There is Ireland, and there is Cork. The way some of the inhabitants of Ireland’s second largest city see it, theirs is the true capital of the Irish Republic. Some will even go a step further, jokingly (one might assume) referring to the city as “The People’s Republic of Cork.”
Most countries probably have a city – or a region, even – that is inhabited by people so proud of the place on earth that they call home that they consider themselves more or less self-sufficient. Norway has Bergen, the UK has Manchester, and Spain has Barcelona. Ireland has Cork.
There can be no doubt that Cork’s inhabitants have well-founded reasons for the pride that they take in their hometown. Founded on the river Lee in the 6th century, this is a city with a long history.
Indeed, it has been at the center of history more than once, for example when some of Cork’s most prominent inhabitants participated in the English Wars of the Roses in the 1490s. The consequence of that was the “rebel city” nickname that the “Corkonians” refer to with some pride.
A major Irish seaport, the city also has a rich maritime history. In the period from 1848 to 1950, Cork was the departure port for some 2.5 million emigrants – mostly Irish – who set out to find a better life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1912 the Titanic made her last call in the port town of Cobh, before departing on her ill-fated voyage. Three years later, in 1915, 1,198 lives were lost just off Cobh with the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by a German submarine.
But even though the history is important to Cork, this charming destination is more than its history. Cork is a center of culture and arts, of music and dining. So much so, in fact, that the Lonely Planet guide book included the city in Ireland’s southeast on its top ten list of cities to visit in 2010.
“Sophisticated, vibrant and diverse while still retaining its friendliness, relaxed charm and quickfire wit, Cork buzzes with the energy of a city that’s certain of its place in Ireland,” Lonely Planet said. The best way to visit Cork in our opinion: on a cruise.
Cork For Cruise Passengers
Most cruise ships dock at the Cobh Cruise Terminal, providing for easy access to the historic town of Cobh. The distance from Cobh to Cork is some 16 miles/26 kilometers. Smaller cruise ships (with an overall length not exceeding 499 feet/152 meters) can berth in the heart of the city of Cork.
Do Not Miss
Known as the city of festivals, Cork is a city with a pulse. A good way to tune in to the vibe is to stroll the streets and experience the lively pubs and the excellent restaurants. Try the local seafood: Thanks to Cork’s proximity to the sea, fish and shellfish is often of high quality.
You will find the Cork Vision Centre in the St. Peter’s Church. Visitors are given the opportunity to follow the development from the past to the present – and even get a glimpse of the city’s future. The Cork Vision Centre is located in the heart of Cork’s historic centre, which is an area of the town that you might also want to explore. Street address: St. Peter’s Church, North Main Street
St. Finnbarres Cathedral has been named after Saint Finbarr, who founded Cork in the 6th century. Built in Gothic style, the cathedral is built on the same spot as the original monastery (erected in the year 606). St. Finnbarres Cathedral features detailed mosaics, painted windows and stone sculptures. St. Finnbarres is Cork’s protestant cathedral. A second cathedral – St. Mary’s Cathedral – serves the Roman Catholic faith. Street address (St. Finnbarres Cathedral): Bishop Street
The Lewis Glucksman Gallery promotes the research, creation and exploration of the visual arts. The award-winning building includes display spaces, lecture facilities, a riverside restaurant and gallery shop. Street address: Western Road
Crawford Art Gallery is situated in an old customs house. It features a nice collection of sculptures and paintings – among them works by modern Irish artists. Street address: Emmet Pl.
Triskel Arts Centre is another gallery, located in an old warehouse. Triskel Arts Centre also features a theatre and bars. Street address: Tobin Street
Much of Cork’s wealth from the 18th century forward came from the trading of butter, which was exported to a large number of countries. The Cork Butter Museum gives a fascinating insight into this period of the city’s history. Street address: The Tony O’Reilly Centre, O’Connell Square
Leaders from around the world have travelled to Blarney Castle when visiting Ireland – and perhaps it is easy to understand why. According to popular belief, those who kiss the Blarney Stone will gain the gift of eloquence. The third stronghold to be built on the same spot, the current castle was built in 1446. Distance from Cork: 4.4 miles/7 kilometers
The renowned Jameson Whiskey is produced in Midleton, situated close to Cork. At the Old Midleton Distillery, you can follow the old distillery trail through mills, maltings, corn stores, stillhouse, warehouses and kilns. Distance from Cork: 13.5 miles/21.7 kilometers.
Over a period of 102 years, from 1848 to 1950, more than six million people emigrated from Ireland – many of them to North America. The Cobh Heritage Centre (situated close to the cruise terminal) tells the story of these adults and children who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life. Today, around 40 million North Americans claim Irish ancestry.
For a view of Cobh, visit the St. Colman’s Cathedral. Overlooking the town, the construction of the church was finished in 1919.
A number of shore excursions are on offer in Cork and the surrounding area. Examples include:
- Walking tours of Cork can include many of the city’s most well-known sights, such as the St. Finnbarres Cathedral, the modern opera house, and an art gallery. A coach tour is another option.
- Coach tours of the area surrounding Cork can take you to Blarney Castle (see above under Do Not Miss), Blarney, Kinsale or other quaint villages. Don’t be surprised if you all of a sudden find yourself travelling on a typical Irish hedge-lined country road.
- Some shore excursions will focus almost exclusively on Blarney Castle. The 15th century castle is one of the region’s most noteworthy attractions.
- While in Cobh, you can partake in the Titanic walking and heritage trail – a walking tour following in the footsteps of all of those who emigrated the port of Cobh.
Situated in the southeast of Ireland, the distance from Cork to the capital of Dublin is 155 miles/250 kilometers. Belfast in Northern Ireland is 259 miles/417 kilometers away.
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An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com