By Roisín Noonan
Whether you are a first-year student experiencing Cork city for the first time, a foreign exchange student experiencing Ireland for the first time, or a Cork native, Cork city and it’s surrounds has something to interest everyone. When I first arrived in Cork as a student from Limerick, I was clueless to all that Cork city had to offer. It’s depth of history and culture, the music and nightlife and food (amazing food!). But along the way, through friends and college societies and sometimes just wandering aimless around the city (not skipping lectures of course!), I found my feet and began to discover some of what this city had to offer.
As I entered my final year in Cork this year, I realised that even though I knew a lot of what Cork had to offer, I still had not experienced a lot of it for myself. I found myself sitting down one day with a group of friends discussing how we had never done this or never seen that, even after living in Cork for 3-4 years. We decided to make a bucket list of things to see and do in Cork before the clock ran out on our final year in Cork. This list is just some of the highlights and hidden gems of Cork, some of my own personal favourites and some different activities that you might not have thought of or known about. I will be the first to put my hand up to say no, I have not been to all of these places yet, but I will zealously endeavour to tick off a good chunk of this list before I graduate next year! Hopefully it inspires you, dear reader, to do the same and to go out and experience the Rebel City and County for yourself!
A – The Abbey Tavern; first up on my list is one of my favourite pubs in Cork. Stereotypical student you may scoff, however the Abbey, located on Gillabbey Street and just across the road from St. Fin Barre’s, is a quiet and traditional bar just a few minutes’ walk from UCC. Think wholesome, cosy, open fire and fairy light vibes, a quiet pint in here on a cold Autumn evening warms the soul. You might even be lucky enough to catch a music session on certain evenings!
B – Beaches; jumping out of the city for a minute, South and West Cork has some stunning and wild beaches which are sure to interest swimmers and nature seekers alike. Taking a break from the city and blowing out the cobwebs Myrtleville beach and Fountainstown are only a few minutes’ drive from each other and about a 30 min drive from the city. Both are safe for swimming and Myrtleville has a group of year-round swimmers who brave the Atlantic daily. Garretstown beach further west of the city and just outside Kinsale is a larger beach famous with surfers and swimmers alike. Hop on the 226 bus from the city or the 220 will get you to Myrtleville should a car be out of the question.
C – The Crawford Art Gallery; I’m ashamed to say I have yet to experience the Crawford in all its glory. Located on Emmett Place, the gallery has both permanent and temporary exhibitions dating from the 18th century to modern present day. The Rembrandt in Print collection is currently on show until January 2022 and with free entry I really don’t have any excuse not to get in to the Crawford ASAP.
D – Drama; Cork has a rich history of all thing’s theatre and drama. It has an array of theatres and venues including most notably The Everyman Theatre and The Crane Lane. If you have an interest in dramatics, a performance in either one of these is not to be missed.
E – Elizabeth Fort; situated on Barrack Street is a must for any history lovers or anyone looking for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city. Admission is free or there is a daily guided tour for just €3!
F – St. Fin Barres Cathedral; a focal point of Cork’s skyline and right next door to the Elizabeth Fort. The cathedral celebrated its 150-year anniversary last year and is open to visitors all year round with a discounted price for students.
G- Glucksman Gallery; right on our doorstep on the UCC Campus is the stunning architectural feat of the Glucksman Gallery, displaying contemporary art exhibitions and installations. Admission is free and the downstairs café is well worth a drop in for a coffee. Take a break from your lectures and stroll down to the gallery for a change of perspective.
H- Hikes; County Cork is renowned for its natural beauty and amongst that, its hiking trails and walks. Although a little remote, Gougane Barra is well worth the trip for a hike or walk amongst the most stunning surrounds in the National Forest Park. Mountains and lakes create a picture-perfect background to the famous St. Finbarr’s Oratory set out in the lake. There are several different trails and hikes for all different walking abilities, beautiful in both rain and shine! To the east of the city the Ballycotton cliff walk is one of my most recent discoveries. And what a wonderful surprise it was! Blow off the cobwebs with a walk along the sheer cliff edge from Ballycotton to Ballyandreen taking in the views of the wild rolling Atlantic and the rugged east Cork coastline. Good for the soul! (When you have suitable boots and suitable weather!)
K- Kinsale; a road trip I did with some friends earlier in the semester. Well only a drive really as it is a mere half hour from the city! The Mad Hatter craft shop and windy, coloured streets in sea-side Kinsale are a charming way to spend a day out of the city. If the fancy takes you hop on the 226 bus.
L – St. Luke’s; Again, a new discovery for me this year! St. Luke’s is a former church located in Summerhill in the Northside of the city which plays host for gigs and concerts all year round in an intimate and unique venue. I have tickets for a concert here this month and cannot wait to experience it!
M – Markets – The English Market. Some may regard it as the centre piece at the heart of Cork City. Saunter in on a Sunday or a weekday morning for just a stroll or some amazing local produce. Whether its fish or cheese, spices or flowers, the English Market is sure to have it! On the other side of town, the Marina Market is quickly becoming a hotspot for food lovers and vintage shoppers alike. Hot food stalls, antique jewellery and clothes, Saturday morning yoga classes and a growing events calendar are just some of the exciting things on offer here.
N- Nano Nagle Place; What a hidden gem! I had not heard of this place until a friend invited me to lunch here over the summer. Originally a convent, Nano Nagle Place has now been transformed into a heritage centre with a museum, craft shop and restaurant café. Defining itself as an “oasis” amongst the bustle of Cork City, the centre is a wonderful place to stop by to learn about the life and work of Nano Nagle or for a peaceful coffee and chat in its wonderful gardens.
O- Cork Opera House; is a must to experience another focal point of Cork’s city centre. Shows range from music concerts, to pantomimes, comedy acts and plays. An ideal night out in Cork for a birthday or if the parents come to visit!
P- Patrick’s Hill; another one I still need to tick off! I’ve been told that sunset (or sunrise if your one of those people!) is not to be missed on this hill overlooking the city.
S- Sicilian Delights; I could probably dedicate a whole article to this place, but for now it’s own letter in this list will have to do. Do yourself a favour during study week – take a walk up to the top of Highfield Avenue and stop in to Sicilian Delights for a tiramisu or a carbonara. It will be much deserved and you won’t regret it! Trust me!
T- Tom Barry’s; A classic student venue on Barrack’s St., you really can’t go a miss with the €20 pizza and wine deal in Tom Barry’s. An indoor/outdoor venue with an open fire (in case you haven’t noticed I’m partial to a hearty fire) and some of the best pizza you may ever have in Your. Entire. Life.
U – University College Cork; you didn’t think I would get all the way through the highlights of Cork and not mention our beautiful campus? Everyday something on campus grabs my attention, be it the colours of the Quad on an Autumn Day or the way the light comes through the trees onto the President’s Garden, I catch myself marvelling at how lucky we all are to have such a beautiful and historical campus to study in. If you don’t have a lot of classes on campus or have never properly explored it before, be sure to take a good luck around next time you’re there. Saunter down by the main gates between classes, check out the stone corridor in the Aula Maxima or take a study break walk down the steps behind the Aula Maxima to the river and the new Cavanagh Bridge.
W- Walks in the City ; I discovered the Lee Fields in first year one day as I was craving a walk and some fresh air somewhere away from the noise of the traffic. Coming from a rural area I find myself craving green fields and fresh air when I’m cooped up in a city for two long. The Lee Fields is the perfect place to find just that. Walking along the banks of the River Lee and eventually into wide open fields that have been opened up to the public. Entry is by the side of the Kingsley Hotel just a few minutes’ walk from Victoria Cross. (Go at sunset for the best light and a chance to see the swans!). Fitzgerald Park and the Lough are of course not to be missed either, for some escapism and nature in the city.
A car is definitely a necessary tool for exploring some of the further flung places listed here and of course, not everyone has one. However, if someone in your friend group is road worthy and has a set of wheels, squashing in and setting off on a day trip is well worth it in County Cork. Pack a few snacks, give the driver a fiver and don’t forget your swimming togs – you’d never know when the opportunity might present itself for a “refreshing” Atlantic dip!
So, whether you are a first year or final year, screenshot this article or stick it up on your wall and start ticking your way through this bucket list, to make sure you soak up and enjoy all that this city has to offer while you’re here!