By Rachel Diebel
Though not as famous as its northern cousin Dublin, Cork nevertheless has its fair share of attractions for curious visitors. Cork’s fascinating mix of ancient and more recent history as well as its distinctive local flavor expressed in food and sports makes for a trip you’re sure to remember well into the future.
Ring the Shandon Bells
St. Anne’s Church, located right in the middle of Cork, is an eccentric building originally from 1722, but rebuilt and added on to many times. Its tower is a prominent landmark in Cork, with two sides made of white limestone and two of red sandstone. The tower’s colors are said to have inspired Cork’s sports team colors. The church is worth visiting for its architectural oddities, including a large fish-shaped weather vane and a clock nicknamed “the four faced liar,” because the four faces of the clock are never perfectly in sync. The clock’s faces are fourteen feet across, and it served as a model for the more famous Big Ben. The eight huge bells at the top of the tower are the main attraction. The bells, which weigh more than six tons, are supported by the seven-foot thick tower walls and for a fee of £5 you can ring them yourself and take in the spectacular view of Cork from the top of the tower.
Visit the English Market
Visited by the Queen herself in 2011, Cork’s English Market is the oldest and one of the most beautiful of its kind. Seriously damaged by a fire in 1980, the market was rebuilt in the same Victorian style of its original construction, with high-arching doorways and a large fountain as a centerpiece. The reconstruction was so true to the original time period that it won a prestigious architecture award. The market is best known for the variety of fresh fish available for purchase. Cork has long relied on salmon fishing to support the local economy, and the English Market plays an integral part by providing many of the citizens and top restaurants of the area with fresh fish. Stop by and pick up some delicious cheese and fruit from the food counters and have a picnic in the nearby Bishop Lucey Park!
Watch Some Gaelic Sports
If you’re up for some rowdy and fun local culture, make your way to the local Gaelic Athletic Association grounds. Gaelic football and Gaelic hurling are two very popular (and very Irish) sports in the area. Gaelic hurling is said to be the fastest game played on a turf field. A combination of lacrosse and field hockey, the matches are incredibly fun to watch, particularly when surrounded by passionate fans of the home team. Gaelic football is a more obscure form of English football (what Americans call soccer), and is extremely popular in Ireland. To do things the Irish way, grab a pint before a match, don the red and white jerseys of the Cork team and join in on the chanting and fun!
Remember the Titanic at Cork Harbor
Just downstream from Cork City on the River Lee is Cork Harbor, a naturally occurring harbor and a common stop for cruise ships. Cork Harbor has many claims to fame, from hosting the oldest yacht club in the world to being a haven for many rare species of birds. Perhaps its biggest attraction, however, is that it was the final port of call for the doomed ship Titanic. Standing near the water among the original buildings, streets and piers of the Titanic’s time provides a real sense of wonder and a spectacular view of the harbor–the last view of dry land that many of the Titanic’s passengers would have seen.
Cork: Sergio Fernandez via Flickr
Shandon Bell: Olivier Bruchez via Flickr
Cork English Market: LWYang via Flickr
Gaelic Hurling: Seamus Walsh via Flickr
Cork Harbor: psyberartist via Flickr