When Queen Elizabeth II went to Cork on her first state visit to the Republic of Ireland, guess where she wanted to go? To the English Market, of course, that’s been in operation since 1788. I couldn’t find out if she got a coffee and some chocolates as we did, but I’m certain she enjoyed seeing all of the breads, fruits, vegetables, and seafood temptingly on display. This city, the second largest in the country and with ferry connections to France, was going to be our first stop as well when we were planning this trip before Covid arrived but then things changed, as much has in the last two years. We ended up using Dublin as our port of entry and departure (next week’s post) yet we still wanted to spend at least a day here in this culinary capital of the Emerald Isle.
Exiting the English Market we took a left into what I would think is the oldest part of the city in that the Red Abbey is said to date from as early as the 1200s. It’s a tower and the only remaining part of an abbey that functioned through the end of the 17th century. Not far from there is Elizabeth Fort that fared better over the centuries, beginning in 1601 as part of the city walls and continued in official government use until 2013. Adjacent to the fort is St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral from the 1870s said to have been constructed on the site of the original monastic settlement from around 650 AD. It’s named for the monk credited with founding the city that is today called Cork from its original old Irish name Corcaigh meaning “marsh” referring to the wetlands that surrounded the monastery.
Going back towards the market we walked down St. Patrick’s Street, the main shopping thoroughfare that leads to the St. Patrick’s bridge built in 1861. That put us on the other side of the Lee River where we wanted to see something that we’d heard that all of the locals “look up to”. St. Anne’s Church was built in 1722 but the star attraction is its tower that at 36.6 meters tall (120 feet) can be seen from many parts of the city. People “look up to” the tower because there’s been a clock on all four sides since 1847 and the 8 bells inside have been ringing since 1750, sometimes at irregular hours. For a fee you can climb the 132 steps up to the belfry and try your hand at producing a melodious sound. We were happy to stay on the ground and take a photo.
Steps from there, in opposite directions, we had the choice of the Butter Museum, highlighting one of Bill’s favorite foods, or the brewery where Murphy’s Irish Stout has been made since 1856. Being the history lovers that we are, our decision was swayed towards the brewery by discovering that Beamish Irish Stout has been made in Cork since 1792. Last stop of the day, therefore, was where that first pint of Beamish might have been served at the Mutton Lane Inn where they opened their doors in 1788. To your health, cheers, santé, and sláinte!