Our first morning in Cork started with us both being extremely tired. Although the B&B we were staying in was the right amount of well kept, homely and quirky it was INCREDIBLY hot.
It forever became known as the sauna hotel.
Our room was right at the top of the building and I suspect was suffering from rising heat and an unseasonably warm week.
Despite this we were ready to go with breakfast firmly on our minds. I’d read a lot about the English Market and specifically the Farmgate Cafe. There has been a market on that site since 1788 although it did suffer a fire in 1980. Luckily it has been well restored and today houses loads of market stalls for you to wander around.
The market is quite small so you do sometimes have to squeeze past people if it is particularly busy but in my opinion this just adds to the atmosphere. The Farmgate Cafe is located on the first floor and provides tables along the balcony giving you a great view over the market.
As I’ve said we were primarily on the hunt for breakfast however they didn’t seem to be serving any so instead we opted for coffee and scones. Without cream. Given that Ireland is famed for it’s dairy production this did confuse me a bit. All was forgiven though as we sat and watched the world go by below us.
We had a great view over a couple of butchers, we watched them make burgers and prepare chickens as people came and went for their daily shop.
I could have sat there all day but adventure was calling us.
We did a loop of the stalls before making our way across the river to the Butter Museum.
One of my passions in life is the weird and wonderful museums that tend to get overlooked in place of bigger and more well known ones. Now the Butter Museum in Cork is well worth a visit, especially if you have kids and especially if you time it for one of their demonstrations. What I will say is you do need to bring a bit of patience.
When we arrived the demonstration was about to start so we opted to stay and watch. Out comes this lovely old man with a hand churner and proceeds – over the next 45 minutes – to talk us through the history of Irish dairy and how to make your own butter. The kids loved it as did some of the non-European audience. I thought it was really interesting but went on for a bit long.
The rest of the museum houses tools to make butter, exhibits on butter in Ireland and an exhibition upstairs on wider Irish history. It is a small museum so without the demonstration it wouldn’t take too long to walk round.
The other good thing about this museum is it is located just around the corner from St Anne’s Church and the Shandon Bells. Another Cork staple St Anne’s basically allows you to climb the tower and ring the church bells yourself. Yup. Ring the bells!
The church itself is pretty unassuming and probably wouldn’t be visited if it wasn’t for the bells. We were given ear defenders and told to use them once you get to the second level. There are 132 steps to the top so isn’t the highest building we’ve ever climbed but it’s location on the top of a hill gives a great view.
The bells themselves are located on the first floor and are really easy to play. They provide you with a book of songs to use and you essentially pull on a small bit of rope. It is really fun but I can imagine as a local it could get incredibly annoying!
We worked our way up, wearing the ear defenders once we were next to the bells themselves and enjoyed the views.
By this point it was time for lunch. A quick lunch and a pint of Murphy’s later we were in a taxi on the way up to the City Gaol. Top tip is to get a taxi up and walk back down. The hill is steep!!
This was perhaps my favourite thing we did in Cork, if you only do one thing do this.
We opted for the guided tour and were taken round the old city jail by an enthusiastic tour guide. They talk you through the history of the jail and discuss how the prison guards families used to live at the jail with them but weren’t allowed to leave! The reason they stayed, life inside the jail was much better then outside.
There are ample photo stops as you make your way round, you can always wander round without a guide but we’d recommend one to really understand it. We did a second loop at the end to take some photos. You go into the cells and see where the exercise yard and the hospital used to be. The site is very well maintained and has epic views – for a prison anyway!
Pretty tired by this point we made our way home via the river. The walk down doesn’t take too long and we ended up in a beautiful park sitting in the sunshine just enjoying the moment. If I had another day in Cork I would spend more time wandering around the park and enjoying the sunshine.
We finished our day with dinner and cocktails at Cask. They have the most amazing pork and black pudding sliders. We ordered a second batch as the first were so good! I’d recommend both the places we ate in Cork and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
This marked the end, for a few days at least, of our time in the cities of Ireland. Next up was some outdoor adventures!