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Not just shamrocks and leprechauns
Cork (city) in General
Member Name: Sue Ellen
Cork (city) in General
Date: 28/11/00, updated on 05/12/00 (279 review reads)
Advantages: Wonderful people, less crime, less stress, less pollution, nicer place to bring up your kids, lots of stuff to do and see.
Disadvantages: Takes a while to get used to living here – oh, just read my opinion, it’s all in there!
Yes, I do.
- Nice place?
Yes, it is, although it took me a while to get to like it. Did you know that it’s the second largest town in Ireland?
- You’re joking, right?
No, actually, I’m not. It’s true.
- But it’s so small!
Compared to the size of towns in England, yes, it is. There are just 150,000 people living here.
- That is small.
But Cork is growing rapidly. There are so many new housing developments in progress, especially in the adjoining towns and villages, to try to cope with the increasing population. I think that’s why the town centre, which is very small, is always so packed on a Saturday.
- So what’s it like then?
Well, when I first came here in June 1998, I didn’t think much of it. I’d moved here straight from the buzz and bustle of London, which I loved, and the culture shock was too much for me. The fact that my husband’s boss had given us just two weeks’ notice to move there, I had just found out I was pregnant, and we had to live in a hotel room for six months obviously didn’t help lift my spirits.
- Yeah, yeah, so you had problems, don’t we all – tell me what you didn’t like about Cork.
I didn’t like the different pace of life. Things are much slower and quieter here, and I found it hard to adjust. Everyone seems to know everyone else, so we, as newcomers, felt a bit isolated. I didn’t like the fact that Cork city centre is so small, either. I love huge shopping complexes with familiar names beckoning me to go in and spend; somehow Patrick Street and Plunkett Street don’t quite fulfil the same need.
- But you like it now?
Now I love it.
- So what changed?
I suppose I started to see the positive sides. I was used to a fast-paced li
fe, but I adjusted surprisingly quickly to the lower stress levels. I think more value is placed on family and quality of life over here. Things are generally cheaper here, too, whereas salary levels are similar to the UK. Maybe this is why people feel they don’t need to work such long hours in order to live well, I don’t know.
- What about the people in Cork?
Much as I hate to generalise, I’m going to. People are very friendly here, and in a sincere way. They take a genuine interest in you, and go out of their way to be helpful. I am constantly being surprised by the spontaneous acts of kindness of people, either strangers or acquaintances. They also know how to enjoy themselves – the pubs (the MANY pubs!) are always busy and full of laughter (although that sounds very clichéd, I’ve found it is true).
- What’s the centre of Cork like, then?
When I told people we were moving to Cork, everyone said, “Oh, Cork, it’s beautiful, you’ll love it”, etc. Maybe due to high expectations, then, I found myself a bit disappointed when I actually saw the town for myself. The road in to Cork takes you past factories, warehouses and the docks, so our first impressions were not very good. Don’t get me wrong, though; the town is nice enough, just not as special as I was led to believe.
What I do like about Cork is the River Lee that flows through the town. It brightens the place up, especially when the sky is blue, and there are lots of bridges to cross, which adds to the charm. There seem to be churches and chapels everywhere you turn; religion still plays a very strong role in daily life here.
Driving in Cork can be very confusing initially. Many of the roads are one-way, meaning you have to make fairly large detours in order to get where you want to go. People are very helpful if you do get lost, thankfully – believe me, I know.
- And the shoppin
The shopping area of Cork is very small, as I mentioned before. There are two main shopping streets which run parallel to each other: St Patrick Street, where you’ll find most of the chain stores, and Oliver Plunkett Street, where most of the shops are small, independent ones.
It’s always quite busy, especially on a Saturday, and it isn’t always easy to manoeuvre a pushchair, especially in Plunkett Street where the pavements are quite narrow.
The largest department store is Roches, which is still fairly small compared to stores in the UK. I actually feel that there isn’t as much choice here, although prices are generally lower. One of my favourite shops is Penneys, a shop that sells clothes and household goods at rockbottom prices.
- Is there much to see of interest for tourists?
Yes, there is actually quite a lot to see, although public transport not being very good, you really need a car to make the most of it.
In Cork centre, you would not be forgiven for not visiting that fine example of French-Gothic architecture, ST FINBARR’S CATHEDRAL. Not a great fan of cathedrals usually, I actually did enjoy strolling leisurely around this one; I found the atmosphere very restful. If you like stained glass, you’ll appreciate the huge rose window, and there are some lovely mosaics and carvings throughout.
There is the CORK CITY GAOL in Sunday’s Well, which sounds very morbid but actually isn’t. You are handed a walkman on arrival, and although this may seem fairly antisocial, it proves an interesting guide and really helps recreate the atmosphere of life in the Gaol in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Other places worth visiting in Cork city centre are the Cork Vision Centre, Shandon Church, the English Market, the Beamish and Crawford Brewery, Bishop Lucie Park and the Crawford Gallery. I recommend that you pay a visit to the Tourist Office on Gr
and Parade, who are extremely helpful.
- What about the environs of Cork, anything worth seeing there?
Well, twenty minutes outside Cork is BLARNEY, with its famous castle. Oh, it’s a lovely place, and I really do recommend you visit this. It’s a very small castle, set in some beautiful grounds with a little stream running alongside it and surrounded by woodland. At the top of the castle you can kiss the Blarney Stone, if you want to (although I imagine it’s quite unhygienic!). I have been twice, both times in the autumn when it was very quiet, so am unable to say whether it gets crowded during the summer. The village of Blarney is very picturesque and well preserved.
COBH is a small fishing village about 15 minutes drive from Cork. There’s not all that much to do here, but it’s worth taking a drive down just to see the seafront with all its houses painted in bright colours. This was also the Titanic’s last port of call before setting off for New York, back in the days when Cobh was called Queenstown. KINSALE is another fishing village that makes a nice day out; this is also where the locals go in the summer, to the “beach”!
Children especially will appreciate FOTA WILDLIFE PARK, where they’ll be able to see at first hand giraffes, wild cats, monkeys, and many many other wild animals. If you don’t enjoy this kind of thing, you can take a relaxing walk through the grounds of Fota House, its arboretum, and on to the Victorian railway station, which is still in use.
If you are interested in finding out more about the history of whiskey, the JAMESEON HERITAGE CENTRE in Midleton is well worth a visit. Here you can find out how whiskey was made in the olden days, and then enjoy the whiskey tasting at the end of the tour. You will be given an ‘exclusive’ whiskey tasting diploma if you really put your all into it!
There are lots of old country houses
that you can visit too, such as Dunkettle House (sometimes spelt Dunkathiel) where the owner himself will take you round (he’s a bit creepy though), and Riverstown House, which I have to mention because it is almost literally at the bottom of my garden - oh yes, I live in a good neighbourhood ;o).
So you see, something for everyone.
- Jeez, remind me to ask you to be brief next time.
Sorry, but you did ask.
- No, that’s okay, but I’m late for my violin practice now. Anything else to add, quickly?
No, not really. Oh yes, hang on! I’d just like to say, in conclusion, that there is much more to Cork than first appearances show. For the tourist, there are plenty of interesting things to do and see, at least enough to keep you busy for the best part of a week. For the resident of Cork, or of one of its outlying towns or villages (like me), the community spirit and the tranquillity that exist here make it a saner place to live and a healthier place to bring up your children. That’s about it.
- Wonderful! Thanks, got to run. Bye!
Bye then! Thanks for listening … oh, he’s gone.