CORK, Ireland -- County Cork, tucked into the southwestern tip of
the country, is known for its picturesque fishing villages and
market towns, rugged landscapes, castles and the legendary Blarney
Until recently, however, few visitors made a point of spending
more than an afternoon in Cork city itself.
Nevertheless, Ireland's second-largest city, long seen as an
unattractive commercial center, is worth a second look.
The heart of Cork sits on an island between two arms of the
River Lee, and the city rises from the water in steep, terraced
One of the more colorful areas of the city, and quickly becoming
one of the hippest, is the Huguenot Quarter, with Paul Street at
Similar to but not as chic as Dublin's Temple Bar area, the
Huguenot Quarter originally was home to French Huguenot merchants
and craftsmen whose shops once lined cobbled streets.
Today, the shops have been turned into galleries, specialty
boutiques and restaurants with brightly colored facades.
Book lovers will find a number of new and used bookstores in the
Adjoining Paul Street is Cork's antique row, a handful of shops
along Paul's Lane.
The area has a Bohemian feel reminiscent of New York's West
Village or Soho in London, only on a much smaller scale and with
less eccentric inhabitants.
A few blocks away are Georgian homes trimmed with colorful
gardens, some with narrow waterways running through the front
yards, and the triple-spired cathedral named after St. Finbarr, who
founded a monastery here in the seventh century.
Even though it is gaining in popularity as a tourist
destination, Cork is one of the few places in Ireland where tour
buses do not jam the roadways during the summer.
After spending days trying to stay one step ahead of the crowds
at popular visitor sites, we found the tourist-empty streets of
Cork a relief.
The one drawback to visiting the city is that it is difficult to
travel by car, so clients should be advised to get around on foot
or by taxi.
The city also is easily reached from Dublin by train.