Unpopping Cork

If you want to discover a really beautiful side of the Emerald Isle whilst enjoying cosmopolitan city life, some of the country’s best beaches – and a whole lot more besides than Cork has it all.

Situated towards the south west corner of Ireland, the people from Cork will tell you its Ireland’s real capital city. Of course the reality is that it’s Ireland’s second city after Dublin and as with most countries’ major cities – there’s an intense rivalry between the two.

Cork is packed full of fantastic restaurants along with some of the friendliest people on the planet. There’s a lot to do and see within the city – but if you’re coming here, make sure you have some kind of transport (a hire car is probably easiest), as the countryside in all directions won’t leave anyone disappointed.

Whilst in Cork itself, you have to see a little Gaelic sport. Of course, you can see Gaelic football and hurling in other parts of the country – but rarely both at a high level as you can here. That’s because the county of Cork is one of only a couple of ‘dual counties’ in the country – which means both major Gaelic sports of Gaelic football and hurling are competed at – and at a high level.

Ireland is also famous for its love of gambling on sport – and gambling on Gaelic games with exchanges like Betfair – and with bookmakers it is immensely popular. Currently, teams from the city play in the county’s top divisions in both hurling and Gaelic football though the former has generally enjoyed the greater success. In fact, Cork have won the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship on 30 separate occasions and this helps give you some idea of just what an obsession the sport is in this part of the world. At the same time, the Cork team has also won the All-Ireland Senior (Gaelic…) Football Championship on seven occasions.

You also need to visit the famous spires of the city’s Protestant cathedral while you’re here. It’s got a distinctly gothic feel with gargoyles and spires and ornate sculptures. Legend has it that a golden angel on the east side of the old cathedral will blow her horn as the Apocalypse is about to start. Thankfully, she hasn’t sounded it just yet, so you should have time to book your trip.

Also – check out the famous English market. This is a market choc full of tempting delicacies with a particular emphasis on foods produced in this part of the world such as ham, cheese, buttered eggs, local sausages, soda bread and smoked salmon.

You’ll also want to go to Shandon too. This is a great viewing point from which to see the city and surroundings countryside and better still, it’s free. Shandon is set on the hillside with excellent views of Cork’s city centre from the north. It’s also a little cosmopolitan and bohemian hotspot, with numerous antique shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants along the area’s ancient narrow lanes and squares. These old row houses are tiny, yet it was in these houses where many generations of workers raised enormous families in relatively poverty-stricken circumstances. Nevertheless, today these are regarded as highly desirable trendy residences, which command very high prices as urban pieds-à-terre for this wonderful city. At Shandon you’ll also find the

The Church of St Anne. This is a Church of Ireland church on the hilltop, which overlooks the River Lee. The church tower is a famous landmark and symbol of Cork itself.

If you’re an art lover, then you’ll appreciate the city’s main art gallery which houses a permanent collection covering the period form the 17th century to the present day. There are works here by Jack B Yeats, Nathaniel Hone, Sir John Lavery, as well as one room completely devoted to Irish female artists from the late nineteenth century to 1978.

These are just a few suggestions of the things you might want to see and do while you’re here. But of course, if you’ve got any sense, you’ll simply want to come to one of Cork’s wonderful pubs (or possibly several) and enjoy a few pints of Guinness, Murphy’s Irish stout – or again – perhaps both. That’s the thing about this city – it makes you feel like taking it easy and concentrating on the finer things in life.

But, if you really want to do things and the suggestions above don’t really do it for you – then have a look at the city’s official tourist guide and pick out a few activities. There’s always something going on in Cork whenever you come – it really is a full programme in this most cosmopolitan of all cities in Ireland.

The same can be said of the surrounding countryside and the beautiful beaches. But of course – summer is generally preferable for the beaches (though they have a windswept and quiet charm at other times of the year too).

Whenever you come, one thing’s for sure – you’ll want to return again and again.