Cork: South Parish

Cork, Ireland

Tourist information offices are easy to dismiss as being designed for, well, tourists.  They are also, however, a great source of information for locals who would like to learn about upcoming events as well as a bit of history.  Handily enough, the Cork tourist office has 2 brochures published by the Cork City Council suggesting walking routes around the city. (Edit: there are now 4 routes!)  It comes complete with a map and corresponds with signposts along the way.  Perfect!

My friend and fellow CS-er, Paul, bussed into town that morning for our planned outing.  Paul is a history buff, you see, as well as actually being Irish (if not entirely Corkonian).  Not just walking around with some other random traveler, but a Real, Live Irish Person, added an air of authenticity to our outing.  Dario, another random traveler (ok, and my husband, if you must) opted to come along with us.

Paul had mentioned earlier that he'd like to go explore the south side of the city center.  The blue brochure from the office seems to have been designed just for him.  Nicely enough, there is a red brochure for the north side.  This makes me very happy, as I have only briefly passed through the Shandon area and have not yet had time to visit the world famous Cork Butter Museum!  (What?  You haven't heard of it? …plebe!)


The weather was perfect! Perfectly Irish, that is.


As we approached the sign, Paul put on his Laurence Fishburn sunglasses and said, "After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue path – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red path – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." 

"Umm…  I'll just take the blue path.  Thanks."  I wasn't up for rabbit holes or even butter museums that day.  After all, I did have to get to work on Monday.

Paul removed his sunglasses, rolled his eyes at me, and sighed.  "Fine.  Then look to your right and notice the lovely 19th century facade of the large department store known as The Queen's Old Castle."


Now an edifying force of entertainment.


There is something in the brochure about this being named after something else and that original something showing up in the city coat of arms, but we kind of rushed through that bit.  Well, it was raining!

Next was a mention of Bishop Lucey Park and how the gates used to be part of the old Corn Market near City Hall.  Now, seeing how City Hall is across the river these days, we wondered whether it was the gates that had been moved or City Hall.  It would be a shame if they moved the entire building but forgot to take the gates.  But heck, we all know how civil engineering goes.  Anything is possible!

And then, since so many of the subjects we are interested in have a common connection to Freemasonry, we took a picture of the door of the oldest lodge in Ireland:

Neat!  Though it could use a little sprucing up.  Too bad all that Baphomet conjuring
can't get a little spit and polish work done.


This is the beer nursery.  That is, where beer is born.


After that, we walked down Tuckey Street, past the limestone block that told us the lane graduated to street status in 1761, and turned left on South Main Street.  This is known as medieval Cork.  Fortunately, no time portals needed to be entered to get there, so there was proper sewage and a distinct lack of plague rats.  The Beamish and Crawford's Brewery is in the neo-Tudor (as opposed to actual, old timey Tudor) style, so apparently they recognized that electricity and hot and cold running water were worth a little redecoration.

…Over the river and through the quays ("keys") to the Vikings' house we go!


Keyser's Hill.  Quite Nordic looking, no?  At the very least, I know
I would feel as if I'd been on a Nordic Track all day if I had to commute this way.


Apparently "Keyser" is a Norse name, so this little street is one of the oldest thoroughfares in the city.  Hardly shows its age, does it?  And not a horn or spear mark in sight.  …And then we set off for St. Finn Barre's.


Paul: "Dead people?"

Dario: "Yup, definitely dead people."


We walked on to St. Fin Barre's Cathedral.  Honestly, I included the picture above to show that daaaang Ireland is green!  Even in November, the greenery here practically glows.  It's fantastic!


Sometimes looking up provides the coolest views.  Oooo!  Gargoyles!  :D


And then, as if on cue, the sun came out and life was glorious!


So pretty and sparkly!


Fortunately, the cathedral was not open that day or you'd be getting even more pictures of it.  Call me silly, but I just love old churches.

We continued around the corner and up the hill, heading past the organist's house and other cathedral-related buildings.  We also stopped for our first Irish lesson.


Paul is not impressed by our pronunciation.


"Shrod on dane" is approximately how you say it.  What a shrod is, or why you'd put one on a Dane, is beyond me.  Maybe it has something to do with a shillelagh.  At this point, I think Paul decided we were beyond help and did not attempt to disabuse us of our crazy notions.


Ok, so about half way through.


That's good, 'cause my feets were starting to hurt.  Lovely warm boots from Vienna, but not so much in the padding department.  It also started raining quite heavily at that point.  Just enough time for a quick peek into Elizabeth Fort, where there is now a Garda station and a few cannons, then nip off to a pub to get warm!


Paul checks to see if there is anyone within easy cannonball range.


We stopped into a pub named, "The Brown Derby" (wasn't there an I Love Lucy episode about eating at a famous Hollywood restaurant with the same name?), to warm up and wait out the rain.  Dario and Paul were thinking about a pint, but I wanted a hot whiskey.  Paul's eyes lit up and he asked if I'd ever had a hot port.  Ooo, no, I hadn't, but it sounded delish — and it was!  A measure of port mixed with hot water, and clove-pierced lemon wedge dunked into the mix.  Heaven on a cold, Irish day.  Gosh, I could use one now!


Abby…  Abby someone.  Abby NORMAL!


When the weather cleared, we set off again.  First stop was the Red Abbey.  There's not much left of it, but the pigeons sure find it handy.  Just around the corner we found the other end of St. Finn Barre's.  I guess it was easy to lose track of your church parts back in those days.


Well, if it isn't the oldest Catholic church in the city!


We stopped in briefly at the South Chapel (aka, St. Finbarr's South – note the variable spelling), which houses a sculpture by John Hogan, "one of Ireland's greatest sculptors."  He created 3 versions of The Dead Christ.  The first one is in Dublin, the second here in Cork, and the third is in Newfoundland.  Also really cool for a newly hatched history fan (namely, me) is noting that Daniel O'Connell, leader of the Catholic emancipation movement, held two huge meetings here.  He also held "Monster Meetings" (just like monster truck rallies, but with horses and carts) in other parts of the country.  Dedicated to peaceful means of change, he was said to be tremendously charismatic.  Pretty cool to be standing in a place visited by such an important historical personage.


The Dead Christ (aka, The Redeemer in Death), v. 2.0.


The outside of the church looked quite small, but once inside, you realized it was like a TARDIS.  Much bigger on the inside than the outside.  And it smelled extraordinarily modern.  I noticed it straight away, as all the churches I'd been to in Italy were mostly without odor.  Old stone and wood is surprisingly non-smelly.  The smell of this church, on the other hand, smacked of Sunday school, cheerful Christmas pageants, and bake sales.  Yes, altogether quite suspicious!

We then headed down to George's Quay–  wait, did I tell you that all of Cork used to be marshland?  Lots of little islands in the marsh, with channels of the River Lee running amok throughout the mushy land.  So all these little quays (pronounced "keys," remember?) were places where boats and ships used to dock before so much of the center got paved over, solidified, and civilized, as it were.  Got it?  Good.  …Right, so where were we?

Oh, yes — George's Quay!  Boats used to park here, which means all the houses were built in such a way as to keep in line with the docks.  There are also "…two beautiful examples of 18th century bow-fronted Georgian houses.  One of these was used as a friary for the Capuchins of the Holy Trinity Church."


Capuchins, who knew?  I must admit, I'm surprised to learn
there were monkeys in Ireland at that time.


And then, just as we headed off to the Holy Trinity Church, the magic hour hit.  That is, the heavens opened up and shone beautiful, golden, afternoon sunlight on the building.  Lovely!


Seriously, how does this keep happening?  We get rained on while taking a look at places of commerce, beer manufacturing, and war, but the sun breaks out and shines on cathedrals?  Ireland, you are fantastic!


Lovely warm feeling here.  Italy's churches are marvels of ornate
marble carvings, but so far, Ireland is winning on the welcoming scale.


A couple of shots from the inside, and then I'll wrap it up.  I'm sure your feet are a bit tender, too.


So THAT'S why it's called holey water!


Sorry the focus is so mushed.  I just HAD to put this in, though.  Yes, it's a container of holy water.  And it's leaking.  (Maybe the cannister is Swiss?)  I will say no more.


Hey, I recognize that guy!


I couldn't believe it!  Padre Pio followed us from Campania to Cork!  I said, "Hey, that looks like Padre Pio!" and Paul confirmed that it was.  There was no sign to indicate his identity, but you see his face everywhere in Italy.  First learned about him on Stromboli, saw stickers of his face on the Polish War Memorial at the Montecassino Abbey, and later ended up visiting the town where he was born, purely by happenstance.  …or was it?  (Is Padre Pio following me?)  Apparently he's quite popular in Ireland.  Again, who knew?


War Memorial for all the men from Cork who died in WWI.


We took advantage of the cathedral-caused sun break to sprint to the end of the tour and see a final memorial or two.  Above is the memorial for WWI.  Not pictured (due to a rather unsightly construction vehicle marring the view) is the National Monument to commemorate the Irish Rebellion of 1798.  And the one in 1803.  And another one in 1848.  Oh, yeah, and one more in 1867.  (Geez, these Irish are rebellious folk!)

We ended our magnificent walk by stopping at a catalog store to pick up a small heater for Paul.  (He's large, but delicate like an orchid.)  And then, because it is simply too delicious, we stopped for another incredible beverage at O'Connaill Chocolate.

Seriously, it's the best hot chocolate I've ever had, bar none (pun intended).  Go there when the owner is making the drinks and be forever ruined for other brands of cocoa!  He puts melted chocolate (white, milk, dark, extra dark, etc.) into the drinks.  You can get them with cinnamon, ginger oil, chili, and all kinds of other amazing stuff I can't even name right now (sorry, no wasabi, sushi fans).  It's…  wow!

I'll have to try and get pics one of these times.  Have been there thrice now, but failed in the pic department every time because I go into a pleasure coma the moment my drink arrives.  Amazing stuff. (Edit: I exercised self control and succeeded in getting pics!)

So even if you don't want to visit me and Dario, take a quick jaunt to nearby Blarney Castle, walk around the South Parish with us, or even take the dreaded red path / rabbit hole Cork Walk (and have your mind blown by the Cork Butter Museum), come for the chocolate.  You won't regret it!

And if it's raining, just head to a cathedral.  ;)


What are some of your favorite city walks?


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  1. Dave McCarthy says:

    Oh, and something else about Red Abbey: it was commandeered in 1690 by an English Army who hoisted cannon into its tower, so as better to attack Elizabeth Fort to put down local resistance. The bodies of the hundreds of people and horses who died in the conflict (which took place a few weeks after the famous Battle of the Boyne) were buried in a mass grave between what is now the Grand Parade and South Main Street. The burial site was never built upon and is now part of Bishop Lucey Park. Incidentally, the commander of the English was John Churchill, ancestor to Winston.

    1. Wow. Do they talk about this when they have the, um, whatsit… The archeological day celebration? They set up in the park and talk about Cork’s history, but I don’t recall anyone mentioning a large burial ground. There’s just so much history here!

  2. Dave McCarthy says:

    I regularly bring CouchSurfer visitors and others on that exact same walk. You have captured it very well Katrina and I have learned a few extra bits from your blog, thank you! If you are doing this walk again, may I suggest that you also nip in and say hello to Nano Nagle, whose coffin lies overground in the grounds of South Presentation Convent. To find this virtually secret garden you have to enter through a doorway on Douglas Street, about a minute’s walk from Red Abbey. Before you go, read up on Nano Nagle’s life. She was an amazing woman whose achievements, if she had been a man, would be far more celebrated in her native county. All she gets is a bridge named after her, the pedestrian one that connects Grand Parade with Sullivans Quay at the Quay Co-Op.

    1. Is that her bridge? I’m going to have to look for a plaque now.

      I followed your suggestion and visited the convent of the Presentation Sisters on the Cork Heritage Open Day. Unfortunately for me, the crowd was quite large and the nun giving the talk quite small, so I didn’t manage to catch all of the history. You speak so highly of Nano Nagle I feel that I must learn more!

  3. The reason the First Lodge of Ireland Plaque and door made need a polishing is because they don’t actually WANT people to notice it. My dad is a member, as was my grandfather, and his father before him (!!!) so I got a tour a few years ago. It is so unbelievably plush inside, like a palace with swords and fine paintings adorning the walls, heavy goldne thrones with red velvet seats…its pretty sweet, if not a little mysterious!

    1. Some lodges back in the US are actually making an effort to get the word out for new members, as the numbers have been declining. Y’know, the more I think about it, the more it sounds odd to say they don’t want anyone to know about it. Why have a sign on the door at all, really? Ah, well! Have to leave something for the Dan Browns of the world to find! ;)

  4. Eoin says:

    Thanks. Really enjoyed the photos and the captions :)

    1. Tour Absurd says:

      Thanks, Eoin! Did the red path a week ago. Will be doing a post about that sometime soon! :)

  5. Bemused Boomer says:

    I first thought the church with the Dead Christ was someone’s dining room and thought it odd to see a guy under the table. Glad you explained. But I still think it would be cool to have a kitchen table like that (OK, maybe with someone other than a beloved religious leader. Maybe Gollum.)

    1. I seem to recall you had a glass table that let wee doggies look up at you while you were eating. Close enough? ;)

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