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A Cork travel guide – bell towers, black beers and the Blarney Stone

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A Cork city break reveals a place steeped in history. Explore its monastic beginnings through to English colonisation and the beginnings of ‘rebel Cork’. Or maybe book a Cork hotel and follow its trails of emigration, art and artisans, and then test your taste buds comparing the creamy local stouts.

Monastic beginnings

Step back into 19th-century prison life at Cork City Gaol, and climb St Anne’s Shandon’s bell tower , north of the River Lee, to play the bells yourself. History buffs can delve deeper, exploring 7th-century monastic Cork at St Finbarre’s Cathedral , south of the river, and the rise of prosperous merchants at the Cork Butter Museum , in Shandon on the north side . Travel beyond the city to 600-year-old Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone to never be lost for words. Return to reality at Cobh, northeast of the city centre, where the Queenstown Story charts the poignant journey of Irish emigrants escaping famine and poverty.

Continental dining and local stout

‘Shawlies’, women wearing black shawls, used to run the waterfront stalls on the Coal Quay, and today you can still buy organic produce in this central market. Foodies head to the city centre English Market, a typical Victorian market now selling continental cheeses, Indian spices and Cork favourite, drisheen or black pudding. Nearby Market Lane restaurant uses this fresh produce to create modern international cuisine, while it’s pure indulgence at O’Conaill’s Chocolate Shop, purveyors of sweets and hot drinks. Those with a taste for beer can amble over to the Oliver Plunkett Street pubs for pints of creamy local Beamish and Murphy’s stout.

Artistic leanings

There’s a rich trail of art galleries and cultural offerings around Cork. The city centre Crawford Municipal Gallery presents the cream of Irish art from the 18th century onwards, including works by Expressionist Jack Butler Yeats. Contemporary art fans might prefer the Fenton Gallery at Wandesford Quay, and University College Cork’s Lewis Glucksman Gallery, with leading local and international exhibitions.

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