Cork! The Real Capital of Ireland

by Devon Bilsing

So you arrive at the small airport in Cork on Wednesday. What now? There is a shuttle to the city centre, bus Eireann’s route 226, which only costs 1 or 2 Euro. Of course, there are taxis too, if you enjoy a conversation after your flight. Tipping is not necessary, but it’s customary to ‘round up.’ On a fare of 13 Euro 50, give the driver 15. If you are friendly and a bit witty, the driver may offer to pick you up in a couple days.

Irish B&B setting.
Irish B&B setting. Photo by Devon Bilsing

Introduction to Cork

Now where to? Bru Bar hostel is in a great location on the edge of the city centre and, as the name suggests, has a bar on the main floor serving up pints. They claim to have live music, but the musicians quite often get caught up with the crowd, and the lines between show and audience blur. There are also B&B options, if you are looking for something cozier. Garnish House is located on Western Road across the street from University College Cork gates. They provide a traditional Irish breakfast in the morning. If Garnish House is not available, there are other B&Bs scattered along Western Road. 

All right, you’ve checked in and washed the travel off. Now what to do in Cork? Probably time for some food. Ireland is not especially known for its cuisine, and the affectionately known ‘pub grub’ can be difficult to find. So think outside of the box; head over to Sober Lane at #5 Sullivan’s Quay. It’s a nice pub on the river, well known for its pizzas. Yes, pizza in Ireland, but after a day of travel it really hits the spot. You’ll be traditional tomorrow. Sober Lane also features a variety of specialty cocktails and hosts fun table quizzes. If you’re looking for more adventure after dinner, just cross the river and explore the city centre or go back to Bru Bar to see the craic (old Gaelic word for fun). 

Seeing the Sights

Good morning! Welcome to day one in Cork. Enjoy that traditional Irish breakfast in the B&B. If you are staying at a hostel, venture out into the world and find a Spar. They can create a traditional Irish breakfast on a bun!! Fried eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns. Don’t forget the black and white pudding! It’s good for you. Skip the ketchup (or curry) the first time, or get it on the side. Like a proper pint, this takes time to create. No worries; you have all day. After breakfast, head over to the bus station in Parnell Place. Blarney is only fifteen minutes away. The Castle is quite interesting, and of course there is the Blarney Stone to kiss. Afterwards, you’ll be able to talk good. ;) 

Don’t forget the gardens. It is easy to fill an afternoon by exploring little streams and ancient druid sites scattered about. There are also caves, which are rumored to hide a secret passage back to the center of Cork. After you have explored, go into the town. There are a couple little shops and yes, a pub. This is an excellent time to experience a true Irish meal. Find a table by the fire, order a pint, and explore the menu. It will be full of meat, potatoes, and cabbage; get something hearty. Once dinner is over, hop on the bus back to Cork. It’s Thursday and time to find some trouble.

A Night Out On the Town

Cork is a college town, so the weekend starts on Thursday. This is because many students go home on Friday and return Sunday night. So, back to the hostel from Blarney and put on your fancy shoes. You can never go wrong with black. There is a nice place at 14 N Mall called Franciscan Well. They offer a selection of beer brewed in house and an extraordinary outdoor patio, a perfect place to begin an evening of adventure. Once all your mates have gathered, it’s time to find a more traditional spot and, if you’re lucky, catch a trad session. Over on South Main Street across from the old Beamish Brewery is a pub called An Spailpin Fanach. Here is a great place to find live music. Be patient. Often one student with a flute will transform into 20 Irish folks playing music. Spailpin is also a good place to solve the classic debate: Beamish? Murphy’s? or Guinness? When you are done here, walk toward the city centre on Tuckey St. and find Oliver Plunkett Street. There will be many options for you to continue your evening. Some of the notable choices: Old Oak, Crane Lane, An Brog, Gorbys. 

Now, it’s important to make a distinction. There is a difference between pubs and clubs. The pubs are going to be more laid back and have some locals but close at midnight; clubs are typically full of dancing students drinking mixed drinks but will charge a cover and can be trickier at the door: black shoes, remember. However, clubs are open well past midnight. Go home, or pay a cover, right? Wrong. The answer is An Brog, which begins as a pub then around midnight is transformed into a club without a cover. This is why you are on Oliver Plunkett. If you do opt to try the club scene, Gorbys is located above An Brog. The entrance is down the alley on the left. No matter what you choose, be safe and find a buddy. Then cap off your night out with Hillbilly’s Fried Chicken. Keep your receipt; it can get busy and confusing. Enjoy!

Stretching Your Legs in the City

Goooooood morning; glad you survived Thursday night in Cork. Get yourself an Irish breakfast sandwich; it’s the best way to recover. There is exploring to do! 

University College Cork on Western Road is beautiful to walk through, and maybe buildings will be open since it’s Friday. There is also a park over by Mardyke Arena. It has a fountain in the middle and some open area for frisbee, football, or rugby. For lunch, there is a shop called Lennox Fish and Chips over on Bandon Road. There will most likely be a line, but stay alert even at the back. The Irishman behind the counter will eventually yell “ye alright?” If he is making eye contact with you, yell back “Cod and Chips!” He’ll reply with something like “salt and vinegar?” Say yes. The fish and chips are definitely large enough to share. If you head down Lough Road, you’ll discover Cork Lough with little grassy areas and benches, which are perfect for a meal and people watching. 

After you wake up from your ‘after lunch nap,’ go towards the city centre and on the way you’ll pass St. Finbarr’s Cathedral, which is worth a stop. Also, there are many shops on Main and St. Patrick’s Street and the English Market downtown to fill your afternoon. Once again head home and freshen up for the evening; also drop off those new shoes you inevitably purchased. Remember Oliver Plunkett Street and the pub Old Oak? Well, if you go down one of the side streets by Old Oak there will be an alley leading to what seems like the back of the bar, but hidden in the middle there is a great Italian place called Scoozi’s. The chicken wings are delicious, and yes, get some pasta! Since you have arrangements for the cab to pick you up early in morning, maybe it is best to relax this evening. Or, for a unique experience head over to Abbot’s Ale House at 17 Devonshire Street; and An Brog is open late, you know. :)