County Cork is a particularly special place (just ask the locals), and visitors will most likely want to find a token to remember their trip by. Read on to discover the best places to buy locally made mementos in Cork City and the wider county.
The Kilkenny Shop grew out of a 1963 initiative called Kilkenny Design Workshops, a government-funded project aimed at fostering Ireland’s design industry. Some 50 years later, this shop on Emmet Place is one of 13 across Ireland, stocking the country’s largest collection of Irish designers, from household names in fashion such as Orla Kiely and John Rocha to small-scale producers of Irish crafts. For a special local piece, bring home an item of handmade earthenware from the Classic Collection by Stephen Pearce. The clay comes from the banks of the Cork section of the river known as Munster Blackwater.
The English Market
The city’s famous and historic covered food market is a great place to pick up some Cork goodies to take home, from Toons Bridge Dairy mozzarella made in Macroom to 100% Irish Elbow Lane Smokehouse Sauce, produced at their restaurant and microbrewery in the city. You can also find inedible gifts here at some of the speciality stalls, such as a Cork t-shirt from Rave Cave or a painting of the city from the Market Gallery, both run by long-established trader Paul Mulvany.
Cork Craft and Design
Located in the suburb of Douglas – a short car or bus journey from the city centre – Cork Craft and Design is a voluntary organisation that represents some of the best artisan craft makers of Cork city and county. As well as organising the annual Cork Craft Month (taking place in August), they have a permanent store full of beautifully made ceramics, woodwork, textiles, jewellery, and other objects all made by native Cork artists. There’s much to choose from here, but the work of woodturner Hilary Hale, a set of greeting cards emblazoned with paintings of native Irish trees by Kilcoe Studios, or a crochet bag by Renata Pilimoniene of R-Bag Design are all standout options.
The Time Traveller’s Bookshop
Lovers of literature will be blown away by this specialist antiquarian bookshop, which stocks vintage Irish maps and atlases alongside its regular haul. With one shop on the city’s Wandesford Quay and another in the West Cork town of Skibbereen, The Time Traveller’s Bookshop is the place to find a souvenir you’ll keep for life. For example, browsers may come across a copy of The Face and Mind of Ireland, once owned by Oliver St John Gogarty (known to have inspired the character of Malachi ‘Buck’ Mulligan in Ulysses) and inscribed by the author, Arland Ussher. The collection here also includes a wide range of books about Cork history and some signed vintage photographs by the Dublin-born photographer John Minihan, now a resident of West Cork.
The Canvas Works
As well as making canvas and framed prints from customers’ personal photos, The Canvas Works produces vintage-style travel posters of Irish landmarks that come in a wooden frame or rolled in a tube for easy transport. Featured designs relating to Cork include The English Market, Blarney Castle, and several depictions of the gallery’s hometown of Kinsale (around a 35-minute drive from Cork city).
West Cork Crafts
Championing the work of craftspeople specifically from West Cork, this Skibbereen-based cooperative is run by the artists whose work is on display. Located at the town’s Morris Gallery – around an hour and a half from the city – the shop boasts a status as one of the select few ‘approved retailers’ of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland in the locality. Here you can pick up some natural, handcrafted soaps made in Macroom, photographs of the Cork countryside printed on fine art paper, wooden gift items and a range of other keepsakes to remind you of the time you spent there.
Irish gift shop Unbound has stores in both Cork city and Killarney, County Kerry, where you can browse a wide-ranging selection of housewares, decorative items and stationery. While they stock a lot of international brands, you can also find some lovely Irish-made products here. For example, there’S a stockist of luxury hand-poured La Bougie candles, made in County Cork (La Bougie also has their own shop at their perfumery in Kinsale), and they sell wool throws by John Hanly and McNutt of Donegal.
Carrolls® Irish Gifts
Carrolls® Irish Gifts
The leading Irish souvenir chain, Carrolls® is the number one spot for your stereotypical (and sometimes silly) Emerald Isle souvenirs. At Carrolls® you can pick up a Guinness-branded t-shirt, Aran knitwear, soft toy sheep or all things leprechaun-related. The Cork branch sits on St Patrick’s Street, Cork City’s primary shopping thoroughfare.
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