City Guide

Four hours in Cork

1 Dec 2005 by business traveller
Cork celebrated its status as European Capital of Culture in 2006. Felicity Cousins explores the charming city by foot, enjoying some local specialties and ringing a few bells along the way 1. Church of St Anne Shandon Start on the north side of the river. At the top of the steep hill, on Church Street, is the Church of St Anne Shandon. The four faces of the church clock all show slightly different times and as a result Shandon tower is known locally as the four-faced liar. For €3 you can climb the 120ft steeple (make sure you give the Bells of Shandon a good ring on the way up). After squeezing up the narrow stairwells the sense of space is impressive when you reach the top. The view engulfs you and it's possible to walk around each side of the tower. 2. St Patrick's Street   From the church, walk down the steep winding streets, which will take you past the Cork Butter Museum (covering Cork's dairying history right up to the famous Kerry Gold butter) and down to the River Lee. Cross over St Patrick's Bridge and onto St Patrick's Street. This is the main shopping street, which follows the line of one of the old rivers. The new street lamps here are causing quite a stir. Leaning inwards, the long metal poles represent the sails of the trade boats, which used to come into the city along the river. Designed by architect Beth Gali. they're part of Cork's cultural makeover to mark its status as European City of Culture this year. Their reception by locals has been mixed, with some believing the lamps are an imposition on the traditional architecture and others welcoming the modern touch. 3. The English Market   At the bottom of St Patrick's Street turn left onto the Grande Parade and you'll find the English Market, which has been the site of a market since 1610. The present covered building was built in 1788 but had to be renovated after a fire in 1980. The market sells fresh produce, with everything from cheese and bread to poultry and fish. Watch out for the crates full of seafood, so fresh it's still wriggling. The smoked salmon is popular, but to try a Cork specialty ask for the drisheen: dried sheep's blood and herbs in long sausage-like bags. Upstairs is the popular Farmgate Café and Restaurant, which takes all its ingredients from the market below (you'll need to book; tel +353 21 427 8134) and serves traditional lunches including a delicious and tender Irish stew. It's around €10 for a main course (open 8.30am-5.30pm). 4. Bishop Lucey Park and Beamish and Crawford Brewing Company   Opposite the English Market on the Grand Parade is one of the entrances to Bishop Lucey Park, a place of calm among the bustle of shoppers. There is a fountain, and the remains of the old city walls can still be seen. Walk through the park to South Main Street and the Beamish and Crawford Brewing Company where you can take a tour to see the making of the famous Beamish Stout (a one-hour tour costs €7). Tours run only in the mornings from 10.30am - perhaps a little early for a drink unless you're a hardened stout drinker (tel +353 2149 11 100; 5. The Crawford Municipal Art Gallery   From South Main Street walk north and turn right onto Castle Paul Street, straight into Emmet Place for the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery. It houses over 2,000 permanent exhibits, which range from the 18th century up to the modern day. The building was originally the Cork Custom House dating back to 1724. Entrance to the museum and all of its exhibitions is free. During the winter there is a huge exhibition on Cork-born neoclassical painter James Barry, running from October 22, 2005 until March 4, 2006. Opening hours are 10am-5pm, Monday to Saturday (tel +353 21 427 3377;  
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