The Cork Butter Museum (yes, seriously)

Cork, Ireland

Look, I know you're jealous.  It's ok, you can admit it.  I won't hold it against you. 

I mean, I know you've been dying to go there, and really, who wouldn't?  Other than bacon, there is perhaps no greasy deliciousness more beloved than butter.  I would even venture to say that, based on the number of bacon-free cultures in the world, butter may, in fact, be the most beloved.  So who would not feel honored, and perhaps a little overwhelmed, at the opportunity to take in the majesty of that holiest of dairy-based shrines, the Cork Butter Museum?


"It really is worth a visit" didn't even warrant an exclamation point?


Of all the famous foods in Ireland (tons, I assure you), I suspect the one about which you've heard the most is oats.  Everyone knows how the Irish love their porridge, right?  No, not so much?  Turnips then, is it?  …OHHH!  Guinness, right?  (I admit it is rather more like a food than a drink.) 

…that's not it, you say?  Wait, what — potatoes?  Hmm.  I'll have to think on that one a while. 

In any case, from porridge to potatoes, most things go better with butter!  (I daresay, a hot buttered Guinness would go down a treat.  It's a shame there isn't such a thing!)  Irish butter really should have its own TED talk, win the Nobel Deliciousness Prize, a buttery golden Oscar, and probably the FIFA cup.  Because, you see, there is nothing more plentiful and delicious on all the island — and no other Irish food that has it's own, golden-colored museum!


"My hovercraft is full of eels."


No English?  No problem!  You can still enjoy the wonders of butter, burro, mantequilla, 黃油, boter, masło, butir, le beurre, and of course "im" (Irish for butter).  Butter is the universal language!

Besides translation guides, there are displays, plaques, and even a short film with which to edify yourself.  Did you know, for example, that prehistoric Irish peoples used to store their butter in bogs?  Garlic-y and rancid was just how they liked it, oh my, yes!  There is, in fact, a keg of thousand-year old butter on display.  (A little known fact is that butter, like wine, improves with age.  Maybe.) Bogs: not just for bodies anymore!


Please, sir!  My butter's gone all manky.  May I swap it for something fresher?


Perhaps more to the point, Cork was a center of dairy commerce for Ireland and the rest of the globe.  Seriously, it was the biggest and best butter exchange in the entire world!  With Cobh being one of the largest natural harbors, and with the abundance of lovely green grass and hungry cows, it seems that dairy export was simply a part of the natural order of things.  In the 19th century, butter was booming beautifully!


You should not, under any circumstances, confuse a firkin with a merkin.


You will also be delighted, or perhaps disappointed, to know that "firkin" is not a swear word.  I suspect that you can still fool a great number of people into thinking otherwise, however.  Not all of them will have had the pleasure of visiting the Butter Museum in Cork.  And, as their eyes widen in shock and consternation, you can sagely tap your nose, nod, and repeat expansively, "Ah, yes!  Butter firkins!  So round, so firm!  …It's been a while since I've had my way with a butter firkin!"  Be sure to sigh longingly and smile disarmingly, perhaps with a bit of a mad gleam in your eye.

(By the way, the sign above reads: "BUTTER TRIER (20th Century)  This device was used to remove a sample of butter from a firkin or box…"  Much more sanitary than fingers, are firkins.)


'ware the devil's milk maid!


No tourist spot in Ireland would be complete without a bit of folklore and, possibly, magic.  In this case, it's all about mysterious cases of milk and butter theft!  There are several large panels on the wall with such tales painstakingly written out in cursive, recorded directly from the mouth of the neighbor of the cousin of the descendant of the roof thatcher who originally overheard it at pub.  It's that authentic!

The story above tells of a house that appeared out of the blue, 2 curious men, and a mysterious woman of unusual milking skill:  "…The two men kept watching and then they saw the bucket over flow [sic].  She put that milk into the churn and began to churn.  When she had churned and the butter made she disappeared and was never seen again." 

Just like that, good gracious!  Who knows what sort of demon-spawned churner of madness they had discovered?  They were fortunate to have escaped with their very souls intact, let alone their lives.


If it is a musical instrument, it is a very soft and squishy one.


If you are very lucky — and I do mean VERY — you may find yourself up around Shandon on a festival day, where you'll have the chance to see a live butter-making demonstration.  And if, by chance, you are even MORE lucky, you might get to taste some of that delectable, creamed gold! 

However, even if you are not quite that lucky, you will still get a chance to purchase some lovely souvenirs from the museum shop.  There are books, including the limited edition A little bit of butter, as well as postcards of the area and of famous butter brand wrappers.  Who could ask for more?



Well, maybe one thing more.  I think there is a need to spread (see what I did there?  "spread"?) the silly.  I'm awfully fond of limericks.  However, seeing as we are talking about Cork here, I don't think we'll go that route.  This time let's go for a butter-themed tongue twister, shall we?  Here is a sample to get you in the mood:


Betty Botter bought a bit of butter.
The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter
And made her batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter makes better batter.
So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter
Making Betty Botter's bitter batter better



Your Call to Arms!

1) Write a butter-themed tongue twister.*

2) Post it either in the comments here, on the Facebook page, or if you think you can pull it off, tweet it to me!

3) If you have a blog or other social media accounts you'd like promoted, include that information in the comment or tweet.

4) Bask in my eternal thanks and know that you are among the Best of the Buttered Babble Battlers!

I will retweet, share, and possibly include in a future blog post your magical, butter-inspired works.  If you ask nicely, I will take a copy of your poem up to the Butter Museum and take a photo of it by the sign, which will be likewise tweeted and shared, that the world shall know of your greatness.

* Other forms of poetry will also be considered if they pass the Milk Standard (causing laughter great enough that milk shoots out the noses of the listeners).  The haiku, for example, has much to recommend it.


Spread the Better Butter Babble Battle!


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  1. It’ll always be butter for me. Margarine is a scandal. It should be banned!

    1. Lol, I don’t think it’s quite as evil as that. It’s a good thing it’s around for folks with lactose intolerance. But I agree: butter is better – and Irish butter is best!

  2. I’m so glad I could be apart of discovering the Butter Museum and all its glory. Anyone who skips this while in Cork is crazy…worth every euro.

    1. Hahaha! I wasn’t sure you found it as amusing as we did, Suzy, but I am glad you were there to aid in the richness of discovery. It was certainly memorable! :D

  3. Butter better be not be bitter
    Or it will be …..bah

    this is too hard :)

    1. …you could try a haiku. ;)

  4. I LOVE butter (and bacon) and I’m surprised I’m not yet dead from my affair with these two. Interesting that there is an attraction in Ireland aside from the oats one. I had no idea there were so many things to learn about butter. I am delighted, by the way, to learn that frikin is not a swear word because I use it quite often to replace a more vulgar word cousin. However, I am disappointed that I have to be very lucky to see a butter demonstration and even luckier to get to taste the butter. My luck has never been good and I really depend on making my own luck for things to happen. It should be everyday that they have someone making and sampling butter, no? Well, still sounds like a lot of fun.

    I got to get my thinking cap on for the tongue-twister challenge.

    1. Hi, Sherry!

      I’m afraid that “frikin” may still be a swear word in some places (say, your grandma’s parlor), but “firkin” should be safe. As a geek, I also enjoy the Battlestar Galactica version, “frack.” It can be quite enjoyable shout, “WHAT THE FRACK?!?” for example.

      And I agree — there really should be more butter making demonstrations with free giveaways. Preferably on every street corner. And the butter should come with free waffles or pancakes to make sure you really get a clear idea of what it tastes like. ;)

  5. FINALLY the butter museum post! I know the first place we’re going when I come back to Ireland! :)

    1. Hahaha! If only I had known that you were waiting breathlessly for this post, I surely would have written it sooner. (Silly me — of COURSE you wanted to know about the butter museum!) Yes, do hurry up with that little Aussie adventure thing you’re doing, would you, Annie? There are much more important things to be learned back in Europe! ;)

  6. This is my first time visiting your blog and I think it’s pretty awesome that you get to travel around the world and write about your experiences. I’d like to do that after college sometime. I laughed when you said that Irish butter should have it’s own TED Talk. I love the old-town feel this post gave me as I imagined the sweet butter melting in my mouth. I’m hungry now. Thanks for the awesome pictures.

    1. My pleasure, Suhail. Glad you enjoyed it!

      There are a couple of books you may want to check out by to start thinking about travel now (and you don’t have to wait to go!):

      “The Big Trip” by Lonely Planet

      “Your Gap Year” by Susan Griffith (Amazon’s UK site; can buy it new, direct from Amazon) (Amazon’s US site; can buy it new, but not directly from Amazon)

      The gap year book is oriented toward UK college students, but it still has TONS of fantastic info! You may also want to check out some of the pages/blogs I follow on Facebook. If you go to the TA fan page (, you can see the featured ‘likes’ on the left hand side. Not all are relevant, but there are a fair number of budget travel bloggers out there who really know how to make things work!

      Don’t put it off — go NOW! You won’t regret it. :D

  7. I don’t know if I’m up to the butter tongue twister challenge, but I certainly did enjoy the post. Jealous? Of course! I’d like to see that 1,000 yr old keg of butter — or maybe not. Could you actually see the butter or just the keg? OK, maybe I’ll give the Better Butter Babble Battle a little thought.

    1. Oh, please do, Cathy! I have confidence in your abilities!

      Just the keg, I’m afraid. I think the idea is that it is still sealed. For all we know, the butter could have turned to diamonds after all this time in the incredibly high pressure bog environment. ;)

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