on Wellington Road sits D'Arcy's, a handsome Georgian guesthouse. There are super views of the city from the front of the house while breakfast is a real treat (check out the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs). On the same road lies the Glenvera Hotel, a Victorian mansion, the perfect resting place for the busy traveler.
In the exclusive suburb of Montenotte the Arbutus Lodge offers luxury accommodation in a beautiful setting. This elegant townhouse set in its own gardens was built in 1802 and overlooks the city. The hotel also houses a fine collection of modern Irish art. The nearby Country Club Hotel also offers breathtaking views of the city. Silversprings Moran Hotel of Cork is located in the attractive suburb of Tivoli; there is a nine-hole golf course on the grounds and four eighteen-hole championship courses within a thirty-minute drive.
South of the City
On the South side one finds Jury's Hotel. This hotel is popular both with people on business and with families. Facilities include a heated indoor pool from which you can swim to an outdoor one, and a state of the art fitness center. Off College Road sits Hayfield Manor Hotel, perhaps the best hotel in the city. It is set in two acres of mature gardens allowing guests to enjoy both the bustle of city life and the serenity of nature. It also provides conference facilities for up to one hundred delegates.
Beside University College Cork on Western Road there are many fine guesthouses. They include the Killarney Guesthouse, Saint Kilda Guesthouse and the newly opened Lancaster Lodge. These all provide quality accommodation at reasonable rates. Off Western Road on Mardyke Walk, Roserie Villa Guesthouse is only 10 minutes from the city center and is an ideal base for the busy executive or vacationer.
In the picturesque suburb of Douglas, the Rochestown Park Hotel is a manor style residence set in mature gardens. The hotel features an excellent leisure center while Mahon golf club is located nearby. Also in Douglas, Maryborough House Hotel is set in 24 acres of listed gardens and woodland. It is a charming eighteenth-century house with a beautifully designed extension featuring excellent conference, banqueting and leisure facilities.
Beyond the City
The historic town of Kinsale is a popular place to visit. It has a wonderful marina and contains some of the best restaurants in the country. Scilly House was built in 1760 and is a mysterious, romantic place offering its guests spectacular sea views and fine California cuisine. In the center of the town, Old Bank House is a perfect blend of Georgian splendor and modern comfort.
In Midleton, Ballymaloe House needs no introduction. This is the home of the famous Darina Allen, the woman responsible for the revival of Irish farmhouse cuisine. All the food served is locally produced, much of it on the Allen's farm itself. There is also a small golf course on the grounds and a lawn tennis court. Nearby in the small village of Cloyne is Barnabrow Country House, a seventeenth-century family-run guesthouse; it's the perfect setting for a relaxing vacation.
In West Cork, Inchydoney Island Hotel is situated on a small island and is an idyllic spot to spend some time. Facilities include a fully equipped thalassotherapy (seawater) spa while there are some lovely sandy beaches close by. Liss Ard Lake Lodge, in Skibbereen, offers luxury accommodation in the midst of an inspiring contemporary park overlooking the lake Abisdealy. It is a small exclusive hotel tailored for the individual guest. West Cork Hotel promises guests one of the warmest welcomes to be found anywhere in Ireland. It is an excellent base from which to explore this part of the country. In the beautiful village of Schull, East End Hotel is a family-run hotel overlooking the harbor. It offers good, affordable accommodation and families are always very welcome.