Put on your ear defenders, climb the bell tower at St Anne’s Church in the historic Shandon area of Cork and pull the ropes hard to ring the bells. Choose your own tune, from Amazing Grace to Waltzing Matilda. When you ring the bells of Shandon out over Cork city, you become part of a centuries-old tradition.
Full of a rich vein of Cork humour, the English Market was catapulted into the limelight when Queen Elizabeth II visited in 2011. The Queen was reputedly wowed by what she saw. And why wouldn’t she be? This is the oldest market of its kind in Europe, and the shelves groan with Irish artisan produce and farmhouse cheeses from the mild to the ultra-mature. Delicious stuff.
Located just off Patrick’s Street lies the Crawford Gallery, an artistic institution since its beginnings in 1884. At the heart of the gallery lies the famous Canova Casts, a series of plaster casts donated by the Vatican Museum to the Cork Society of Arts in 1818. The Belvedere Torso, The Laocoon and The Disc Thrower are among the breathtaking casts on display. Here’s the cherry on top: admission is free.
4. Enjoy a traditional Irish music session
The traditional Irish music session is the quintessential “Irish experience” and has rightly earned its place on the “must dos” when visiting Ireland. Duck into a pub any evening and chances are a small group of musicians will have taken over a corner.
Savvy locals know Sin É is one the best pubs for fiddle players where, on an average night, up to 10 could be performing. If you arrive on a quiet night (you may just be too early) try the Corner House next door. Vibrant traditional music also rolls out of An Spailpín Fánach (oh, and you’ll also get a fine pint of stout here, too).
5. Take a tour
A charming way to explore the stories and history of Cork city is with a tour and there are quite a few to choose from. Cork City Tours operates open-top double-decker buses, which run regularly during the day. The route is through the main streets, along the quays and past city centre landmarks with a guide who’ll regale you with tales of the city.
The Cork Fabulous Tasting Trail is led by Alice Coyle on Saturday mornings and lasts three hours. Stops are made at outdoor and indoor markets, cafés, restaurants and pubs – so go easy with your breakfast.
And for the bookish-minded, you can pick up a free audio walking literary tour of Cork, or download one on to your MP3 player at the Cork City Library.