The Easirent Cork Heritage Guide
Rich in history and legend, Cork has seen its fair share of important events and notable residents and residencies over the course of the last 1000 years. The Rebel City sits around the winding River Lee, which forks in the heart of Cork with many of the city’s most important and treasured building situated around its banks. Cork has myriad buildings and within them an infinite amount of stories to tell. Here are some of our favourites…
As we covered in our Cork City Guide there are a number of fantastic museums and historical institutions all over Cork and the surrounding areas, so many in fact, that we couldn’t include them all but be sure to hire one of our Cork hire cars to fully explore the local area including all the historic landmarks! Here are some of our favourites.
If you are interested in the history of Cork city and the larger Cork county then make a trip to the Cork Public Museum. Situated in a converted Georgian house within Fitzgerald Park, Cork Public Museum houses artefacts from the bronze and iron ages, some finds from excavations from around the city’s medieval walls, as well as ancient Greek and Egyptian relics. The museum also has an on-site café, and is right in the heart of the city.
For further insights into Cork’s past pay a visit to the Lifetime Lab at the Old Cork Waterworks. Situated on the River Lee, the Old Cork Waterworks has all manner of interactive exhibits which tell the story of how Cork expanded in the Victorian ages and the measures taken and innovations discovered that helped the city grow and prosper. The Old Cork Waterworks is a 5-minute drive from the centre of town.
If you fancy a day trip outside of the city, then pack the car and head 45-minutes East to neighbouring Cobh, where you will find the Cobh Museum. Situated on the edge of town overlooking the water and nearby Spike Island, Cobh Museum further explores the importance of the sea and the associated industries tied to the Cork county region.
Cobh Museum also has a number of artefacts from the Lusitania, the great passenger liner that was controversially sunk by German U-boats during the first World War. What’s more, Cobh Museum is located inside an old church, so fans of religious architecture may want to pay the building a visit.
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Art fans will want to pay a visit to the Crawford Art Gallery. Formerly one of Cork’s pre-eminent art schools, the Crawford now welcomes more than 200,000 visitors a year, and houses all manner of contemporary and historic art. The Crawford’s crowning pieces are arguably those by the 18th century sculptor Antonio Canova, with a number of casts of classical Roman and Greek statues that were originally commissioned by the Vatican. A number items in the gallery are related to the building’s association with the Cork School of Art/Crawford College of Art and Design with a number of pieces by former students and tutors. In total there are around 4000 pieces in the Crawford, so set aside a good amount time if you plan on visiting. The Crawford is a 15-minute drive from the city centre.
There is also the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, which has been at the forefront of the Cork contemporary art scene since opening in 2004. International artists such as Damien Hirst have exhibited in the Glucksman, but the building itself is a thing of art in its own right, having won a number of design and architecture awards. The Lewis Glucksman gallery is a 5-minute drive from the city centre, over-looking the River Lee on the edge of the University College Cork campus.
Lastly there’s also the 2020 Gallery just to the North of the River Lee. Dedicated to Irish contemporary art and supporting the Cork cultural and artistic scene, the 2020 gallery is becoming increasingly popular, having been located in several different buildings before settling in its current home on Farren’s Quay. Visitors can browse and buy all manner of pieces, with private viewings available for serious art collectors and contemporary art enthusiasts alike.
Public Parks and Gardens
The biggest and most beloved park in all of Cork is easily Fitzgerald Park, perfect for a stroll, a sit, a picnic or an adventure! Fitzgerald houses the Cork Public Museum, but also has all manner of attractions and facilities for all the family, such as a children’s play area, grand trees lining the paths, and the impressive central fountain. Fitzgerald Park is right in the centre of Cork, between the two forks of the River Lee.
There’s also Ballincollig Regional Park, a 15-minute drive West of the city in neighbouring Ballincollig. Located either side of the winding River Lee, Ballincollig Regional Park is ideal for lovers of nature and the great outdoors, and is a fantastic setting for a hike or a stroll. Ballincollig Regional Park is also home to a play area and skate-park, as well as the charming and enchanting Fairy Walk. The park is very popular, especially at weekends so parking can be difficult.
For fans of blues music, and those with morbid curiosity, then make a trip to St. Oliver’s Cemetery, resting place of Irish blues legend Rory Gallagher. Gallagher has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential guitarists in rock music history. Many fans make the pilgrimage to the site, so if you are a fan of Gallagher it may be worth your time. St. Oliver’s Cemetery is a 10/15-minute drive West of the city.
The most striking and impressive of all of Cork’s buildings is the City Hall, a breath-taking piece of architecture which commands attention and respect. Standing proud overlooking the River Lee that flows through the heart of Cork, the City Hall contains a concert hall and is open to the public, and is a major candidate for some impressive holiday photographs.
For further photographs, especially for cracking cityscape photos, then make a trip to the Elizabeth Fort located on the appropriately named Fort Street. Elizabeth Fort has only been open to the public since 2014, but is the place to go if you want a stunning view and maybe catch a historic re-enactment or two. Built in the 1400s, the Fort has been integral to the defence of Cork for centuries, having been a police station for the Garda until very recently. Elizabeth Fort is a 10-minute drive from the centre of Cork.
For the Harry Potter fans out there (and we know there’s a lot of you) then take a visit to the grounds of University College Cork. Although not any relevance to the Potter Universe, the college itself looks like a real-life Hogwarts, and even for non-fans of all things Potter, is well worth a visit just to walk the grounds and take in the stunning scenery and architecture on hand. The University grounds are a 3-minute drive from the centre of town, near to Fitzgerald Park.
And finally there is Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, which also has a look of Hogwarts about it. Punctuated by three large intimidating spires, the Cathedral is a beautiful example of 19th century Gothic revival architecture and is dedicated to Finbarr, the Patron Saint of Cork, who is said to have lived in the 6th century. Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a 5-minute drive from the city centre, just off Dean Street.
Relics and Cultural Attractions
One of Ireland’s most infamous legends and relics lies just outside of Cork city; the Blarney Stone. Legend says whoever kisses it shall be blessed with the gift of the gab and a renewed confidence, but kissing it is not as straight forward as kissing any old stone. Located at the top of Blarney Castle, those who wish to kiss the stone and gain eloquence must lean backwards over a sheer drop and while upside down reach and place their lips on the stone’s surface.
Luckily, there are a number of safety precautions in place to prevent accidents, but you must still exercise caution if doing so, and make sure you have someone there to hold your legs for support! The Blarney Stone aside, Blarney Castle is a 15th century relic with a number of accessible halls and rooms, despite the majority of the castle now being an ancient ruin. The castle is also surrounded by wonderful gardens and lush greenery and is highly recommended, especially for those with a love of all the legends and stories that are quintessentially Irish. Blarney Castle is a 20/25-minute drive West of Cork city.