Cork City Gaol is an important part of the city’s revolutionary history. First opened as a prison in 1824, it housed female Republican political prisoners during the Irish War of Independence, including the famous nationalist and politician Constance Markievicz. During the Irish Civil War, when the gaol also admitted male prisoners, Cork writer Frank O’Connor – a member of the Anti-Treaty IRA at the time – was another inmate.
Designed by the renowned local architect and former Mayor of Cork Sir Thomas Deane – who also designed the original buildings of the city’s university and other architectural landmarks – the sprawling Georgian-Gothic building is today open to the public as a museum. Their eerie evening tours cost €10 and need to be booked at least a week in advance.
Cork City Gaol, Convent Avenue, Sunday’s Well, Cork, Ireland, +353 21 430 5022
Serving the people of Cork since 1889, Sin É pub is the place to go to hear authentic traditional Irish music in Cork. An important stop on the Cork Heritage Pub Trail, the venue hosts live ‘trad’ seven days a week, including The Lee Sessions – almost-daily gatherings of some of the best musicians in the city, sponsored by Cork City Council.
Sin É, 8 Coburg Street, Shandon, Cork, Ireland, +353 21 450 2266
Cork is known as Ireland’s food capital, and the Cork Tasting Trail will allow you to truly eat and drink like a local – or possibly even better. A two-and-a-half-to-three-hour ‘food stroll’ will set you back €55, but it will be more than worth it for foodies who love nothing more than discovering the best-kept secrets of a city’s dining scene, and there are plenty of free samples along the way. Tours are limited to small groups, and private tours are also available.
If you prefer to do your gastronomic exploring under your own steam, just make sure you get to at least one Cork food market to sample the cream of the crop of local offerings. The English Market is the obvious choice – and it is fantastic – but the Coal Quay Saturday Food Market is full of goodies too.
For something a bit different, you can also explore Cork from the water, with a leisurely kayaking tour. Atlantic Sea Kayaking provides a Cork City: Under the Bridges Tour as well as one to the outer reaches of the sizeable natural harbour, taking in the town of Cobh – the final port of call of the Titanic – and Spike Island, aka ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’.
A 16th-century defensive fortification later made into a castle, Blackrock Castle has found new purpose in the 21st century as an observatory and museum – and a great one at that. Its interactive Cosmos at the Castle exhibition was given an Award for Outstanding Achievement from TEA, the world association for themed attractions.
For music lovers, no visit to Cork would be complete without taking in a gig at Crane Lane Theatre, one of the most loved venues in the city. Opened as a gentlemen’s club during the 1920s, it’s now a multi-purpose performance space with three separate bars – plus a roomy beer garden – where you can go and watch some cabaret or listen to anything from smooth jazz to pop rock. The vibe here is best described in their own words: “Think Hunter S. Thompson meets Joyce around midnight.”
This neoclassical 18th-century church is the unusual home of a justifiably popular art house cinema, which screens a diverse programme curated by their cinema programmer Chris O’Neill. The Triskel Arts Centre cinema has voluntarily incorporated the F-rating – developed at Bath Film Festival and recently introduced on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) – which highlights films with female writers, directors or strong lead actresses.
Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin Street, Cork, Ireland, +353 21 427 2022