Based in Cork
Leaving Waterford, using five buses and making cathedral visits in Lismore and Fermoy, I was dropped in the middle of a busy roadway and looking up (away from the river) to a serious hill. Google Maps instructed me to begin the ascent, bringing me first to a set of about 10 stairs. Balking, I checked and there was a diversion whereby I could stick to a smooth surface (albeit an ascending sidewalk) to continue the climb. Plunking my smaller roller on top of the big roller, I pushed the two up the hill, to reach the Church of St Luke, the landmark which identified this neighborhood. After rounding the seemingly defunct building, I then had to descend about 500 feet to reach the driveway for Gabriel House. And there was yet an altitude drop of about 25 feet (stairs and driveway, using the latter) to reach the entry.
Gaining the reception desk, checking in for 5 nights, I was advised my room was up two levels and there was no lift (or porter to haul my gear.) I asked if they might accommodate me with a lower level room, and, after “playing Tetris” moving room reservations around, Valerie was able to put me opposite the receptionist desk for the duration. Hoorah and blessings for Valerie! Rolling in, I got partially unpacked and inquired about dining options.
Following the road out front down the steep hill, I reached the base and a traffic light on a major thoroughfare. I had several options, and chose Thompson’s Microbrewery. Yes, they had actual copper tuns and did onsite brewing, and I had a 4-sample “Bartender’s choice” tasting board
to accompany dinner: Indian Summer Ale, Thompson’s Citrus New England IPA, Lynch’s Stout, and Another Bloody IPA. Starting with Buffalo-style wings (coated in our two-week fermented chili sauce, served with blue cheese and celery), I soon developed a favorite of the ales, and found that more drummies than wings were served. Beer preferences were the citrus and the “another”, the stout tasted burnt. The wings had been parboiled, so were fully cooked (I hate pink chicken); while not super spicy, my lips did tingle, albeit the blue cheese was a thin sauce without chunks of cheese. For my main: Peruvian Clonakilty chicken (Peruvian marinated chicken served with roasted jalapeno and red onion aioli, extra crispy steak fries) which was half a parboiled chicken with good spiciness; the fries were awesome, and the dressing on the salad was not to be missed. The dessert offerings weren’t appealing, and besides, I had eaten enough.
Returning to the corner, I began my climb up the hill. A convenience market was still open, so I picked up a pair of bananas, as I had elected not to get breakfast. At Gabriel House, because there really wasn’t desk space to work, I took the Chromebook into the dining room and worked for 2 hours, finishing and posting the Belfast blog. After checking my routing for the next day (not too difficult), I backed up photos, read email and read part of my ebook. The watch said 8259 steps, but given that it was losing time significantly daily, and ceased to capture steps after that reading, I’m skeptical.
After fighting the soap dispenser in the shower (I finally just pulled shampoo, conditioner and a bar of soap from my kit), it still took me three tries out the door to reach the street – I’d returned first for a scarf (it was cool) and then for my camera! Down the hill, and taking the cutoff to the stairs down the cliff face which dropped me at the train station. When getting my tickets to Thurles on the Dublin train, I also topped off my TFI card with 50€ for my buses to Cashel and return. While waiting on the train, I sent an email to the USPS to see if there was a solution to putting my mail at home back on hold.
In Thurles, as I approached the Cathedral of the Assumption, pedestrians and vehicles were entering the gate for 11am Mass, so I was able to attend the service commemorating St Padre Pio, who I remembered from parochial school – a friar who had the stigmata.
The Old Testament reading was the section used in the song Turn, Turn, Turn, bring a smile and memories. Touched, I even went up for a blessing when the Eucharist was being offered. The cathedral is a big building, with notable stenciling on lighter colors, and the arches were Romanesque (curved). Glass was simple, except in the clerestory and the ambulatory.
Getting to Cashel from Thurles was interesting – I had walked back into the town center and got on a local jitney, which dropped me at a crossroads in Horse & Jockey.
I checked in the convenience store and was told where to await the next bus, picked up a sausage roll and a bottle of water, and went out to a picnic table to await the second jitney. The 1315 bus didn’t appear, but I was onward twenty minutes later after about an hour’s wait.
First on my list was the CoI cathedral in Cashel. The
appeared to be closed, but I found a warden painting the exterior of the molding of the windows to the vestry. As he had keys, he unlocked the church and let me roam and take my pictures. Simple, clean, bright; it was an interesting church with a nice old organ.
Exiting and getting some more exterior shots, I then began my wander through Cashel (unsuccessfully looking to buy some of their blue cheese, for which the town is known) as I headed to “The Rock”.
Situated on a rise a bit out of town, the Rock of Cashel is a southern Ireland tourist destination. Site of the ruins of the old Cathedral of St Patrick, the castle and several other building’s remains sit in an old walled cemetery.
A guide was beginning the last tour of the day, so I joined the group. It was beginning to rain, so there was a premium on covered space, and photo taking became a challenge – both raindrops and crowds.
As the late afternoon progressed, the space between my UV filter and the camera’s outer lens began to fog up. I had to resort to the phone, which doesn’t have the precise zoom capabilities of the Nikon.
After checking Google to see how and when I would return to Cork, I hustled back into town and managed to get the express with no waiting. Back in Cork, I walked up the hill and spent some time with Kathleen, the day receptionist before returning to the base of the hill for dinner. My restaurant choice was Cask, and I decided to start with their lemon pepper chicken wings with the Indian Summer ale I’d poobahed the previous night. “The wings were oily, slightly lemon, not much pepper. Tender and fall off the bone. All wings. Watercress was insipid.” I wasn’t able to open the wet wipes, needing staff assistance. I followed the wings and beer with the cheese plate, accompanied by whiskey. Four cheeses: Ballinrostig organic red pepper (hard), Gubbeen (soft), smoked Gubbeen, Macroom blue cheese; served with caper berries, red current jelly, quince, Ballymaloe relish, grapes, almonds and crackers.
The four whiskeys were Dunville’s Single Malt PX Cask 12yo; Gold Spot (125th Anniversary) 9yo 51.4%ABV single pot still (Mitchell); Redbreast Lustau Pot Still Sherry Finish (45%ABV); and Connemara (peaty) Kilbeggan (40%ABV). No further notes in the journal. I’m sure that once I returned to the hotel, I backed up photos, wrote some more for the blog and plowed through email. For a Friday night, I folded early.
A beautiful Saturday, and I had plans to visit the neighboring city of Cobh. My notes indicate that the banana for breakfast had little effect settling the “whiskey belly” as I sat in the train station in Cork (at the bottom of those shortcutting stairs along the cliffside.) With three private guided tours in the immediate future, I had heard from the two women, but was getting anxious about my Ring of Kerry driver. I pushed a concerned email to the admins at ViaHero and boarded the train. The ride was just under a half hour, and the station abutted the Emigrant Museum (or Heritage Center) alongside the quay.
Not the only person with the cathedral as an initial destination, a foursome with North American accents (I found myself being careful to try to include Canadians) were discussing directions received by station personnel, while I relied on Maps. They headed up the hill past the Lusitania Memorial, while I strode on to Pearse Square and the Titanic memorial before beginning the climb up a serious hill. I was there well ahead of them, as they had more backtracking to do, as well as climbing higher on the hill.
The granite St Colman’s Cathedral, Ardeaglais Chólmáin in Gaelic Irish, is large and sits on the edge of a bluff. With a single tall spire to the south of the west entrance, the 11am sun triggered outside shots after I had my interior pictures. The vast ornate space has smooth columns of rose marble supporting capitals and arches of white stone and galleries above the nave’s side aisles topped by clerestory windows. A very high wooden vault!
Brilliant tilework filled the central aisle with fixed wooden pews marshalled to face east. Significant transepts give the footprint a classic cruciform shape, with the eastern end capped with a semicircular dome. Ornately carved side altars sat the ends of the transept arms, while a stunningly carved reredos covered the curved eastern walls. Looking up, there are gilded bosses at the meetings of the arches. Turning around to face the western entrance, the loft over the doors was filled with the façade of organ pipes below an awesome rose window. Well-lit by artificial lights, the sun combined to create more issues with the camera. Those clerestory windows contained stained-glass of representations of Irish and diocesan saints. Sunbeams and light glare made for some creative effects, as I marveled at every turn with the almost excessive number of busts, friezes, statues and wall covered carvings.
The stained-glass reflects the period of its construction – the early twentieth century – and features various saints in vibrant colors Smaller round lights fill the transept ends. A frustration for me was the bishop’s throne: while the intricately carved wooden backing was visible, the cathedra itself was covered in a white drop cloth. After 75 pictures, I headed outside, only to find that the small bluff really didn’t allow me the space and angles to get a representative view. The drop down Cathedral steps (known as The Rock) would give a miserable angle looking up, but across the dip was Spy Hill which looked promising. Ambling around trying to find my way, I wound up using one of my favorite features of the Nikon Coolpix P900 – the rear display panel unfolds and tilts so that I can hold my camera up to the top of a wall and frame my shots.
Continuing down the hill, I had a splendid view of the harbor and islands of The Bar. As my afternoon back in Cork was unscheduled (I had tour options listed, but never pulled that trigger), I checked the train schedule and decided to visit the Heritage Center and partake in the Emigrant Experience.
Lots of displays, dioramas and exhibits, the path walks one through leaving Ireland during the Famine, through the immigration triggered by early hostilities to Britain (which included both of my maternal great-grandparents) to the shipping out in the early twentieth century, including the Titanic. Interactive options abound, and there are (confusing, to me) computer terminals for genealogical research.
Returning by train to Cork and remembering that I wanted to have my camera looked at as I headed to the “North Cathedral”, I checked Google and found that what I needed would be to the south. The first shop couldn’t help me remove the filter, but the directed me around the corner to a shop where I left my camera. With an hour before I could retrieve it, I wandered a bit through the shopping district before settling at Luigi Malone’s opposite the Cork Opera House.
With a lemonade and a small chicken Caesar salad, I journaled. In reflection, I kicked myself for not searching for my great-grandfather’s uncle, Myles O’Reilly, who had immigrated with his brother a generation earlier. [I’d visited his gravesite in Wichita Falls, Texas on my transcontinental drive leaving California for Florida in 2016.]
Back at the camera shop, the filter had been destroyed in the removal process, but the main lens was polished clean, and I capped it and took off for the South Cathedral.
The CoI Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral occupies a large block surrounded by walls and gates, filled with mature trees. On an east-west axis traditional to Christian churches, the transepts are very brief, and the apse is to the east. As I approached from the Lee River, the cloudy sky backlit the spires as I approached the rotund rear of the sanctuary. Coming through the gate, the sky began to lighten, and by the time I reached the west entrance, the sun brightened up the limestone façade.
With three spires of about equal size, this mid-late nineteenth century Gothic Revival church is covered with carvings. (The spires are over the crossing and at either side over the western end.) The sun was cooperating, and I found several spots where I could photograph the cathedral without too many foliage issues. Once inside, carved limestone features in the arches supporting the galleries and clerestory. The vault is wooden, dark over the main aisle, while brick vaulting covers the side aisles. A brass gate blocks walking into the quire, but I was able to pass between the stalls and the sanctuary and altar via the ambulatory. A docent advised that there are three sets of organ pipes – in the loft over the entrance, and two sets in the north transept. These latter include a chrome and wood set, and a set which had been sunken into the church floor – apparently, the views of the stained glass had to be preserved when the organ was upgraded. I found it quite interesting to be able to view the multiple ranks of pipes up close.
The high altar and rear sanctuary space are filled with mosaics and ornate stone work. Above, the vault is painted and stenciled wood, featuring stars and images of angels with candles. At the crossing, the spire has stained glass lights, similar to a lantern effect I’d seen at Liverpool and Ely. Seemingly stunned by the beauty surrounding me, I returned and took more photos, finally capping out at about 100. I was there for 90 minutes, heard 2 guides as I heard about this being a single man’s project. Leaving as the staff began moving folks out so the church could be closed for the evening, I retreating to the outside. I began taking detail shots, but ended with some more “money shots” as the late afternoon sun was awesome. I must have delighted in the gargoyles, as I doubt I missed one.
Coming back along the south fork of the River Lee, I crossed into the shopping district as I headed towards St Luke’s Cross and the hotel. Dinner was a return to Thompsons for fish and chips accompanying Another IPA – keeping it light after the evening before, as well as bearing in mind an early start planned for the morning.
Sunday morning, and I was up, out at 8:25 and down the hill and into the bus station to catch the nine o’clock #237 to Rosscarbery. Located 65km southwest of Cork and along the southern coast of Ireland, I peered out the windows for an 80 minute ride. The countryside was heavily agricultural, with horses, cows and sheep also grazing. All of the towns we passed through were small, including my lagoon-based first destination, which was being used for skulling and sailing as I alighted.
The CoI Cathedral Church of St Fachtna was down the slight rise that the town center sits on, behind a stone wall, and overlooked by ruins of an abbey. The posted sign indicated Communion Services at 8:30 and 11:30, so I figured I’d be locked out. However, walking around the building, I found a side door which was unlocked. Entering into a large vestibule-like room, I began taking pictures in the narthex and moved into the nave. A simple church with a wooden vault, a single aisle led down the center past a carved stone pulpit to choir stalls and the raised altar table. A small pipe organ sat across from the ornately carved cathedra. The large stained-glass window in the arch behind the altar featured the Evangelists, and a second, simpler throne was tucked into the corner. Carvings both of wood and stone adorn the walls.
Back in the narthex, the rougher flagstone underfoot was a contrast to the tiled flooring in the church. Several monuments, statues and wall plaques, surrounded the edges of the room, which takes up about a third of the length of the building. A posted notice pinned to the wall, indicated that this was the cathedral for the diocese of Ross – causing me to reflect that I’d been to the ruins of a Ross Cathedral while in Inverness this trip. I’d also been to two Lismore Cathedrals (from Oban in the Scottish Argylls, and on the way from Waterford to Cork.)
Leaving the church, I walked down to the lagoon to watch teenagers getting ready to get out to row on the smooth waters. An Irish Famine Pot (reproduction) stood in the park alongside – another reminder of the strong anti-British sentiment found especially in this part of Ireland. My walk took me down towards where I thought I’d catch a bus onward, but learned at the Royal Cross Inn I needed to wait at the town square. Climbing a slight hill, I entered into the graveyard and climbed over walls to get to the ruins of the abbey.
Onward to the town square, where I got a bite to eat once I figured out the next bus was nearly 90 minutes away. Checking for a taxi as Skibbereen was 20km west, I was frustrated to learn the local driver didn’t have a car, and the taxi service, first indicating he was 10 minutes away, turned out to be nearer 45. By that time, I was ready to wait on the bus, again the #237, which showed up 15 minutes behind schedule.
St Patrick’s Cathedral in Skibbereen, a town about 5km north of the ocean coast, sits overlooking the main N71 road passing through its center. Set about 200m from the commercial center, I was pleased to find it opened in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Not overly ornate, a closed, covered portico provides weather coverage at the west-facing entry. Its stone exterior is fairly simple, with a single bell mounted over the doorway.
Inside, there is a main aisle under a flat coffered ceiling. The vault is nicely decorated with white and gold over the antique rose base. The arches for the stained-glass windows and the galleries in the transepts are Romanesque (curved). A small organ with modestly stenciled pipes sits in the loft over the west door. The post Vatican II altar is up three curved steps from the nave floor with red marble columns extended the top’s surface. An older, more ornate high altar sits three steps higher behind it, supporting the tabernacle and its domed cupola. Erté-esque murals of musical angels fill the curved wall behind this altar.
Curious when I returned outside, a shell of a structure stood to the north bearing crosses at the roof peaks. It was apparent that work had been started on repurposing it, but I wanted to know what the original use had been. Construction zone walls kept me from getting too close, but I determined it had been a religious school. It looked like work had stopped a bit ago. Then I walked into the town, with time to spare before the return bus would pick me up across from the church. I found Skibbereen to be a quaint colorful town. When the bus arrived (nearly on time), I assisted a younger woman with her luggage.
Heading west, I’d seen a sign that offered “Free Whiskey”, so I kept my eye peeled on my return. Past Rosscarbery, I spotted the whale tale and West Cork Distillers Ltd. Building in Clonakilty and wished I had time (and that bus service was better on Sundays.) The bus continued and dropped me in Cork, and I began a wander.
At 5pm I found Rising Sun Brewery, where I settled in for Sunday supper, ordering two sampler flights to accompany a custom-built pizza. Handsum IPA, Sunbeam Lager, Redemption Irish Red for the first, and Dreamcatcher, Grainu Ale Belgian Wheat, Changeling Pale Ale for the second. Favorites were the Redemption and Dreamcatcher. The pizza was topped with garlic oil, Cashel blue, pepperoni and chorizo, and swam in cheese. My (future planning) thoughts were to request to swap the mozzarella for more blue next time, and that the meat wasn’t what I was used to. I got a box with what I couldn’t eat, to offer to a street person. None “accosted” me, so it was passed along to the hotel staff, who just dumped it. Go figure.
My plans were to sleep in, which would mean about 9, but it was Monday morning and there was so much conversation outside at reception that I was up at 8:20. Checking the itinerary, and then the bus schedule, I decided to speed up and catch the 9am bus (instead of the afternoon bus at 3:30) to head out east to Cloyne. Actually, the bus heads east until it reaches Midleton, and then turns south through Cloyne. Midleton is where Jameson really distills its whiskey, and has a major tourist activity center.
Cloyne is basically a crossroads in eastern County Cork. A very old settlement (per Wikipedia, 4000 years), the first abbey/cathedral would have been established in the late sixth century, albeit repeated destroyed by invaders over the next half millennia. There is a notable round tower across the street from the present cathedral walls.
The Cathedral of St Colman dates to about 1250, built on the site of the original monastery. The gate into the churchyard was (surprisingly) unlocked, so I began my exterior circuit, tromping through overgrown grasses and blackberry brambles as I avoided the gravemarkers. My notes indicate tight sightlines, but I did get some nice shots from outside. A sign indicated the entrance was the north door, and it was unlocked! Entering into this Norman building, I was in the narthex with white walls and a dark timber roof, slate stone underfoot. Like a parish meeting hall, boards with notices and small table with pamphlets were visible in the well-lit space. The Baptismal font, a blockish stub, sits on a square plinth.
Passing through the door into the nave, a red carpet overs the center aisle, and the white walls accentuate the polished dark wood of the pews, stalls and the timber roof. Three graduated tiled steps rise to the wooden altar rail, behind which the altar table sits below an arched stained-glass window depicting the Last Supper. Looking up, the timbers in the vault are arranged in a herringbone pattern. I suspect that, if filled, the seats in the quire and sanctuary about equal the number for worshipers in the pews. In a side room, besides several catafalques is a display case of a replica of the Bible rescued from the P.S. Sirius.
Exiting, I checked and found I would gain no access to the round tower, unfortunately. Back to the corner, I got a coffee and a scone and joined a growing queue of more than a dozen waiting for the bus.
I longingly looked up the road when the bus made its left turn westward in Midleton. Most used the transportation as a local means between towns, while I rode back into Cork. My objective was the North Cathedral.
The Roman Catholic cathedral in Cork sits at the crest of a hill north of the River Lee and a bit northwest of the city center. Given the topology of Cork, with its steep slopes to the north of the river, and multiple hills, my walk from the bus depot took me first west along both sides of the river (crossing at bridge #3,) then up Mulgrave Road to Roman Street where I came to the view of the eastern end of the brick and stone structure.
The Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne sits amongst what I noted as “new housing”, so sight lines were limited. Despite an age of more than two centuries, the second renovations since Vatican II leave its interior very modern, with light and clean lines, albeit I found it somewhat sterile.
A single bell tower stands over the west entrance’s single door. Inside, a sunken pit with the baptismal font sits at the back end of the main aisle. The fluted columns are red stone, supporting arches of carved white stone and a ribbed vault with gold bosses. Beyond the crossing, four steps lead to the platform and the simple altar table and lectern. Behind, backed by a wooden lattice, the wood and velvet cathedra surveys the nave. I chuckled at the carvings of winged crouching lions supporting the armrests for the chair. A modern stained-glass depiction of the Crucifixion lights from the east behind the throne’s screen.
Looking from the sanctuary to the entrance, the contrast of the detailed carvings of the vault to the plainness of the floor of the nave jumps out. Few statues, simple Stations, a rear loft faced with smooth wood and the organ pipes pushed to the rear of the side aisles, I realized that any distractions might have been removed. The old high altar is now located in the north transept, while the tabernacle and adoration chapel occupy the south. I found that I was actively seeking out elements of the older configuration – the old choir stalls, medallions depicting the Evangelists, the ornately carved pulpit.
Departing, feeling unfulfilled, I took a few more outside shots before stopping to visit the visitor center. A work-in-progress, some of the historic essence is displayed in rough glass cases. I used their facilities before going into their café where I spoke with a woman for 15 minutes – we covered both my perceptions of the interior of the cathedral as well as my current journey and obsession. I also asked about a pro-cathedral, as my itinerary included it, but the cathedral had been consecrated about the time of the Emancipation, so there was little likely hood of an earlier “temporary” cathedral.
The weather was cooling such that I was feeling the need for a jacket or sweater. Descending the hill and leaving the Shandon District, I crossed the river and started to wander the shopping district. Looking for a bargain, I browsed a few shops before finding two cotton sweaters at Dunne’s. Donning the antique rose one, I exited and began my journey back to St Luke’s Hill and the hotel. On the way, I stopped at a post office to secure a mailing bag. In the room, I riffled through my suitcases and pulled any and all loose paper, pamphlets, flyers that I’d saved. Using the paper mailer bag and this newer plastic bubble bag, I put my backpack, a few lightweight shirts, chocolate bars and all that paper into both. The receptionist advised me that the nearest post office was up near the church at the top of the hill, so I made the climb. After filling out the custom declarations (since I was sending a camera chip in one bag and a thumbdrive of photos in the other, I put a high value on theses bags) and paid to send them to myself in Florida. (Yes, they arrived intact.)
Text messages and emails had arrived with questions about my safety in Florida as Hurricane Ian was approaching. After sending reassuring responses, and checking with my roofmates and the handyman who would be mounting the steel shutters the next day (27 September, the day before landfall,) I hoped it would be a repeat of my 2017 trip when I was in Budapest for Hurricane Irma. Heading back down the hill to “restaurant row”, I walked to the far end of the strip and settled into Gallagher’s Gastro Pub.
Sitting between a couple from DC and a couple with their daughter (studying law) from Cleveland, I enjoyed my dinner of a chicken and duck liver parfait (rhubarb and cherry compote, whipped garlic butter, rustic bread) and Beef & Beamish Stout pie (root vegetables, puff pastry, fries) with a Franciscan Well Rebel Red (ale). The bread with the starter was very rustic and crunchy, and the paté was sublime. For a second beer, a Murphy’s red, which I found more flavorful. The pie looked homemade, was very hot and delicious. Curious about the stout in the pie, I had half pints of both the Beamish and Island Edge Irish Stout, both from Cork. Speaking with Miguel, my waiter from Sevilla, he asked about a nightcap, and I (let him twist my arm and) had a double of West Cork Blended #3 char bourbon “Black Cast”, which was better once I added a small ice cube to the whiskey.
Back to the room, I backed up the photos from both cathedrals, did a bit more email and then got to the big task. Packing was necessary, as I would be leaving the following morning for points west – returning to Killarney. Having mailed off a bundle, there seemed to be more room.