History of Cork
Ireland’s second largest city owes its size to the trade that came through Scandinavian trade links in the beginning of the first millenium. The city still has a major seaport and this forms a large part of the city’s revenue. The city itself is actually built on the River Lee, and the centre is on an island created by various channels of water. The River Lee then flows into one of the world’s largest natural harbours where the port of Cork is situated.
Places to visit
Cork has twice been the European Capital of Culture within the past decade, in 2005 and 2009, whilst it was listed in Lonely Planet’s top ten “Best Places to Travel in 2010”. Cork’s top attractions include Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral a beautiful ode to Early French architecture which was completed in 1879 is well worth a visit. The interior is impressively made up of marble mosaics and stained glass windows depicting scenes from the bible.
For Cork’s main shopping experience it recommended that you head to St. Patrick’s Street. The street is lined with popular shops and is the main high street in Cork, found in the downtown area. For a more exclusive and scenic shop, you should head to the English Market. It is easy to miss the market as it is found within another building and you have to walk through one of a few gates to get into the enclosed area. The market is where the majority of Cork’s restaurants buy their fresh produce and you will find a large array of foods, a large part of which being organic. Another market is the Coal Quay Market which can be found in the centre of Cork, where you are bound to find a treat. The market has products ranging from furniture and clothes to fresh fish and organic cakes. It is advised that you visit the market on a Friday or Saturday, as that is when the quality and quantity of products on offer are at their highest.
If you want to regain or top-up your eloquence, you should head to Blarney Castle where you can kiss the ‘Blarney Stone’. The stone is also known as the ‘Stone of Eloquence’ and by kissing it, you will suddenly become eloquent, if you weren’t already that is! However you shouldn’t visit the castle only for the Blarney Stone, you should also visit the surrounding Rocklose Gardens that have a lot of different stone formations and the gardens also have Blarney House, a large mansion that is open for visits. The castle is located just out of the centre on the river Martin.
To integrate properly into Irish culture, you should also try to see some form of Gaelic sports such as Gaelic football or hurling. Both are played mainly in the summer at Pairc Ui Chaoimh Stadium located at Cork’s Marina Walk. You can also go and see horse or greyhound racing at Curraheen Park.
If you have time it is highly recommended that you venture outside of central Cork and visit west Cork as some of the small villages and rural areas are stunningly beautiful. By driving out of Cork, westward, you will experience exactly why green is Ireland’s national colour, as you will see amazing vistas of rolling hills and natural lakes. You should head to Ireland’s most southwesterly point, Mizen Head to look out over the sea from the Light Signal station that was built in 1905 to keep ships from hitting the rocks in the fog. Bantry House is an incredible former private home that has been open to the public since 1945. The house itself is well worth a visit and almost better than the house is the views that it commands over Bantry Bay.
If you’re out in the Southwest, profiting from County Cork’s amazing scenery you may like to see some natural wonders and go whale and dolphin watching. Over recent years, over 12 cetacean species have been spotted in West Cork’s waters and one of the main reasons is the clear, unpolluted nature of the water. Autumn is the season where you will probably find the highest variety of different whales, while Minke whales start arriving in the waters as early as March.
How to get to Cork
Plane - Over 15 airlines fly to over 68 destinations with over 60 flights a day. This makes the airport the second busiest airport in Ireland after Dublin and links Cork to the majority of the rest of Europe.
Train - Within the city centre, two tram lines operate and the main rail link to Cork is Dublin. You can catch a train in the city centre from Kent Station and the journey will take 3-4 hours depending on the train. You can catch trains to all other large Irish cities from Cork.
Boat - Cork’s port is the busiest in Ireland and there are subsequently regular services to destinations in France and the United Kingdom. The port is located in Ringaskiddy, 15km from Cork city centre and is linked by the N28 road.
Car - The M8 motorway links Cork to Dublin and the journey will take roughly three hours. Since the 1980’s Cork City Council has worked hard to improve the quality of surrounding A-roads and the infrastructure is now of a high standard.
Coach - The city is well serviced by buses that link the centre to suburbs, the port and the airport. Long distance bus journeys will depart from the central terminal in Parnell Place. There are many services including Euroline which travels to South Wales, Bristol and London Victoria.