Cork, Ireland

Cork was founded in the 6th century. It was protected by 20 foot walls and 16 towers from the 13th through the 17th centuries. Those defenses are gone but the welcome mat is out for your visit to an island city formed by the River Lee.

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1 Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, Ireland

The late 19th century Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral sits on a hill where its namesake established a monastery in 606 AD. The French Neo-gothic structure faced with Cork limestone was designed by William Burges. He was 35 when he won the competition. Unfortunately, this eccentric yet brilliant architect died before the sculptures on this magnificent façade were finished. You may enjoy seeing his work on Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch in my Wales gallery.

6 Bishop St, The Lough, Cork, Ireland
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2 Tympanum of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, Ireland

There have been three churches on this site going back 1,400 years. Saint Finbarr built the first early in the 7th century. It is assumed he is buried nearby. A medieval cathedral was demolished in 1785 yet the west tower remains. It was followed by another cathedral that was poorly regarded and torn down in the early 1860s. The current cathedral was started in 1865. By the time it was finished in 1879, it exceeded the budget by almost seven times. These impressive tympanums feature the following scenes (left to right): Expulsion from Paradise, The Last Judgement and Abraham Sacrificing Isaac.

6 Bishop St, The Lough, Cork, Ireland
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3 Sculptures Adorning Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, Ireland

There are over 1,250 sculptures outside and inside of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral. This ensemble is five of them on the western façade. They are called the Wise Virgins, representing those who are prepared for Judgement Day. Many of these works were carved by Thomas Nicholls. He is the same 19th century sculptor who adorned the Cardiff Castle, created the first phase of the Animal Wall in Cardiff plus decorated Castell Coch in Wales. All of these works are shown on this website.

6 Bishop St, The Lough, Cork, Ireland
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4 South Channel Elbow of the River Lee in Cork, Ireland

The North Channel of the River Lee is fairly straight. The South Channel has more of a serpentine flow. Together they create an island where the historic center of Cork was built. This gorgeous scenery along a side street named Crosse’s Green is where the South Channel makes its sharpest turn. A Dominican priory was established near here in 1229. Then this area became a major industrial center until the 1970s when it fell into a sharp decline. Now it is a quiet neighborhood that I suspect few tourists see and enjoy.

6 Crosse's Green, The Lough, Cork, Ireland
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5 Rolling Stones Irish Tour Mural in Cork, Ireland

This mural is tribute to The Rolling Stones, the counterculture rock and roll band formed in 1962. In January of 1965, they performed six times during their Irish Tour including two shows at the Savoy Theatre in Cork. This mural celebrates the 50th anniversary of the concert. Featured left to right are: Keith Richards (guitarist), Bill Wyman (bass guitar) and legendary Mick Jagger.

7 Crosse's Green, The Lough, Cork, Ireland
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6 St. Anne’s Church Bell Tower in Cork, Ireland

The Italianate-style bell tower of St. Anne’s church has been a landmark of Cork’s Shandon neighborhood since it was built in 1722. Perched 164 feet above is a gilded fish weathervane. Just below are two clocks. Notice how they are several minutes apart? The other two on this tower probably display different times. This is why the tower is nicknamed, “The Four-face Liar.” You can climb the 132 steps for a great view of Cork and ring the the eight Shandon Bells in the belfry.

30 Church St, Shandon, Cork, Ireland
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7 Firkin Crane in Cork, Ireland

This circular building opened in 1855 as part of the Butter Exchange. Its peculiar name is derived from the Danish word “firkin” for a nine gallon barrel of butter and “crane,” a type of weight used to measure butter. From 1924 through the 1970s, it was occupied by James Daly & Sons, a margarine manufacturer. After a devastating fire in 1980, it was restored and became the Institute of Choreography and Dance. Today, Firkin Crane remains dedicated to dance performances, training and research.

5 John Redmond St, Shandon, Cork, Ireland
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8 Saint Mary’s Dominican Church in Cork, Ireland

Saint Mary’s Dominican Church is a landmark on Pope’s Quay facing the River Lee. Those six Ionic fluted columns are 33 feet tall. The neoclassical design was donated by architect Kearns Deane. Above the pediment is a statue of the Virgin Mary with outstretched hands. The religious icon was sculpted by James Cahill. This Roman Catholic church opened in 1839.

46 Popes Quay, Shandon, Cork, Ireland
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9 Saint Mary’s Priory in Cork, Ireland

In 1224, the first Dominican arrived in Cork, seven years after Pope Honorius III approved of the Order of Preachers by a papal bull. Within five years, the friars constructed a church called Sancta Maria de Insula (St. Mary of the Isle). They moved several times during the next six hundred years. Their most challenging times were in the mid-16th century when they were persecuted by Henry VIII. The king confiscated their property and belongings. This building became their monastery in the early 19th century. There are currently eight friars living in this community plus four brothers in the novitiate program.

69 Dominick St, Shandon, Cork, Ireland
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10 Cork Opera House in Cork, Ireland

Cork’s first opera venue, named the Athenaeum, opened in 1855, was renamed Munster Hall in 1873 and then the Cork Opera House in 1877. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1955. Ten years later it was replaced with this glass facade and then renovated in 2003. The performing arts facility has an auditorium capable of accommodating 1,000 people plus an intimate theater for a couple hundred. Check out their lineup of musical, theater and comedy events while you are in town.

Emmett Pl, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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11 St. Patrick’s Bridge Spanning North Channel in Cork, Ireland

There are ten bridges spanning the North Channel of the River Lee in Cork. The triple-arched, 168 foot St. Patrick’s Bridge was constructed in 1861. It replaced an earlier one from the late 18th century that was washed away in an 1853 flood. The buildings on the left face Camden Quay. On the other side of the bridge along the north bank is St. Patrick’s Quay. On the south side is a major shopping district of the city.

7 Lavitt's Quay, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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12 Opera Lane Shopping District in Cork, Ireland

Opera Lane is an excellent place to take your credit card for a stroll while visiting Cork. It is also the newest retailing complex. There are about a dozen fashion stores clustered around a plaza shared with the Opera House and located on St. Patrick Street. How Irish is that? If your feet and billfold need more exercise, explore Merchants Quay nearby. Shopaholics might also want to visit the Mahon Point and Wilton shopping malls outside of the city center.

11 Emmett Pl, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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13 Costa Coffee Shop in Cork, Ireland

So you need a cup of coffee to start your day or as a pick-me-up while touring Ireland. Relax: it is easy to find a Starbucks. But did you really travel all of this way for a cup of joe you can get at home? Try Cosa Coffee! Founded in London in 1971, the £1.1 billon company has over 3,200 locations and 5,000 vending machines, making it the world’s second largest coffee chain. Unfortunately, they don’t sell THAT kind of Irish coffee.

5 Emmett Pl, Centre, Cork, T12 TX00, Ireland
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14 Bishop Lucey Park Gate in Cork, Ireland

Cork became a chartered city in 1185. Part of the 800th anniversary of this event was the opening of Bishop Lucey Park. While excavating the area, archeologists discovered remnants of the Hopewell Castle and the wall that encircled the city during the Middle Ages. The namesake for this public greenspace is Cornelius Lucey, the Catholic Bishop of Cork from 1951 until he retired in 1980. This is the park’s arched gate. When it was constructed in 1860, it was the entrance to the city’s corn market on Angelesea Street.

27-28 Grand Parade, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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15 English Market in Cork, Ireland

When your stomach grumbles while visiting Cork, treat it to the English Market. Outside you can savor this Victorian façade designed by Sir John Benson and finished in 1881. Although it suffered a major fire 99 years later, it was lovingly restored by the Cork City Council. Inside are rows of fresh produce, meats, fish and other edibles plus a few places to sit down. Foodies will love this historic and culinary experience.

24 Grand Parade, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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16 Parliament Bridge Spanning South Channel in Cork, Ireland

Parliament Bridge is a limestone arch above the River Lee. It was built in 1806 based on a design by William Hargrave. It is not the oldest of the dozen bridges crossing the South Channel. Clarke’s Bridge dates back to 1776 and the South Gate Bridge was constructed in 1713. In the background is the spire of Holy Trinity Church.

Parliament St, Ballintemple, Cork, Ireland
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17 Holy Trinity Church Steeple in Cork, Ireland

The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin was founded in 1520 as a stricter version of the Franciscans. When the first Capuchin friars arrived in Cork in 1637, they lived in poverty and suffered persecution through the early part of the 19th century. The Holy Trinity Church opened in 1850. The Catholic church faces the River Lee on Fr. Mathew Quay, named after Father Theobald Mathew. He was the inspiration for its construction and called the “Apostle of Temperance” for his crusade against alcohol. On the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1890, this magnificent steeple was added.

11 Father Mathew Quay, Centre, Cork, T12 CYR9, Ireland
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18 Two Sculls in the Port of Cork in Cork, Ireland

There are three rowing clubs in Cork, some dating back to the late 19th century. However, the folks manning these oars are tourists enjoying the harbor near dusk. The Port of Cork accommodates vessels of every size, from dinghies to freighters, ferries and cruise ships. It is the largest seaport in southern Ireland.

Cé Andarsan & Custom House Quay, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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19 City Coat of Arm Relief on Custom House in Cork, Ireland

Beneath the roofline of the Custom House near the port is this relief of the city’s coat of arms. The crest features a sailing ship with three masts between two castle towers. In English, the banner reads, “A Safe Harbour for Ships.” Built in 1819 based on a design by Abraham Hargrave, the building has housed the Cork Harbour Commissioners since 1904. However, it was announced in May of 2016 that this landmark on Custom House Quay is for sale.

Custom House Quay & N27, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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