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CORK – MOST DIVERSE, MOST VIBRANT
Situated on the south coast, is Irelands second city, Cork. Affectionately known by locals as the Peoples Republic of Cork, the locals like to think of it as their own little country playing by their own rules. The nickname for the county is the Rebels, which gives you an indication that Corkonians are resilient and proud of their city and county, but they also want to share it with you so you can believe the hype. They will give you many reasons why Cork is one of the best places to visit in Ireland, and luckily they are right. Cork is one of the most diverse, vibrant, historical and cultural parts of Ireland.
Known in the Gaelic tongue as Corcaigh, settlement here dates back to the 6th century, when like most of Ireland, ecclesiastical settlements were built. The city really only started to gain traction in the 10th century when Viking settlers stayed in the area. Cork sits on the River Lee and Cork Bay is a major focal point on the south coast, meaning it was a coveted area in times past. Cork was granted city charter in 1185, which shows its rapid growth. As with most major Irish cities of the time, Cork was once completely walled. Most of these walls have now disappeared, but you can still see remnants of wall sections and gates around the city. Back through its history, Cork has always been at the centre of conflicts regarding the warring factions of the times, be it from Vikings, the Normans or the British. It gained its nickname of the Rebels, due to its part of the Rebellion in the English War of the Roses in the late 15th Century. Since the 19th century, it has been known as a strongly Irish Nationalist city, and it played a major part in modern Irish history during the early 20th century and the Irish War of Independence.
ENTERTAINMENT AND CULTURE
Cork is known as the capital of the South of Ireland, which is no surprise given its location and size. Cork has a population of 120,000, but this can be expanded to around 400,000 for the general metropolitan area around the city. The city is now a quintessential modern European city, as evidenced by the award of the 2005 European City of Culture. A visit to this city will show you why this honour was bestowed on Cork. The sheer amount of theatres, festivals, music events, art galleries and food events points the way that this is a city that has its finger on the pulse. It would be impossible to go through all of them here, but be sure to check out what is happening and where to check out when you visit. The Cork Film Festival has been held every year since 1956 making it one of the oldest European film festivals. It is a showcase for Irish film production, along with a mix of big budget pictures, world cinema, independent films, documentaries and short films from all over the world. Cork Jazz Festival and Live at the Marquee are the signature music events that are held in Cork every year. The artists vary but you will always find something that you will like.
Many other small and independent companies put on performances throughout the year, Check out the best from the Corcadorca Theatre Company, the Granary Theatre, the Everyman Palace Theatre and the Graffiti Theatre Company. The Cork Academy of Dramatic Art should also be checked out, as should the Triskel Christchurch independent cinema which always has showing of great films and those not very well known movies.
The Crawford College of Art and Design and the Cork School of Music constantly provide new blood to the scene in Cork and new events are constantly being held so check these out regularly. The Cork Opera House and the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery showcases new and established artists all the time. After filling your culture quota, why not take the time to peruse some of Corks best shopping streets. Patrick Street is the most famous and well know so take the time to amble along the best of high street stores and local shops where you will find those speciality items you cannot find elsewhere. Oliver Plunket Street and Grand Parade are also well known shopping districts. As you move further out of the main shopping streets, you will of course find those out of the way locations selling trinkets where many a bargain can be found.
As mentioned previously, Cork has a long and varied history, and this can be seen in the many buildings around the city. Many still date from the middle ages and a tour around the city will open up many of these places to you. The best known medieval location is the Red Abbey which was built in the 14th century. Elisabeth Fort is a 17th construct, sitting on a strategic point above the city. It is currently being renovated and will be open as a visitor centre in the near future.
Cork is home to two large and beautiful cathedrals, the Catholic St. Marys Cathedral and the Church of Ireland St. Fin Barres Cathedral. These are architectural delights that tower over the city and a visit to these should definitely not be missed. Many other places in the city such as the City Hall, the grounds at University College Cork, and Fitzgeralds Park (which holds Corks Public Museum) should also be sought out.
Cork is especially known for its influence on Irish food. When visiting Cork, be sure to try some local delicacies such as spiced beef, drisheen (a type of blood sausage) and crubeens (pigs trotter). If these are not to your fancy, why not try some of the more modern food and techniques at the many establishments around the city. A visit to Cork would not be the same without a visit to the English market. This eclectic mix of stalls and shops sells lots of local produce from fruit and veg, to cheese, meat, breads and other types of artisan produced goods. The market has been in place since 1788 so you know it is doing something right.
Whether you are looking for a quick bite for lunch, or something more substantial later in the day, Cork has many establishments to draw you in. As it is such a diverse city, you will find many different types of cuisine from one street to the next. The best of Irish, European, Asian, African and American is offered here, the only problem is choosing what you want to eat!
If you want to go all out, Cork has its award winning restaurants. Jacques and Les Gourmandies are stellar places that will provide you with the best of service and food, but you will need to book prior to your visit. Liberty Grill, Café Paradiso and Star Anise are other great locations where you will be guaranteed a great meal. However, there are many other places that you can just happen upon where you will still get that great meal to sate you. Just take a stroll, have a look around and work up that appetite.
QUENCHING THAT THIRST
Cork has some of the best pubs in Ireland dotted all around the city and further afield. Take your time to pick your way through some of the best pubs and find what you are looking for. From the typical Irish bar, with traditional Irish music playing in the evenings, to the more modern sports bar, to the hip, chic and urbane bars, Cork has it all, depending on your preference. Have a pint of the black stuff here, but be aware that the local stout Murphys is more popular than Guinness in a lot of locations. Indeed, the Franciscan Well Brewery is located in the city. Named Best Microbrewery in Ireland in 2008, you can sample many of the less commercial and fuller bodied beers that they produce. The nightlife in Cork is second to none so be prepared to party if this is your thing.
HOW TO GET THERE
Travelling to and inside Cork is simple. Fly to the International airport, located on the outskirts of the city, and you can be in the centre in a short time. There are rail and bus connections from Dublin and bus connections from Shannon, all from where International flights also arrive if you want to get from there. By car, Cork is very well connected by motorways so it will not take you long to drive from either of these locations. In Cork itself, it is easy to get around the city centre on foot, but do take advantage of the bus system and taxis if you are going that little further afield and require to make that journey a little shorter.
WHERE TO STAY?
As it is a large city, Cork and the surrounding county has a plethora of choices of where to stay when visiting. If you are staying in Cork on a budget, if you are going all out, or you are visiting last minute, you will find a multitude of places to choose from. There are many hostels, apartments, B&B’s and family friendly hotels for those who are travelling on the cheap, check out any local deals and special offers for many of these places. From the City Suites Holiday apartments, and the Gabriel House Bed and Breakfast, to Kinlay House Hostel. For the more middle market hotels, the Gresham Metropole and the Maldron Cork in the city centre have a swimming pool and a spa, while the Silver Springs Moran Cork is a wonderful 4 star hotel located to the east of the city.
The Cork International Airport Hotel is conveniently located a short walk from the terminal, if you want to stay close to the airport soon after landing. For the ultimate in luxury, the spectacular 5 star Hayfield Manor is located to the west of the city centre where you will be looked after in the most luxurious surroundings. With its Beautique spa and swimming pool, you will have the most relaxing time here. For whatever your purpose or length of visit, if you come in the summer or at Christmas, you will definitely be able to find your accommodation requirements in Cork.
Price rangefrom €15to €262
- Hotel Ambassador & Health Club4from €65
- Hotel Gresham Metropole3from €86
- Hotel Commons Express Inn3from €66
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- Hotel Fota Island Resort5from €165
- Hotel River Lee4from €123
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