If you suddenly feel as if you are walking on water, don’t be so surprised. Cork is a city built on water, its heart set on an island between two arms of the River Lee.
The River Lee at night
The River Lee at night
More than that, many of the streets you are now exploring were once waterways lined by merchants’ homes and warehouses.
 
To imagine the comings and goings when Cork was the final provisioning port for European explorers to the Americas, and for the British Navy in the Atlantic; when the city thrived on food exports, sending butter and beef around the world.

Cork Harbour just downriver, the second largest natural harbour in the world, has always been a magnet for traders, and by the 17th and 18th centuries the city was rapidly expanding beyond its medieval core: maritime scenes you rediscover in the Crawford Art Gallery in the former customs house.
image
image
Left: An exhibition at the Crawford Gallery. Right: The exterior of the Gallery.
Wandering narrow alleys, Georgian avenues and bridges, it’s easy to imagine the prosperous trading families.
The 1918 Chamber of Commerce.
The 1918 Chamber of Commerce.
The Merchant Princes – who were at the forefront of local life … the Penroses, Lapps and Lavitts recalled in names of street and quay.
To imagine the comings and goings when Cork was the final provisioning port for European explorers to the Americas, and for the British Navy in the Atlantic; when the city thrived on food exports, sending butter and beef around the world.
A butter making demonstration at the Butter Museum
Some old butter packaging on display at the Butter Museum
Wooden butter churns at the Butter Museum
Left: A butter making demonstration. Middle: Old butter packaging. Right: Butter churns.
Incredible stories. And in Cork Butter Museum in the historic Shandon area you follow the incredible story of a cottage industry that went global, making Cork’s imposing Butter Exchange the one-time largest butter market in the world.
The city on the banks of the Lee
The city on the banks of the Lee
Then in the culinary hubbub of the covered English Market, serving Cork since 1788, you find cosmopolitan influences flavouring life to this day: local specialities like tripe and drisheen (an Irish blood sausage) sold alongside olives, spices and fruit.
A Merchant City built on water. Still catching the changing currents of commerce and culture in its streets and today’s busy port.
Share

Visit English Market

Princes Street / Grand Parade, Cork , Cork

  • Opening hours

    Open all year round. Monday - Saturday, 9.30 - 17.30. (Individual stall holders opening times may vary).