When I came up with the idea to surprise my boyfriend with a trip to Cork, Ireland for our anniversary, there was only one thing in our way: on our anniversary, we would be working at the summer camp in Minnesota where we first met. But that didn’t make me any less determined. Instead, I booked our plane tickets for the last weekend in September, found the cutest AirBnb of all time, and did my best to keep the secret until I could hand him the card with all of the details in it a few weeks later. The look on his face was absolutely priceless.
A little more than a month later, we were waking up to the sounds of a seven year old girl singing. She and her mom were getting ready for a last minute flight to London. As I went downstairs to the bathroom, she and I came face to face. The black kitten she was holding in her skirt ran outside. I was pretty sure I was in heaven.
Less than an hour later, we were making the steep walk downhill and into downtown Cork. We hadn’t eaten since our sad airport dinner the previous night, so needless to say we were HUNGRY. Thankfully, our first destination of the day was all about food:
The English Market
The English Market in Cork, Ireland is one of the top tourist attractions in the area, and for good reason. The second we walked into this covered market we knew we were in for a treat. The stalls were piled high with goods of all sorts. To one side, there was a stand selling fresh apples and homemade apple cider. To another, fresh eggs.
And that was just the front entrance. The rest would have to wait.
The Farmgate Cafe
There would be time for weaving our ways through the stalls of the English Market later. For now, it was time for breakfast, and there was only one place to go for that: The Farmgate Cafe. This place was mentioned in pretty much every guidebook and blog post I had read and I would be damned if I had missed it. And let me tell you: The Farmgate Cafe lived up to the hype.
I ordered eggs on toast and Daniel asked for a Bacon Breakfast Bap. The loveliest waitress of all time brought us over the cups of coffee that came with our meals and we happily sipped away while they were filled up before we could even drain them.
My eggs came like lightning, but Daniel’s breakfast bap was nowhere in sight. Before we even realized what was going on, that same lovely waitress was bringing a scone to the table and apologizing profusely. It had been about five minutes since we had ordered.
Both Daniel’s breakfast bap and my eggs on toast were just possibly the most delicious things ever (and Daniel wants you to know that his bap was probably the biggest breakfast sandwich he’s ever eaten).
The English Market… Again
After gobbling up our breakfast and downing our fifth cups of coffee, we paid the bill and went back downstairs in search of lunch. Sure, we had just eaten. But when you’re in a covered food market, it’s always appropriate to be thinking about your next meal. Right?
While the main hall of the English Market was grandiose, the back one was like a completely different world. We squeezed our way through the hall that connected the two and found ourselves face to face with the Saturday morning crowd buying their groceries for the week. We walked around in a daze trying to figure out what to buy. Eventually, we settled on a delicious loaf of sourdough bread and a giant hunk of sheep’s cheese. I also caved and bought a bag of meringues, because I just really love meringues.
With our lunch in tow, it was time to set of for the next attraction!
Cork City Gaol
Both of us being fans of funky historical sights, we couldn’t help but make the trek back up one of Cork’s many hills and to the Cork City Gaol — the city’s former prison. We paid our entrance fee and were given our prisoner numbers before walking through a courtyard that was just a little bit too gorgeous for a prison and into the main building.
The Cork City Gaol greeted us with the stories of the inmates — complete with mannequins and everything. It was certainly an informative (and depressing) hour. The dark room full of mannequins with an “audio show” going on in the background though? That was just plain creepy.
The Cork City Gaol is also, curiously, home to the Cork Radio Museum. Daniel and his man Guglielmo Marconi chilled out for a while there before we went off in search of a place to eat our lunch.
We decided that the wet picnic table benches in the courtyard of the Gaol weren’t going to do (thanks, rain) and that, clearly, the next best place to go would be the nearest park. You know, because parks don’t get rained on.
So we crossed the River Lee over what I have since learned is so lovingly dubbed “Shakey Bridge”. Of course, I had to stop and make Daniel take a million pictures of me on the clearly Insta-worthy bridge (sidenote: follow me on Instagram 😉 ).
Funnily enough, the nearest park also just so happened to be one of Cork’s bigger and more beautiful parks. Oh, and we met a super soft puppy while we were there so it really was a win-win situation. Except for the bit where we didn’t have a knife to cut the cheese so we had to bite into it like savages. Oops.
What We Do Best is Exploring
After stopping for an exploring break to play on the awesomest play structure we had ever seen (that was, until the next day) we decided to just walk kind of sort of in the direction of the Shandon Bells, which I was determined to ring. On our way, we stumbled upon the main quad of the University College Cork, which is pretty, but nothing like our own St Andrews’. #shamelessselfpromo #sorrynotsorry
By this point our feet hurt and we were pretty cold and wet, so we made the unanimous decision to seek out hot chocolate. But of course, being the perfectionist that I am, I wasn’t satisfied with just stopping in at the next cafe we saw. Instead, I had to research for cafes on Google Maps that were in the right direction, had good hot chocolate, and agreeable interior design (seriously. Who am I. I questions my motivations every day.).
Luckily all that research paid off because we found a cafe that met all of those criteria. Not that I could tell you the name of it or anything.
The Shandon Bells
The moment I read about the Shandon Bells of St. Anne’s Church, I knew that their siren song was calling to me. Why? Because I COULD MAKE THEM RING THAT SONG IF I WANTED TO. Yes, that’s right. For a small entrance fee you can climb up the bell tower for sweeping views over the city and ring the church bells on your way up. How cool is that??? Well, for everyone except for the neighbors that is.
Dinner and a Drink at Sober Lane
After I lived my dream of ringing the Shandon Bells, we trekked back up the hill to our Airbnb to pass out for a few hours before dinner — a time honored tradition in Daniel and I’s traveling life.
While we were in prime vegetable state, we came to the conclusion that we had to visit at least one pub while we were in Ireland. So, being the young and hip person that I am, I typed ‘cool pubs in Cork’ into Google and went with pretty much the first option that came up: Sober Lane.
Turns out that Google didn’t disappoint, because Sober Lane was, in fact, cool. Oh, and their nachos were to die for. We shared a €9 plate of them between us and that was our dinner. No kidding.
We washed our nachos down with a half pint of cider each, because even though we were in Ireland Daniel and I are wimps and don’t actually like beer. While drinking that half pint of cider I came up with the ingenious blog post title: “The Millennial Grandma’s Cork Pub Crawl”. I was so excited. Go to two pubs, go home, and have a great and funny story to tell on my blog the next day.
Daniel said one pub was enough and, my dreams dashed and too tired to even wait the 20 minutes for the next bus we coughed up the €10 for a cab back home. In case you’re keeping track, that was more than our dinner cost. #budgettravelfail
Until next time, “The Millennial Grandma’s Cork Pub Crawl”. Until next time.
We woke up the next morning in our stupidly comfortable bed to a lack of children singing (she and her mom had gone to London for the weekend). After packing up all our things, we headed back into town to grab coffee and muffins before hoping on the half hour bus ride to Blarney Castle.
Because you can’t visit Cork, Ireland without going to kiss the Blarney Stone. Not that we managed that, of course, but more on that later. The story of how we didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone deserves a post of its own. For now, here’s a picture of the stupidly beautiful Blarney Castle to tide you over.
After Blarney Castle, it was time to make our way to the airport for our flight back to Scotland. On the two buses that it took to get there, we reflected on our time in Cork. With only a short amount of time, we had managed to fit a lot in. Lol jk, I’m pretty sure we both took naps on the bus. We’re not that introspective.
Have you ever rang church bells? What about drinking five cups of coffee in one go? Tell me all your favourite memories in the comments down below!