My husband and I had a trip booked to Ireland in June 2020. Due to Covid, the trip never happened. For a myriad of reasons, it’s a trip that likely won’t happen any time soon. I’ve pulled up my old itinerary, and I’m going to explore as much of this holiday as virtually as I can! Please visit my BLOG page for previous entries.
DAY 8: take bus from CAHIR to CORK
The second-largest city in Ireland (after Dublin). The city center is an island positioned between two channels of the River Lee.
It is located in the Kingdom of Munster which was one of the kingdoms of Gaelic Ireland ruled by a “king of over-kings.” The word Munster sounds very German to my ears, so I had to look up to see if there were any Germanic origins. Turns out that the name Munster partly derives from Eochaidh Mumu, one of the early Heberian High Kings of Ireland who ruled the area. This High King held the royal nickname mó-mó meaning “greater-greater” because he was supposed to be more powerful and greater in stature than any other Irishman of his time.
Cork was originally a monastic settlement, reputedly founded by Saint Finbarr in the 6th century. Cork became (more) urbanized at some point between 915 and 922 when Norseman (Viking) settlers founded a trading port. Cork city was once fully walled, and the remnants of the old medieval town center can be found around South and North Main streets.
Several archaeological excavations have revealed evidence for the construction of different types of houses within the walled town. The remains of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Anglo-Norman houses comprised post-and-wattle houses and sill-beam houses. For the first 300 years of the walled town’s history, it was illegal to leave a fire lighting at night, a misdemeanor punishable by a heavy fine, known as “smoke silver.”
Cork City Gaol Heritage Centre: A magnificent castle-like building that once housed 19th-century prisoners.
When the prison opened in the 1820s, it housed both male and female prisoners whose crimes were committed within the city boundary. In 1878, the Cork City Gaol became strictly a women’s gaol. Many of the prisoners in the late 19th century were repeat offenders locked up for what would not today be imprisonable offenses; for example, a woman named Mary Tucker from Rathmore in County Cork was imprisoned at least three times between 1849 and 1908, sometimes for offenses such as ‘Obscene Language’ or ‘Drunkenness’.
The English Market: Market founded in 1788, hailed as the “best covered market in the UK and Ireland” by chef Rick Stein.
Far from being English (it’s named for its Protestant origins), this is the place to pick up traditional specialties like drisheen and pigs’ trotters, although the 55 or so stalls also stock bread, fish, cheese and fruit and veg. The market has survived fire, civil war and an attempted name change, but it took a failed bid to replace it with a parking lot in the 1980s for the people of Cork to realize how special their market was. Wait, I’m sorry, back up, did I say “drisheen”? What the heck is that??
Drisheen is a type of blood pudding made in Ireland. It is distinguished from other forms of Irish black pudding by having a gelatinous consistency. It is made from a mixture of cow’s, pig’s or sheep’s blood, milk, salt and fat, which is boiled and sieved and finally cooked using the main intestine of an animal (typically a pig or sheep) as the sausage skin. The dish is often paired with tripe. Yum?
The Butter Museum: If Guinness is Ireland’s most important liquid export, butter takes the cake (the stick?) as one of its most important food exports.
Housed in the former market, the Cork Butter Museum is next to the Firkin Crane Building, an unusual rotunda that was originally part of the exchange. Built in 1855, it sits on the site of the medieval Shandon Castle, and today is a public performance space. The museum also tells the story of how Kerrygold came to prominence in the international butter market in the second half of the 20th century. Tracing its roots all the way back to that thousand year old bog butter, Kerrygold (a product of the Irish Dairy Board, Ireland’s dairy cooperative) has continued the tradition of exported Irish butter.
St Anne’s Church: One of Cork’s most prominent landmarks, you can climb the tower to experience spectacular views of Cork City and beyond.
The clock of the tower is known as “The Four Faced Liar” because, depending on the angle of the viewer, and the effects of wind on the hands on a given face, the time may not appear to correspond perfectly on each face. FYI: Pre-Covid, visitors could ring the church bells but unfortunately you can’t do that now. Just another reason to hate Covid.
St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral: stands on the site where the city of Cork was founded in the 7th century.
The cathedral features splendid stained glass windows, marble mosaics, and rich sculptures. Gothic-revival, consecrated in 1870. The organ, dating from 1889, is placed in the north transept. It is the largest Cathedral Organ in Ireland and the only one in a pit in Britain or Ireland.
Elizabeth Fort: 17th-century star-shaped fort.
Originally built as a defensive fortification on high-ground outside the city walls, the city eventually grew around the fort, and it took on various other roles – including use as a military barracks, prison, and police station.
Blarney Castle & Gardens
Bus 215 leaves every 30 minutes from the City Library to Blarney Castle (38min ride)
Blarney Castle in Co. Cork was originally built as a stone castle in 1210. The present-day construction was completed by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster in 1446 and is one of the strongest surviving tower-houses in the country.
Blarney Castle is an example of a tower house, which were buildings designed to house the families of the wealthy land owners. The castle walls are 18 feet thick in places. They afforded lots of protection from invaders during battle. Blarney Village is actually one of the last estate villages that remains standing in Ireland. It was built by an eighteenth-century landlord so the castle workers had somewhere to live.
The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone.
Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of gab.
Surrounding the castle are extensive gardens. There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations with fanciful names such as Druid’s Circle, Witch’s Cave, and the Wishing Steps.
The grounds include a poison garden with numerous poisonous plants, including wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin and opium, as well as cannabis. They got me at “Poison Garden” and sent me down a rabbit hole. So, what happens when I play with wolfsbane?
The neurotoxins, aconitine, and mesaconitine can be absorbed through the skin and cause severe respiratory and cardiac problems. So do not pick or handle this plant without gloves, especially by the root.
Common signs of wolfbane poisoning include tingling, tongue, and mouth go numb, nausea with vomiting, breathing becomes harder and labored, pulse and heartbeat become weak and irregular, skin is cold and clammy.
Patients with internal Aconitum poisoning will have cardiovascular (slows and stops the heart), neurological (pain, convulsions, paralysis), gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea and vomiting) and there are often other signs (for example, confusion and mania can occur if the alkaloids reach the brain). Multiple organ failure is likely. There is no known antidote.
All parts of mandrake plants contain the alkaloids hyoscamine and scopolamine. These produce hallucinogenic effects as well as narcotic, emetic and purgative results. Blurred vision, dry mouth, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea are common initial symptoms. In severe poisoning cases, these progress to include the slowing of the heartbeat and often death.
In Medieval times, mandrake was considered a key ingredient in a multitude of witches’ flying ointment recipes as well as a primary component of magical potions and brew. According to the legend, when the root is dug up, it screams and kills all who hear it.
Next up: Cobh daytrip