I’m a big fan of Ireland but in all the years I’ve been going I’ve never properly explored Cork. Although I really wanted to stay longer (and experience the Cork nightlife which I’ve heard is brilliant) I only had a few hours. True, 5 hours isn’t nearly enough to properly experience what Cork has to offer but here are a few things I would recommend doing if you have limited time and a limited budget!
1. The Crawford Art Gallery
If you like art and are looking for interesting things to do on the cheap then head to the Crawford Art Gallery. It’s set in a really nice building with an impressive staircase and there’s quite a mixture of exhibitions. I particularly liked the ‘Landscape and Irish Identity’ exhibition. You’ll also find a collection of Greco-Roman sculptures and an exhibition of stained glass pieces by Harry Clarke.
There’s a few other free art galleries you can check out including the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in the University College campus and the Cork Vision Centre.
2. The English Market
You might be wondering why you’d go all the way to Cork to go to an English market, but it’s definitely worth a look. The market has been going since 1788 making it one of the oldest municipal markets in the world, it has a variety of fresh produce which supply many of the top restaurants in the city, and Rick Stein said it was ‘the best covered market in the UK and Ireland’ – what more could you ask for?
3. Miss Daisy Blue
A day trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a vintage shop or two. If you’re heading for the English market then you’re sure to stumble upon Miss Daisy Blue. The shop is like a little Aladdin’s cave, selling wearable vintage pieces as well as the more glamorous high end vintage fashion. On a side note, Cork is great for shopping although I did resist the temptation to venture into Topshop.
4. Cork City Gaol
This was probably the only thing I spent money on during my trip to Cork (only €7 with a student card). If enjoy getting freaked out by creepy old buildings then this is the thing for you. When I visited the Gaol it was actually a lovely sunny day and it didn’t look as intimidating as I’d hoped but when I stepped inside I felt chills up my spine. You can walk around the two levels of the prison and have a look inside some of the cells. Occasionally you’ll find a cell wall which has writing left from the previous occupants. Every so often you’ll come across a manikin being flogged or asleep on one of the beds. I’m not sure whether this was for educational purposes or just to creep people out even more – I suspect the latter.
5. UCC Campus
I took a walk through the university campus and was very impressed. There is a guided walk you can take by following the sign posts or you can just try and pretend you’re a student there as I did – probably not that convincing when you’re carrying a map and a camera. The campus is full of old buildings, sits alongside the river and made me wish I was a student again.
6. Fitzgerald Park
If you’re looking for somewhere nice to sit and eat your lunch then this is a good spot to pick. Here you’ll also find the City Museum (which is free).
So that brings me to the end of my 5 hours in Cork. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of all the things you can do here. I’ll update you when I’ve achieved my night out in Cork.