Cork Is Worth A Closer Look


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 Stone.

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 lanes.

One of the more colorful areas of the city, and quickly becoming one of the hippest, is the Huguenot Quarter, with Paul Street at its center.

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 area.

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.

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