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If you don’t have a lot of time or if you need to find your bearings quickly, then this page is perfect for you. It describes what you will see when you do a full circuit of Cork City, taking in the main Shopping, Business, and Transportation areas. This walk will take anything between 60 and 90 minutes. It does not include long, lingering stops and certainly does not include visiting the insides of any premises. However, you are your own boss so take the tour in whatever way you like yourself. It's designed to be whistlestop, but there's no harm in stopping to investigate anything that takes your fancy.
Ideally, you might start your tour at the Tourist Office on the Grand Parade, (across the street from the Cork City Library). The two asterisks indicated ** before and after other suitable start points on this tour. The friendly and helpful staff at the tourist office provide a detailed colour map of the city streets, for free. If you have not already got one, call in and ask. Unfortunately the office is not open on Sundays or Bank Holidays ;-((
While standing at the Tourist office, facing the Cork City Library across the street, walk right (or North) in the direction of Patrick Street. Be aware that all the streets you will be walking today (Grand Parade, Patricks Street and South Mall were once channels of the River Lee. (The Wide Streets Commission arched over these tributaries in the 1700’s)
The first side street you will pass on your right after 1 minute walking is Oliver Plunkett Street, equal in importance for shopping to Patrick Street. Oliver Plunkett street is not part of this walk, but may be worth strolling through to see the vibrancy of trade on a smaller street. Note the small fountain called the Berwick Fountain in the centre of the grand parade. As ornate as it is, it's also a gathering point for the youth of Cork after hours when the clubs around Oliver Plunkett Street kick them out after 2am! Sometimes the fountain is switched on, sometimes not. If I were in charge of the 'switch' I'd leave the fountain switched on all of the time.
Keep walking north and note across the road a small park called Bishop Lucey Park. It was constructed in 1985 and named after Bishop Cornelius Lucey (appointed Bishop of Cork and Ross in 1954). It was also the site of a school called Christ Church and later a furniture shop. Part of the old city wall is visible just inside the gate of this tiny park, dating back most of Cork's 800-plus years. Once part of the enclosed walls around the entire city centre were used to defend against piracy or attack, only a small excavated section of wall is visible now.
Continue on past one of the five entrances to the **English Market**, which was established in 1788 and is worth a visit after your walk is complete today. This houses some of the best modern and old-fashioned foods available in Ireland. Once again, the market does not open on a Sunday or Bank Holiday.
Keep walking, and note across the road a wide avenue, called Washington Street (previously called Great Georges Street), named after George Washington. This street is one of the main roads to County Kerry and Killarney (a 90 minute drive) and it’s also a 15 minute walk here to University College Cork (UCC), the Court House, and Fitzgeralds Park. UCC is a must visit when you are in Cork. The campus is beautiful. Fitzgeralds Park is also worth a stroll. It's small, but leafy and pleasant. The River Lee runs right by the park. Have a look out for the 'Shakey Bridge' which is just outside the park gates nearest the river. Fitzgeralds Park was home to the International Exhibition in 1902.
You are now approaching the junction of Grand Parade and Patrick Street. There is a very obvious wide right turn onto Corks Main street (Patrick Street) Just before you leave the Grand Parade, look across the road to the modern Argos and discount shops. This was the location of both the Queens Castle and the Kings Castle - the two castles are depicted on Corks famous coat of arms (two castles and a tall ship, the city motto being Statio Bene Fide Carinis, meaning a safe harbour for ships). A recent road excavation here revealed part of the lower structure of the original castles. Tall ships originally sailed up what is now Patrick street and docked safely in the confines of these castle walls. The Discount and Argos shop replace a shopping mall called the ‘Queens Old Castle’. Behind this ‘castle’ is the famous Castle Street, and North Main Street, both historic areas of the old walled city.
You now turn right onto Patrick Street and walk East. On 12th December 1920, many of the buildings on this street were destroyed by fire during an attack by the ‘Black and Tans’ - veteran soldiers and ex-convicts sent by the British government to control the rebellious population, known for their brutal acts and intimidation of the local people. The name 'Black and Tans' is an Irish name for them, based on the colour of their uniforms. An attack on one of their vehicles by Cork rebels led to a drunken rampage by them, in which many houses near the attack (Dillon's Cross, outside the city), as well as much of the city centre were burned to the ground. This accounts for the mixed style of new and old buildings on Patrick's Street. You will pass a number of sidestreets as you make your way along the right hand side of Patricks Street, all of them good shopping streets. You will pass them in this order – Mutton Lane, Prince's Street (another entrance to the English market is on this street, and has an excellent café overlooking the market floor. It is called The Farmgate), Marlboro Street, Cook Street, Winthrop Street. Look down Winthrop Street and you may be able to make out Corks main Post office, the GPO (General Post Office, not to be confused with Dublin's GPO, one of the central sites of the 1916 Easter Rising). There was originally a bowling green in the area of the GPO.
Finally there is Maylor Street which connects Patrick Street with Parnell place. Maylor street separates two of Corks main department shops, i.e. Brown Thomas (Previously called Cashs) and **Debenhams**, previously a well known Cork department store known as Roches Stores. It changed hands in October 2006.
Across the road too are a number of side streets also worth investigating at another time. French Church Street, for example, named after the French Huguenots who had established themselves in Cork in the mid 1700s after being driven out of France. They were mainly involved in the textile industry, and this area is known as the Huguenot. Quarter. There is a small graveyard on this street.
Now keep walking up towards the River and St Patricks Bridge. Stop at the end of Patrick Street for a moment (near the statue of Father Matthew and also known as the ‘Apostle of Temperance’) Note here too, is the entrance to the **Merchants Quay Shopping Centre**. There is a reasonable café on the first floor of this shopping centre called ‘Kylemore’, although many more informal and personal cafés can be found around the city's side streets, particularly Paul Street.
Have a look at Patrick's Bridge. It was first opened in September of 1789, and a toll was charged to use it until 1812. The original was destroyed by a flood in 1853. Before the bridge was constructed, citizens were ferried back and forth by boat. Look across the bridge and beyond it you will see Patrick's Hill. Good views of the city can be had from here for those fit enough to make the steep hike to the top! In 1998, the irish leg of the Tour de France took on this hill, a memorably tough cycle!
Now continue your walk around the corner onto Merchants Quay. You will be following the river Lee downstream for a few minutes. The area you are walking on now was derelict up to the late 1980s, until the building of the Merchants quay shopping centre brought new life into this section of the city. Walk now as far as the bus office but do not cross the road to it. This is the main bus office in Cork. You are now on the corner of Merchants Quay and Parnell Place. Across the river you will see the rear entrance of the Metropole Hotel, another Cork Institution. The main entrance is located on McCurtain Street named after Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomas McCurtain, murdered by British forces in 1920 for his political views.
The **bus office** has an information office where printed timetables of every bus journey out of the station is available. Note that Corks train station is a further 10 minute walk away from the Bus Station and is not visible from here.
Walk now along Parnell Place, you are heading in a Southerly direction now away from the north channel of the river. You will shortly pass two side streets, both very close together. The first is Maylor street - remember you have already seen the other end of this street from Patrick Street - and immediately after Maylor Street is Oliver Plunkett Street Lower. Again you already saw the other end of this from the Grand Parade.
Keep walking on Parnell Place for another minute and you will come once again to the river. There are two main channels of the river Lee running through the city. The tributary you have already seen at the bus station is the North Channel, while the channel you are now looking at is the South Channel.
Note the two fine buildings on each corner of Parnell Place. The building on your right was completed in 1865 and was the **Cork Provincial Bank**. It is now corporate offices. Across the road the Cork Savings bank was also built in the 1800s but at time of writing (March 2014) is no longer a Bank, but the building is for sale. The 3 lane bridge ahead of you is Parnell Bridge, which takes you in the direction of Cork Airport and Kinsale, West Cork. You should also notice the beautiful Cork City Hall across the river, constructed in 1936 after the previous building was burned by the Black and Tans.
However, do not cross the bridge but instead continue West onto the South Mall which is Corks business district. Notice the fine old buildings as you walk, and again you will pass many familiar street names which you will have seen while walking on Patrick street. It will be obvious to you now that the South Mall runs parallel (ish) to both Oliver Plunkett Street and Patrick Street.
Once again imagine South Mall as once being a channel of the river and proof of this is in some of the older building that have steps leading up to the main door. In the 1800s, boats tied up beside these buildings and in fact a law still exists that allows tenants of these buildings to tie a boat up alongside their premises. However, I have yet to see this happen.
You will pass another Cork Institution here in the **Imperial Hotel** which was opened in 1817. There is a nice bar in here called 'Souths' and a small coffee shop just inside the door if you are feeling peckish.
You are now only a few minutes away from where you started so continue on back to the Grand Parade and the tourist office. At this stage if you have 30 minutes to spare, an extended walk down Oliver Plunkett Street and a visit to the English Market is a must. (There is a further entrance to the market from Oliver Plunkett Street; it is the first lane on the left as you walk down O.P. Street)
The nice thing about this walk is that at any time you are never any more then a brisk 10 minute walk back to the start point. This is made possible by all the intersecting side streets.
FOR LONGER TERM VISITORS: There is a very detailed and up to date atlas of Cork called CORK STREET ATLAS. It is available in Easons or Waterstones bookshops (both on opposite ends of Patrick Street) and the cost is 6.99 euro. It’s quite a small publication so ask an assistant if you can’t find it. Well worth the money.
Don’t forget that a number of individuals do group walking tours especially in the summer months, you will find contact names on the web, just type in Cork Walking Tours on your browser.
Enjoy your walk.