Things to Do in Cork - David Kennedy
The River Lee

It’s pretty unlikely that, unless you are spending some extra time in Cork, you will have time during Congress to visit any of the interesting attractions in the City. However I thought I would put a blog up on places to visit so that you can know what else is on offer. Maybe you will come back one day and visit again. Cork would love to see you I’m sure. The following is only a selection of many many places to visit.

City Centre

The English Market appears as a good place to shop and eat and soak up some history. Dating from the 18th Century and refurbished in the 1980s, this Municipal Market is always an essential place to visit whilst in Cork.

Crawford Art Gallery, one of the Congress Venues on Emmett Place, has a permanent collection of art over the last 300 years and regular hosted exhibitions. With a tea room as well this is a restful location to visit and spend some time in.

Cork Butter Museum is a mark of Cork’s history as a key location of butter manufacturing. 150 years ago, Cork was the world’s largest butter market. The Museum tells the story of this major industry amid some interesting neo-classical architecture. The Museum is near Shandon Bells and Tower, on Dominick Street.

Cork Opera House on Emmett Place does not have any shows on during Congress but is an interesting building. The original Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1955 and it was rebuilt in 1963. STW Scott Tallon Walker - one of the sponsors of Congress - were the Architects. In 2000 a renovation including a new modern facade was completed.

Shandon Tower and Bells at St. Anne's Church is a much loved landmark. You can climb to the bells and even try to play a tune on them! There tower is partly white limestone and partly red, reflecting the Cork colours. This is near St Angela’s College, one of the Congress venues.

St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral on Bishop Street is the protestant church for Cork City and an interesting example of Neo-Gothic architecture.

Elizabeth Fort is a star shaped fort on Barrack Street. It was built in 1601 originally, the same year as the battle of Kinsale. It is full of interesting history and was recently opened to the public.

Outside the City Centre

Of considerable interest to Congress delegates is likely to be the Cork Lewis Glucksman Gallery at the University (UCC). This was opened in 2004 and was on the Stirling Prize shortlist in 2005. The architects were O’Donnell and Tuomey. Arup, one of the sponsors of Congress, were the engineers on this project. The building is now a major cultural and arts venue and was opened to the public by the President of the Republic. The Gallery is located accessibly near the main entrance to the UCC campus and overlooking the River Lee. Lewis Glucksman was the benefactor of this building

Cork City Gaol is a museum of punishment in Cork and is located on the North side of the River Lee just across from UCC and Fitzgerald Park. Described as an atmospheric attraction it is highly rated by visitors, although I confess that I have never been.

  • Saint Finbarre's Cathedral
  • The English Market
  • Cook Street, crossing Oliver Plunkett Street, with Holy Trinity
  • Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork
  • Cook Street, crossing Oliver Plunkett Street, with Holy Trinity

Further Afield

Visiting Cork City is a wonderful experience and there is much to keep you there. If you decide to have a day out or two from Cork, then a few ideas are:

Blarney Castle and Gardens. The setting of the castle is very pretty and surrounded by nice places to eat and shop. It is very touristy but will always be attractive because of the Blarney Stone which, of course, you can kiss. Doing so involves lying down on your back and leaning in over (or under) the battlements. There is usually a queue (lots of coach parties here) so use the time to make sure little items like phones, pens, keys and glasses are secured before you lie down!

Cobh and the Queenstown Story. Cobh (Queenstown) was the last place that the Titanic entered port. The former White Star Line offices are still there. The Queenstown Story is at the Cobh Heritage Centre and is a very good portrayal of Irish history and the maritime connections of both Cork and Cobh. There is much here about the exodus or flight of the Irish during the famine, transportation, slave trading, as well as the days of the great liners. The coast of Cork has much history, such as the sinking of the Lusitania near Kinsale, the Fastnet Lighthouse (the teardrop of Ireland), invasions, piracy and much more. One of the Congress visits is to Cobh.

The Old Midleton distillery at Midleton has an Irish Whiskey Museum and Visitor Centre called the Jameson Experience. All Jameson whiskey is produced now in Midleton. Tours and whiskey tastings are offered. Midleton is about 30 minutes East of Cork City.

Kinsale, on the coast South of Cork City is styled as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland and one of my favourite places in the world. A small pretty and characterful fishing port with a still active group of local fishermen, Kinsale takes full advantage of its sheltered location - which was once militarily significant - and the thriving local farming and fishing community, to focus on a restaurant and hotel offer which is hard to surpass. Kinsale is half an hour from Cork and 20 minutes from the airport.

Clonakilty of course won the Great Town Award in 2017, three years after Cork did. Famous for many things, not least the Clonakilty Black and White Puddings, “Clon” is based in a dairy farming area. The Town has made great steps on environmental issues and worked hard at being a good place to visit and to live. The Academy Awards have only been part of their award-winning credentials. There is a post-Congress study trip to Clon.

Skibbereen, beyond Clonakilty, is a place that has been written and sung about more than most others. There is much history to “Skibb” and a walking audio tour brings much of this out, but Skibb will always be associated most strongly with the Famine and hosts the famine museum in the Old Gasworks on Upper Bridge Street. It is thought that about 10,000 people are buried in the famine burial pits on the edge of the town. The population of the area before the famine was thought to be around 60,000. With deaths through famine and the exodus to places such as the USA at that time, the population fell very significantly at that time although exact numbers are hard to determine. The Heritage Centre is well worth a visit.

This is but a starter on what you can do and see around Cork. If you have no time now then think about coming back when you do.


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