When you step ashore from your MSC Northern Europe cruise in Cork, everywhere there is evidence of its history as a great mercantile centre, with grey-stone quaysides, old warehouses, and elegant, quirky bridges spanning the River Lee to each side of the city’s island core.
But equally powerful draws are its lively atmosphere and large student population, combined with a vibrant social and cultural scene. Massive stone walls built by invading Normans in the twelfth century were destroyed by William III’s forces during the Siege of Cork in 1690, after which waterborne trade brought increasing prosperity, as witnessed by the city’s fine eighteenth-century bow-fronted houses and ostentatious nineteenth-century churches.
The graceful arc of St Patrick’s Street – which with Grand Parade forms the commercial heart of the centre – is crammed with major chain stores. Just off here on Princes Street, the English Market offers the chance to sample local delicacies like drisheen (a peppered sausage made from a sheep’s stomach lining and blood).
The west of the city is predominantly residential, though Fitzgerald Park is home to the Cork Public Museum, which focuses on Republican history. Kinsale, 25km south of Cork city, is also waiting to be enjoyed on an MSC Northern Europe cruise excursion. Kinsale enjoys a glorious setting at the head of a sheltered harbour around the mouth of the Bandon River.
Two imposing forts and a fine tower-house remain as evidence of its former importance as a trading port, and Kinsale has built on its cosmopolitan links to become the culinary capital of the southwest. Add in plenty of opportunities for watersports on the fine local beaches and a number of congenial pubs, and you have a very appealing, upscale resort town.