Cork, Ireland

Cork is about a third the size of Dublin, but it's still a good place to go for a short break. I stayed with three friends at Sheila's Hostel, the only downside being its location up a steep hill.

As we arrived on Saint Patrick's Day, the town was densely crowded with people watching a parade to mark the occasion. The parade lasts several hours, and is so popular that you're going to have to find a suitable viewing position early if you want don't want to be stood behind rows of people. If you don't want to watch the parade, you're better off avoiding the roads around the parade route, because they really are crammed to bursting with onlookers.

photo: The front of a cathedral, two gothic spires reaching up from a weathered, white stone front.
Saint Finbarre's Cathedral.

As with most of my trips to Ireland, this was another holiday primarily aimed at exploring drinking establishments. Cork has a good selection of these, from quiet pubs to trendy bars, and it's a city that's not short of cafés or smart restaurants.

Away from food and drink, we took a walk to see the gothic Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral. We took a train to Fota Wildlife Park, which is full of wild-roaming ring-tailed lemurs, kangaroos, and monkeys, plus many larger creatures such as apes, giraffes and zebras who each get their own paddock. And we took a bus trip to Blarney where we visited Blarney Castle. Those with extremely flexible necks are welcomed to kiss the Blarney Stone, but as it involves being lowered into a hole upside-down by a lone man, and as we were a group of heavy, six-foot men, we turned down the offer and carried on exploring the rest of the castle.