Cork is a lively Irish city providing a gateway to the south of Ireland. Its youthful (and just young-at-heart) population gravitates to the vibrant pubs and University haunts that fill these cobbled streets. You’ll see standout Victorian architecture at every turn, from the famous English Market to the spires of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral. The waterfront has been revitalised with new attractions and trendy coffee shops, but you’ll also see the traditional side of Ireland here in the city’s cosy pubs and live music scene. The city centre is easy to explore, framing the River Lee.
The English Market is a must-do in Cork, trading in the city centre since 1788. You’ll find artisan bakery goods, fresh produce and seafood under this historic roof. Take a stroll down St Patrick Street to flex your spending muscles along Cork’s main shopping zone, home to department store Brown Thomas and leading to the St Patrick’s Bridge. Have a gander at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, made from Cork limestone and marble, and learn more about the city at the Cork Public Museum. Fitzgerald Park offers a place to gather and enjoy the serenity with its pavilion, water lily pond and fountains.
The majority of cruise ships don’t actually sail into Cork, but rather to the town of Cobh which sits at the mouth of Cork Harbour. Cork city is located 11 miles away, but there are excellent transport links to get you there. Cobh’s train station is directly opposite the terminal, housed in a can’t-miss red-brick Victorian building. Trains are frequent and fast, (extra train services are added when large cruise ships are in port) making this the most efficient option for getting into Cork. Some ships will berth in Ringaskiddy which is also easily accessibly by train, bus and taxi.
There’s no actual terminal building at Cobh, but as you walk off the gangway you’ll be deposited right into a large parking lot. This is where shore excursion and shuttle buses are located, some of which will take you to more extensive parking. It’s best to contact your cruise operator or travel agent for advice regarding long term parking options, as no designated facilities are available here. If you’re cruising from Ringaskiddy’s Deepwater Quay, you’ll find a car park just a short stroll away from the terminal. Taxis are also available at both ports to take you to and from your parking facility.
When wandering around the city centre, the Winthrop Arcade is hard to miss with its Tudor-revival exterior. This elegant building is a shopping arcade, opened in 1926 as one of Ireland’s first indoor malls. The interior is just as elegant as the façade, all bronze window frames, marble flooring and a glass roof overhead.
For a quirky alternative to the art and history museums in Cork, why not visit the Cork Butter Museum? The city was famous for its butter particularly during the 1700s, when the Cork Butter Exchange was the world’s largest. You can learn about its production and export in this small but interesting museum. And if fine art’s more to your liking, visit the Crawford Art Gallery instead.
The Cork City Gaol is a fascinating excursion. Between 1824 and 1923, it housed both male and female prisoners in its imposing walls. You can tour the complex to learn more about the justice system of the time and see how prisoners were treated.
One of Ireland’s top attractions is within easy reach from Cork. The Blarney Castle is a few miles away, home to the famous Blarney Stone. The legend says that those who kiss the stone are given the Irish ‘gift of gab’.