Ireland’s Third Largest Town has Been the Site of Several Significant Firsts
Set on the mouth of the River Lee, Cork is the picture-perfect image of the Emerald Isle. It’s quintessentially quaint with an edge of prominence that betrays its significance that inspires many Irish to consider Cork the “real capital of Ireland.” And while it’s not the official capital, it is indeed a seat of importance borne of pioneering innovations and people that have paved the city’s history. The county of Cork is vast – the largest in the country – and is part of both, Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and Ancient East. These expansive surroundings that reach from sea to sea and encompass rolling emerald hills with thousand-year-old castles and the character-filled namesake city are the perfect illustration of a visit there, as you’ll be treated to charming details in the midst of a much bigger picture.
Cork, the city, is postcard-worthy, with spired churches (don’t miss St. Colman’s Catholic Cathedral and its 49 Carillion bells), cozy pubs, lush green hills and Georgian buildings of nearly every other color lining the river. As a European Capital of Culture, new buildings are popping up, joining other contemporary structures to give the city a fresh vibe. But still, the lovely grounds of the University College Cork and Gothic revival Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral portray the classic heritage of Cork.
Insider Fact: Housed in a bulwark at the very top of Blarney Castle in Cork, the legendary Blarney Stone bestows the power of eloquence on anyone who can manage to kiss it. The castle was originally built in the 13th century, with the current fortification standing since the mid-15th century.
Among Cork’s curious and captivating traits are some important “firsts” and “onlys” that began here. A few worth noting include:
The world’s first yacht club, the Royal Cork Yacht Club, was founded here in 1720. It’s part of the city’s strong maritime legacy as Cork Harbour is known to be the world’s second largest (behind Sydney),
represented in the town’s coat of arms, which boasts the motto “A Safe Harbor for Ships.”
Ireland’s first potato was planted in Cork around 1589. At the time, Sir Walter Raleigh likely had no idea that his new crop would soon (it took about 40 years to catch on) spur the country’s sustenance for centuries to come.
Ford Motor Company’s first factory outside the U.S. was built in Cork, where founder Henry Ford’s family had emigrated from. Cork is notable for another immigration first as city daughter Annie Moore was the very first documented immigrant at Ellis Island when she arrived with her brothers in 1892.
Europe’s first Temperance Society was formed in West Cork in 1833. Yes, ironically, the city that is known to be a culinary capital of Ireland, a hub of great food and free-flowing drink and all the revelry that goes with them, once decided to abstain entirely from alcohol.
Today, the proud and colorful past of Cork still flows through the city as prominently as the River Lee itself. Stroll along lively Washington Street and sample local dishes crafted from the surrounding agricultural land. Take in the neoclassical architecture along the south channel of the river. Grab a coffee to go at one of many artisan cafes, then visit Elizabeth Fort for sweeping views of the city below. Cork will charm you in many ways. The fun of the experience is exploring them all.
Explore Cork and the surrounding region of Ireland and the British Isles on select Crystal Cruises.