The next part of our journey took us to Ireland and a traveller’s dilemma, we were due to dock in Cobh which is a very small resort but was relatively near to the city of Cork. The question was do we spend all our time looking around Cobh or attempt to see both Cobh and Cork.
The fact that the train station was directly next to where the ship docked was a deciding factor and we headed to the platform for the next train to Cork.
We just missed one train but they ran quite frequently and the train station had a small attraction full of models boats of some of the ships that had visited Cobh in the past. This passed the time quite nicely till the next train and the friendly person behind the counter handed out maps for Cork and answered a few questions about the area. The short train ride from Cobh takes around half an hour. The train ride is quite scenic taking you around Lough Mahon and Cork harbour which were full of wading birds.
Cork City is quite spread out with the River Lee dividing the city centre into islands until they reconverge at the quays and docks along the river banks leading outwards Lough Mahon and Cork Harbour which is one of the largest natural harbours in the world.
Cork had its origins as a monastic settlement founded by Saint Finbarr in the 6th century, however it was when the Vikings arrived between 915 and 922 that the site developed as a trading port. The new and old settlements grew over time and defences were built, with a wall around the city, some wall sections and gates still exist.
The city was badly damaged in the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War in the early 20th century. Cork is often referred to as the “the rebel city” and has a ‘friendly’ rivalry with Dublin.
Although the city is quite compact, the train station is a little way out from the city centre and the map certainly came in useful. We made our way across St Patrick’s Bridge to St. Patrick’s Street, one of the main streets of the city which is a main shopping thoroughfare.
At the top of St. Patrick’s Street is a statue to Father Mathew, Father Theobald Mathew to give him his full name was born in 1790 and became known as the Apostle of Temperance. Father Mathew was ordained a Capuchin priest in 1814 and served most of his life in Cork. He became an important character in the first half of the nineteenth century with his work during the temperance crusades of the late 1830s and 1840s. He was also known for his efforts to help people during the cholera epidemic of 1832 and the Great Famine from 1845 to 1850.
The number of pubs and bars in this area suggest that the local population might not be quite as temperate than they may have been in the 19th century.
St. Patrick’s Street, Oliver Plunkett St and Grand Parade are the main shopping areas in Cork and provide an attractive mix of old and new. Penneys, Dunnes Stores and the former Roches Stores are old traditional stores but the area does have a sprinkling of upmarket global brands.
In the Grand Parade is the English Market, the market sells locally produced foods, including fresh fish, meats, fruit and vegetables, artisan cheeses and breads in very pleasant surroundings. There has been a market on this site since at least the 17th century.
Near the market is an unusual early Irish Gothic national monument commemorating the various rebellions, unveiled in 1906.
Another interesting statue is The Echo Boy, Cork is home to one of Ireland’s main national newspapers, the Irish Examiner, It also prints The Echo (formerly the Evening Echo), which for decades has been connected to the “Echo boys”, who were poor and often homeless children who sold the newspaper.
Unfortunately, the dark clouds were gathering and we decided on a quick trip to St Fin Barre’s Cathedral which had a small maze or labyrinth in the churchyard, it is there to aid prayer and calmness.
Mrs Nice seemed not too calm as I sent her around the puzzle. Nearby is the Elizabeth Fort, the remnants of a 17th century fort which is open to the public.
This part of Cork is popular with students and there are a large number of cafes, bars and clubs. Some of the bars had intriguing and humorous names like Fred Zepplins and Sober Lane.
As we started back to the station, the rain began to start and we quickly made our way through the streets. We felt that we had only scratched the surface of the city of Cork and another visit would allow us not only to fully explore the city but also to travel around the area which has lots of various attractions like Blarney Castle, Kinsale and Youghal.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
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