Cork City has much to offer the visitor. It is an historic, creative, exciting, ever-changing city with extraordinary surprises to be discovered every time you turn a corner. You just have to be curious enough to venture off the beaten path. The possibilities are endless. Take a chance, roll the dice and see where it leads you, writes Alison Murray.
I have sought to discover a haven of rest
Where the sun sinks by night in the land of the West
I have dwelt with the red man in green forest bowers
O’er the wild rolling prairie bespangled with flowers
I have hived to the north, where the hardy pine grows
‘Mid the wolf and the bear, and the bleak winter snows
I have roamed through all climates, but none could I see
Like the green hills of Cork and my home by the Lee
Beautiful city, charming and pretty
Beautiful city, my home by the Lee.
Beautiful City, a ballad by John Fitzgerald, is considered by many to be the unofficial anthem of Cork, although The Banks Of My Own Lovely Lee is probably better known nationally, given that it is sung with gusto at almost every GAA event featuring the Rebel county.
Both songs reflect the deep and abiding passion and love that Corkonians hold for their dear city, and it’s easy to appreciate why when one spends any period of time wandering its streets, visiting its many attractions, and savouring its literary and cultural heritage.
This university city was originally a monastic settlement reputedly founded by St. Finbarr in the 6th century. It has a population of just under 120,000, and its centre was built on an island on the River Lee. It is the second largest city in the State and, in 2005, was the European Capital of Culture. This gave the people of Cork a wonderful opportunity to showcase the many diverse and spectacular cultural treasures on their doorsteps.
In this vein, Cork Opera House is as good a place as any to kick-start one’s visit to Cork City. Interestingly, the structure (designed by architect Sir John Benson) was initially built on Anglesea Street but was subsequently deconstructed brick by brick and re-housed on Emmet Place. Sadly, it was destroyed by fire in 1955, but following a ten-year fundraising campaign, it was re-built, this time as a modern theatre designed by Scott Tallon Walker.
n 1993, the Opera House was given a “face-lift” to conform to 21st century architecture and, since then, there have been many improvements to the interior of the building in terms of seating, acoustics, and equipment. The end result is a 1,000 seat auditorium with an orchestral pit for up to seventy musicians, and a fabulous venue for opera, concerts, drama, comedy, and family entertainment.
Just around the corner from the Opera House is the Crawford Art Gallery. This houses a permanent collection of over 2,500 works including 18th century Irish and European paintings, and sculpture including a collection of Greek and Roman casts which were brought to Cork from the Vatican Museum in the early 19th century.
Ideally located just off St. Patrick’s Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, admission to the Crawford is free, and the gallery is open Monday to Saturday 8.30am to 4pm.
No visit to Cork City would be complete without a visit to The English Market, situated just off Oliver Plunkett Street (which was chosen as the winner of the ‘Great Street Award 2016’ by the Academy of Urbanism in the UK).