When Alfred and I decided to go to Ireland, the first city we spent a substantial amount of time in was Cork. We flew into Dublin, picked up our rental car, and drove to the city. The drive itself was pretty fantastic. Ireland is a very green country and the views as we drove were beautiful. We saw many small ruins along the way.
Once we arrived in Cork, we stayed at the Imperial hotel which is pretty nice. It’s a refined hotel with upscale rooms and is pretty centrally located. After we settled in, the exploring began.
There’s a lot to see and do in and around Cork…so to help you out, here are the top 5 things you shouldn’t give a try.
1) Kiss the Blarney Stone
Located in Blarney, not too far from Cork, the Blarney Stone is said to bestow the gift of eloquence to those who kiss it. Be prepared though, kissing the stone is a slight acrobatic feat as you must lie on your back and kiss the stone backwards and upside down. It hangs on an outcropping of the castle. Of course, there are helpers who facilitate the process (and they are also rumored to urinate on the stone each morning, haha). Aside from the stone, you can tour the medieval castle ruins, walk around Blarney House, and explore the Rocklose Gardens. It’s a gorgeous setting! Don’t forget to walk through the poison garden. Oh, you can take a pretty cheap bus to Blarney so it’s easy to get to from Cork.
2) Eat at the English Market
The English market is filled with venders selling organic and locally produced food. It’s a sea of beautiful colors and food set-ups in an 18th-century covered building. If you are keen on photographing everyday scenes…color…food…then head to the market. You can also have a great meal here. I remember ours being quite a tasty experience!
3) Climb the Shandon Church Bell Tower
It’s actually called the Church of St. Anne and located in the Shandon district. But locals refer to it as Shandon Church. It sits on a hill near the river and it is quite a beautiful church. The highlight of visiting this place of worship is the ability to climb the church tower to the very top which offers sweeping panoramic vistas of Cork. You also can ring the church bells. There is a book demonstrating how to play different songs on the bells. I played This Land Is Your Land and the sound of the bells rang across the city. If you’re a student, be sure to ask for a student discount! Then climb the 132 steps to the top, see the bells up close, marvel at the inner workings of the clock, and gasp at the 360 degree views.
4) Explore the City
Cork is a vibrant city with a rich history. Just walk around and meander. You’re sure to find something interesting as you do. I remember stumbling into a residential neighborhood and enjoyed watching normal daily life in such a picturesque area. You’ll fine parks, theaters, shops, and great fish and chips. Don’t be afraid to speak to people…everyone is very kind in Cork. I never had a bad experience with anyone.
5) Tour the Jameson Distillery
If you love whiskey then Cork is a great place to visit. The Jameson Experience is something not to be missed. You can gain a real understanding of the work it takes to make uisce beatha. The tour and tasting are typically what people do here and you can buy Jameson whiskey right from the source. We also attended a giant dinner with Irish dancers and plenty of whiskey. It was a great time! So, if you ever find yourself in Cork use this as a launching point. There is so much to see and do in Cork so you’ll have to pick and choose. You can’t possibly do it all in one visit. Just enjoy the laid back attitudes of the locals and enjoy the Irish kindness.
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