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A Tour of Cork City

Starting at the top of Patrick's Street at Daunt Square (outside McDonalds), on your left you will see The Queen's Old Castle (8). Although now a shopping centre, it was one of the entrances to the city when the streets were a maze of waterways. Walking through the shopping centre, you will emerge onto the North Main Street, where many attractive shops are located. Turn right and walk the length of the street, cross over the North Gate Bridge (on your left archaeological excavations are in progress). Facing you is Shandon Street which is quite a steep climb. Half way up the hill to the right is Shandon Steeple (1). Seen on TV as the background to a Murphy's Stout advert, up to recently it was known as " the four faced liar" as each of its four clocks used to show a different time. Built in 1722 the steeple has red sandstone (south) and limestone (west) walls, from which the colours of the Cork hurling and football teams are taken. Its famous chime of 8 bells, can be rung by visitors for a small fee. The Shandon Craft and Firkin Crane centres are located nearby in the old Butter Exchange, from where casks of salted butter were exported world-wide since 1770. Nowdays it is an arts, dance and theatre centre.

Continue to the top of Shandon Street where The North Cathedral (2) is located. Records of baptisms and marriages have been kept here from 1748, and this is an excellent source for visitors wishing to trace their family history. Follow Roman Street and John Street back downhill to the river and facing you is the Opera House (5). The Cork Opera House presents a variety of entertainment, drama and music, and is one of the main venues for the annual Guinness Jazz Festival (last weekend in October). Top artists and drama companies from all over the world stage a summer season with high entertainment and cultural value to attract both visitors and locals.

A little further along Lavitt's Quay is Cork Arts Society Gallery (4), which hosts continual exhibitions of fine art, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, batiks etc. Continue west along the quay and you will come to a footbridge, you can often see large flocks of swans and other birds nearby. The Granary Theatre (23) is a little further on and the road leads on (walking only due to 1-way traffic flow) to the Mardyke Walk. The Walk dates from 1719 and is still a favorite of the people of Cork. At the far end of the Mardyke are the University College Sports Grounds (24). The new running track here has hosted Ovett, Coe, Walker, Cochlan, to mention but a few. Back in 1984 the Russians broke the World Hammer record here six times at one meeting. Situated just off the Mardyke are Fitzgerald's Park and City Museum (27). The Park is a relaxing blend of riverside walks, trees, flower beds and a natural lake with a fountain. Across the river you can see many interesting buildings including Cork City Gaol. This magnificent "castle style" 19th century building was a womens prison. Today visitors can take a guided tour through furnished cells, with lifelike characters, sound effects and view exhibitions and experience the day-to-day life style of a 19th century prison. The gaol can be easily reached by crossing the "shaky bridge" (a suspension style pedestrian footbridge).

Across the Western road from the entrance to the Mardyke is the entrance to University College Cork (25). Cork has just celebrated its 150th Aniversary City. Tours are available of the University from June to September. The buildings are styled after the Tudor Gothic period and visitors can walk the corridors in the path of famous people such as George Boole, whose Boolean Logic has become the basis of modern day computer science. Walking up the slight hill of Donovan's Road past the University, take a left at the junction and proceed along Gill Abbey Street, followed by another left on to Bishop Street, where the magnificent St. Finbarr's Cathedral (21) is located. St. Finbarr's Cathedral was designed in mini-Gothic style by William Burgess and built on the site of St. Finbarr's original settlement (606 AD). This Early French Gothic structure is built proportionately to scale and features highly ornamented, beautiful mosaic work and rich carvings. William Burgess was obsessed with all things medieval - witness the detail - the soffits, gargoyles, birds and beasts, the rose-window, and the multitude of ornate carvings. The present building replaces two earlier churches and was completed in 1870.
The plan consists of a nave with two side aisles, north and south transepts, a beautiful absidal choir and an ambulatory running round the apse. The South Transept houses a cannon ball fired during the siege of 1690. Hanging from the ceiling in this transept is the Roll of Honour of parishioners killed during the Great War 1914 - 1918. The doorway in the boundary wall on Dean Street dates from 1600. St. Finbarre's has three spires - the tallest central tower and spire reaching 240 ft. The peal of 8 bells cast by Rudhalls of Gloucester are from a previous church and are hung in the north-west tower. Opening Hours: Weekdays from 10 am - 1 pm and 2 - 5.30 pm.

Follow the road back to the river, cross over the bridge on to the South Main Street, and on your left is the Beamish and Crawfords Brewery (13). This brewery building is recognisable by its half-timbered Tudor frontage and interesting cupola, weathervane and clock. This is the home of Carling Lager and local Beamish Stout (milder and fuller than Guiness - try it!). A tour can sometimes be arranged by applying to the Brewery, in writing, in advance. A little further down the South Main Street turn right on to Tuckey Street and then right again on to the Grand Parade. The City Library (15) is on your right and at the end of the Grand Parade by the river is the National Monument (16). This memorial in limestone at the junction between the Grand Parade and the South Mall was unveiled on Patrick's Day 1906. It commemorates the Irish Rebels of the 1798 and 1867 Uprisings. Surrounding the Maid of Erin, leaning on a broken cross, are four of Ireland's leading patriots - Thomas Davis, Michael O'Dwyer, O'Neill-Crowley, and Wolfe Tone. It includes the crests of the four provinces of Ireland - Connaught, Leinster, Munster and Ulster.
Nearby, also beside the river, is a War Memorial to the dead of two world wars, in particular the Royal Munster Fusiliers. In the 1st World War or 'Great War', more Irishmen per head of population died in Flanders than other participating nations. The Hiroshima Memorial, an uncarved granite stone, lies nearby.

Turn left to the South Mall; this street is the business and financial centre of Cork, containing many interesting buildings. Many have steps leading from what was once an open flowing river channel, with boat houses below at street level. Houses No. 53 and 74 South Mall are two examples of houses built with Dutch brick which arrived in Cork as ballast on board ships trading with Holland.
At the end of the South Mall is the former Provincial Bank, a highly ornate Corinthian structure. Opposite, in Parnell Place, is the Cork Savings Bank, designed by the Kearne Bros., and Sir Thomas Deane. Beside it, in stark contrast is Connolly Hall, the Trade Union Headquarters and also a music venue for visiting groups and artists. Looking across the river from Connolly Hall is the City Hall (37) Constructed from large limestone blocks the City Hall was opened by President Eamon De Valera in 1936. The funds were provided by the British Government in reparation for the burning of the original city hall by English Crown Forces on December 20th/21st 1920 during the Irish War of Independence. The City Hall houses the annual International Choral and Folk Dance Festival, in which groups from as far afield as Australia, U.S.A., Eastern Europe and Russia participate, as well as many other events and exhibitions throughout the year.

Turn left up Parnell Place and when you reach the North channel of the river on your right is the City Bus Station (35) and on your left is Merchant's Quay Shopping Centre (34). Walk through the Shopping Centre, where there are two floors of department stores, shops and restaurants for you to enjoy, and you will emerge on Patrick Street opposite Father Matthew's statue (33). Walk along Patrick Street until you come to Academy Street turning off to the right; at the top of Academy Street to the right is the Crawford Art Gallery (6). Located in Emmet Place the Crawford Gallery houses old masters and modern Irish artists, as well as an excellent cafe and restaurant. The northern portion dates from 1724 (facing the Opera House), It was formerly the city's Custom House when ships could enter the square where the Opera House Fountain sits today. The right wing was designed by Richard Hill and added in 1866 - a faithfully copied "marriage in stone".

Turn left into the Paul Street area; a former back street now tastefully converted into a thriving shopping area with restaurants, boutiques, craft and bookshops, in the heart of old Cork. The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is a beautiful 19th century Catholic church in an ornate neo-Gothic style - call in to quietly experience another world! The Paul Street area has many French associations........ being part of the Old French Quarter (9). The Huguenots were French Protestants forced to flee their own country because of persecution in the 17th century. In Cork they congregated in Paul Street, French Church Street, and Carey's Lane. In French Church Street services were performed in French into the present century. As native Catholics were prevented by the Penal Laws from becoming involved in trade, the French settlers filled the vacuum as wholesale merchants, beef and butter exporters, tallow-chandlers, brewers and coopers.

Follow French Church Street or Carey's Lane back down to Patrick Street and cross over into Princes Street where the entrance to the English Markets (12) is located. This thriving covered market with its variety of stalls selling goods and fresh produce has entrances from Patrick Street (via the Market Parade), from Princess Street and from the Grand Parade the entrances lead you to the fresh fish markets (right) or to the meat and vegetables (left). The Market dates to a Charter of James 1 in 1610. The present building, 1786, was damaged by fire in 1980 and was refurbished by Cork Corporation to an award-winning design by T.F. MacNamara, the City Architect. Foodstuffs peculiar to Cork may be purchased here. The Drisheen is a mixture of dried sheep's blood and herbs made up like puddings in skins, but of considerable length. Crubeen are pig's feet boiled 'with the hoof on'. Troters are sheep's feet boiled in water.

Exit the English Market and cross over the Grand Parade for the last time passing the Berwick Fountain (1860), which marked the centre point of a bridge crossing what was then a city canal, now arched over and filled in to form the Grand Parade. The fountain is named after Walter Berwick, one time Chairman of the Quarter Sessions and was designed by Sir John Benson.
In front of you is the City Park (11). Officially the "Bishop Lucey Park" between the Grand Parade and South Main street, this park was opened in 1985 as part of the City's 800th birthday celebrations. Named after Cornelius Lucey, a Bishop and Freeman of Cork (1952 - 1980), it occupies a previously derelict site. The entrance Archway was reconstructed from the Corn Cornmarket, dating from 1850. The park includes a sculptured fountain of eight bronze swans, representing the 800 years of the city as a chartered Norman town (1185 AD). The original monastic settlement was founded earlier, in the 6th century by St. Finbarr.
In the course of clearance and construction, archaeologists found portions of the early city walls exposed and preserved just inside the entrance. A section of the walls is on view at ground level in the neighbouring Grand Parade Hotel.

At the far end of the Park just off the South Main Street, the Triskel Arts Centre (10) provides an excellent and exciting all-year-round programme of contemporary arts - exhibitions, featuring local and national visual art, film, music, theatre and literary event. An extensive education programme is also available. There is a small Cafe where you can enjoy a coffee or taste the excellent home-cooked lunches. The cafe features two stained-glass windows by artist Maud Cotter and James Scanlon.

From here you can return to the starting point of your tour just a couple of hundred metres away via Washington Street. This brings you to the end of your walking tour.

Photos AerRianta Cork (St. Finbarrs) and City Museum.

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