Hosted Cruise – Cunard Queen Victoria – 12 Nights
June 7 – 19, 2020
Port of Call – Cork (tours from Ringaskiddy), Ireland – June 9
For the first time ever, the Queen Victoria will be docking in Ringaskiddy, Ireland. Ringaskiddy is a village in County Cork, Ireland. It is located on the western side of Cork Harbour, south of Cobh, and is 15 kilometres from Cork city, so it makes a perfect jumping off point to visit Cork.
According to Lonely Planet, Ireland’s second city is first in every important respect – at least according to the locals, who cheerfully refer to it as the ‘real capital of Ireland’. It’s a liberal, youthful and cosmopolitan place that was badly hit by economic recession but is now busily reinventing itself with spruced-up streets, revitalized stretches of waterfront, and – seemingly – an artisan coffee bar on every corner. There’s a bit of a hipster scene, but the best of the city is still happily traditional – snug pubs with live-music sessions, restaurants dishing up top-quality local produce, and a genuinely proud welcome from the locals.
The compact city centre is set on an island in the River Lee, surrounded by waterways and packed with grand Georgian avenues, cramped 17th-century alleys, modern masterpieces such as the opera house, and narrow streets crammed with pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants, fed by arguably the best foodie scene in the country.
Top Attractions – Cork:
Cork City Gaol: This imposing former prison is well worth a visit, if only to get a sense of how awful life was for prisoners a century ago. An audio tour guides you around the restored cells, which feature models of suffering prisoners and sadistic-looking guards.
The tour is very moving, bringing home the harshness of the 19th-century penal system. The most common crime was that of poverty; many of the inmates were sentenced to hard labour for stealing loaves of bread. The prison closed in 1923, reopening in 1927 as a radio station that operated until the 1950s. The on-site Governor’s House has been converted into a Radio Museum where, alongside collections of beautiful old radios, you can hear the story of radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi’s conquest of the airwaves.
English Market: With its ornate vaulted ceilings, columns and polished marble fountain, scores of vendors set up colourful and photogenic displays of the region’s very best local produce, including meat, fish, fruit, cheeses and takeaway food. The envy of foodies throughout Ireland, the English Market has been around since 1788. Far from being English (it’s named for its Protestant origins), this is the place to pick up traditional specialties like drisheen and pigs’ trotters, although the 55 or so stalls also stock bread, fish, cheese and fruit and veg. The market has survived fire, civil war and an attempted name change, but it took a failed bid to replace it with a car park in the 1980s for the people of Cork to realize that their culinary capital was worth saving! Today hailed as the “best covered market in the UK and Ireland” by chef Rick Stein, the English Market is thriving.
Elizabeth Fort: Originally built in the 1620s, and serving as a garda (police) station from 1929 to 2013, this small star-shaped artillery fort once formed an important part of the city’s defenses. Newly opened to the public, it offers an insight into Cork’s military history, and there are good views across the city from the ramparts.
St Fin Barre’s Cathedral: Spiky spires, gurning gargoyles and elaborate sculpture adorn the exterior of Cork’s Protestant cathedral, an attention-grabbing mixture of French Gothic and medieval whimsy. The grandeur continues inside, with marble floor mosaics, a colourful chancel ceiling and a huge pulpit and bishop’s throne. Quirky items include a cannonball blasted into an earlier medieval spire during the Siege of Cork (1690). The cathedral sits about 500m southwest of the centre, on the spot where Cork’s 7th-century patron saint, Fin Barre, founded a monastery.
Across the bay, is another potential tour. Cobh (pronounced ‘cove’) is a charming waterfront town on a glittering estuary, dotted with brightly coloured houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral. It’s popular with Corkonians looking for a spot of R&R. It’s a far cry from the harrowing Famine years when more than 70,000 people left Ireland through the port in order to escape the ravages of starvation (from 1848 to 1950, no fewer than 2.5 million emigrants passed through). Cobh was also the final port of call for the Titanic; a poignant museum commemorates the fatal voyage’s point of departure.
Top Attractions – Cobh:
Titanic Experience: The original White Star Line offices, where 123 passengers embarked on (and one lucky soul absconded from) the RMS Titanic, now house this powerful insight into the ill-fated liner’s final voyage in 1912. Admission is by tour, which is partly guided and partly interactive, with holograms, audiovisual presentations and exhibits; allow at least an hour. The technical wizardry is impressive but what’s most memorable is standing on the spot from where passengers were ferried to the waiting ship offshore, never to return.
Spike Island: This low-lying green island in Cork Harbour was once an important part of the port’s defenses, topped by an 18th-century artillery fort. In the second half of the 19th century, during the Irish War of Independence, and from 1984 to 2004 it served as a prison, gaining the nickname ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’. Today you can enjoy a guided walking tour of the former prison buildings, then go off and explore on your own; the ferry departs from Kennedy Pier, Cobh.
The guided tour takes in the modern prison, the old punishment block, the shell store (once used as a children’s prison) and No 2 bastion with its massive 6in gun. Other highlights include the Gun Park, with a good display of mostly 20th-century artillery; the Mitchell Hall, with an exhibit on the Aud, a WWI German gun-running ship that was sunk in the entrance to Cork Harbour; and the Glacis Walk, a 1.5km trail that leads around the walls of the fortress, with great views of Cobh town and the harbour entrance. You’ll need around four hours to make the most of a visit.
Cobh, The Queenstown Story: The howl of the storm almost knocks you off-balance, there’s a bit of fake vomit on the deck, and the people in the pictures all look pretty miserable – that’s just one room at Cobh Heritage Centre. Housed in the old train station (next to the current station), this interactive museum is way above average, chronicling Irish emigrations across the Atlantic in the wake of the Great Famine.
Other exhibits include some shocking stuff on the fate of convicts, shipped to Australia in transport ships ‘so airless that candles could not burn’. Scenes of sea travel in the 1950s, however, might actually make you nostalgic for a more gracious way of travelling the world. There’s also a genealogy centre and a cafe.
St. Coleman’s Cathedral: Dramatically perched on a hillside terrace above Cobh, this massive French Gothic Cathedral is out of all proportion to the town. Its most exceptional feature is the 47-bell carillon, the largest in Ireland, with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighs a stonking 3440kg – about as much as a full-grown elephant!
Blarney Castle: Built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftans, Cormac MacCarthy, and has been attracting attention ever since. Over the last few hundred years, millions have flocked to Blarney making it a world landmark and one of Ireland’s greatest treasures.
Ready to join me on this amazing sailing experience? You can find the full cruise details here or just call the agents at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel at 306-242-TRIP today!