CORK, COUNTY CORK
It only took us just over an hour to fly from our local airport of Southampton to Cork in Ireland with our friends John and Charmian Cork. For many years we had planned to come to the Emerald Isle together and we had finally made it …. … After a really smooth flight enjoying some ‘Cork Gin’
, with a little tonic of course we landed and were soon passing through immigration. Being the only plane at the airport this was quickly achieved which made a nice change for us. We had front row seats, well the row behind these, the front ones remained empty for the flight, but we were still last off the plane as they opened the back door and not the front one - bad planning on our part to reserve the front of the plane!
As we finally passed through immigration you can image the smiling faces and comments as they welcomed Mr and Mrs Cork to ‘Cork’!! We did not get quite the same response but still found a very friendly Irishman welcoming us to the country!
As we approached the luggage
carousel we could not see our luggage rotating and saw the last remaining passengers departing with theirs - only to smile a moment later when we walked around the other side to see our ‘two’ cases all alone - we had not realised that it was not rotating must have been that Cork Gin we drank on the plane ….
Smiling quietly to ourselves we picked up our hire car (Paul was driving - he had not ‘drunk’ the Cork Gin … …) and we were soon heading out on to the relatively quiet roads surrounding Cork city and into the even quieter countryside on our way to our AirB&B accommodation at Youghal and yes it had started raining greening up those fields even more … …
Our Satnav soon delivered us to Ahearnes, a local restaurant to pick up the keys to the apartment. It looked inviting and the food appetising, so we made a mental note to call in here later for dinner. YOUGHAL
Our penthouse apartment at Harvey’s Waterside was extremely well laid out with plenty of space for the four
of us. The windows afforded brilliant 270 degrees views of the estuary, harbour and out to the Celtic Sea although they could do with a bit of a clean but with only water below them this was probably difficult to achieve. A small balcony jutted out over the water and with a table and chairs it was a grand place to sit and watch the fishing boats, although too cold to stay out for long - it was still May after all…… The only thing that we could find wrong with the apartment was that the freezer was not working but we planned to eat out so it was not important to us, apart from there being no ice for our ‘gin and tonics’!
We settled in and had a visit from Katie the owner and she said she would soon sort out the problem with the freezer. Once rested we set off to walk around Youghal and soon found plenty of things to see and do as well as some great places to eat and friendly Irish bars to have a drink in - luckily all within a few minutes of our accommodation which was great.
One of many local bars in Youghal Youghal
'Boys' cannot come to Ireland and not sample this ...
is a seaside town sitting on the estuary of the River Blackwater
with a current population of about 10,000. The name derives from the Irish Eochaill meaning ‘yew woods’ which were once plentiful in the area.
The town is truly one of Ireland’s Hidden Gems
with so much history right on its doorstep. Everywhere we went we were met with smiling and helpful people and we even laughed a lot when we visited the local supermarket to stock up on a few supplies when the shop assistant went off to weigh some ‘pears’ - saying they were not ‘very up to date’ here!
Later as we strolled through the town we were stopped by a man in a car asking us if we were staying at ‘Katie’s place’! He said that he was her husband and that he had just left us a large container of ice on our doorstep as they could not get an electrician out for a few days to fix the freezer. How he knew who we were we had no idea but of course he probably had stopped lots of ‘tourist’ before us - but oh
what great service from him … … Later we walked back to Ahearnes and had a really delicious meal and would definitely return again during our week in the area - we did 3 times in fact! AROUND THE TOWN
Walking back to our apartment we passed the impressive Clock Gate Tower
which spans the main thoroughfare into the town and can be seen from afar. It was built in 1777 on the site of Trinity Castle and was one of the principal fortifications of the walled town - a dividing gate between the main town and the base town. It was later altered to become the town’s prison and the site of the public gallows overseeing many stories of pain, tragedy and rebellion. Inmates were badly treated with men, women and children all crammed in together, they were never fed so most just starved to death. The tower itself has just recently been opened to visitors and Charmian joined a tour to the top and said she spent a pleasant hour exploring and learning about its diverse history.
As mentioned above the town of Youghal has so much
Clock Gate Tower
Youghal town centre
to offer but sadly it has experienced a strong decline from its former buoyant industrial past and before that its thriving ancient past when the town was surrounded by five magnificent monasteries bringing in prosperity to the area but of course Henry the 8th put pay to all of that … …
So many historical names were associated here including Sir Walter Raleigh and Oliver Cromwell
and newer ones like Moby Dick,
when Hollywood descended on this quiet backwater and many of the scenes of the 1954 film starring Gregory Peck being shot on location here. A pub on the harbour-side, originally called Linehan's appeared in the movie and was subsequently renamed Moby Dick of course.
Well walked under the same gates as many hundreds of others had done before us. The Water Gate
was where the infamous Oliver Cromwell
, his soldiers and horses passed through all those years ago. These town gates and medieval walls had protected the settlement and its inhabitants for over 800 years. Within these walls were many remnants of medieval buildings and beautiful merchants houses, set at curious angles, so that each had a good
view of the estuary and sea beyond. Along the town centre a magnificent Queen Anne style house stood out set back a little on the main street. It was called the Red House,
and painted red of course. It was built for the Uniacke family and was completed in 1703, a rare example of an early 18th-century brick built townhouse.
We enjoyed many walks around the town, along the sandy beach one way and the estuary waters the other, as well as along the town walls and around its grid like streets. Trails were given names like the Graveyard Trail,
an interesting walk, although it was pouring with rain as we wondered around those ancient tombs and we all got rather wet and cold. The oldest inscribed gravestone had a date of 1632 it was an interesting place and so different to the mausoleums we had wondered around with Bob & Elaine in Buenos Aires in the sweltering heat a few months before! As we approached a large section of the old town wall where the graves reached right up to the stones we spotted a large coffin shaped hole cut into the
Hole in the Medieval Wall
Pauper Coffin storage place
wall. A nearby plague told us that apparently an empty coffin was once stored here in wait for pauper burials! People who could not afford a coffin burial had their bodies temporary laid in a coffin that was kept there. They would then be carried to their grave in the coffin, removed and then buried in just a shroud. The coffin would then be returned to the wall to await the next unfortunate soul … … you could say a ‘take away’ burial.
It was raining really heavy as we completed this walk and Charmian and I lost Paul only to find him taking shelter in the scenic church which had some magnificent stained glass windows and also contained interesting history on many of the towns inhabitants. The Collegiate Church of Saint Mary,
nestling in a corner of Youghal’s medieval town walls, can claim to be the oldest church in Ireland with continuous worship.
Recent radio-carbon dating on wood samples from the roof place the Church in the middle of the 13th Century.
Getting dry inside the church we chatted to a friendly local guide called Catherine
who showed us a scaled model of
Charmien, Sheila, Paul and John
In our favourite restaurant - Adhearns
Youghal as a medieval town which was based on a old map dated 1558. She said that in the 15th century it became a Collegiate Church with the foundation alongside it of ‘Our Lady’s College of Youghill’ where a college of clergy and singing clerks under a Warden served the church and surrounding area and that the college even predated Trinity College in Dublin by 100 years. FULL EMPLOYMENT IN THE TOWN
Catherine also told us about much more recent history of the town and the story of her and her two sisters. They used to all work at the local Carpet Factory
as most of their family and other residents of the town had done for years. She said that the carpets were really magnificent and at its peak Youghal Carpets employed 800 local people. In the 1960s it was the only town in Ireland with full employment … …
However with much of the world struggling to cope with the economic downturn in the late 1980s and early 1990 and with the subsequent migration of manufacturing jobs to Asia the owner informed the employees that he was going to sell
the business. However they were given a lifeline when he said that if the staff signed an affidavit to say that they would not have any future salary increase then he could keep it open! All the staff signed the document but sadly the owner sold the business anyway a few days before Christmas 2006.
Carpet manufacturing in Youghal had come to an end for the first time since 1954 with everyone losing their jobs. With its closure the town was left without any nearby employment for locals and Catherine said she felt that the it would never be the same again. The effect this had on the town sadly continues as many people we spoke to reiterated her story. Many once grand buildings including convents and mansion houses as well as houses, shops, pubs and bars were falling into disrepair with ‘for sale signs’ everywhere. Looking in local estate agent’s windows you could pick up many at a bargain price, if one had the money to bring them back to their former glory.
Before we left the Church, Catherine said we should make sure we visit a local pub
Home of Sir Walter Raleigh
near the old carpet factory where they played some excellent Irish Music.
We asked her what it was called and she said she did not know its name now as all the locals used to call it the ‘Glue Pot’
, as once you went in it was very difficult to get out - sounds like it was a fun place to be!!
We later located the pub and adjoining factory building - a plague on the wall had been erected by ex-employees in memory of John C Murray, the original co-founder of the factory who had died in 1992, 14 years before the business finally closed. SIR WALTER RALEIGH
As we passed out of the Church yard Catherine told us to also take a ‘peek’ over the wall at a magnificent Elizabethan House
, now sadly needing some tender love and care like many of the buildings in the town. The house is privately owned so you cannot visit which was a shame as it was once the home of no other than Sir Walter Raleigh
himself. Myrtle Grove
is a rare example of a 16th century
in need of some tender love and care and money of course ...
house that has survived largely intact, retaining its original character and apparently still contains some interior features which date back to the 1580s.
Many of the local residents wished that it could be opened to encourage more tourism into the town and income into the local economy but the current owner was not interested and the building was gradually declining as apparently she did not have the income to carry out expensive and extensive repairs. Peeping over the wall I could only see the window frames and these definitely needed attention … … Raleigh
was granted thousands of acres of land extending from Youghal by Queen Elizabeth I and lived at Myrtle Grove, becoming Mayor of the town in 1588-89.
The house is reputed to be where Potatoes
were first planted in Europe and it was where Tobacco
was first smoked by Walter Raleigh - the two diverse products of course closely associated with him.
Apparently a servant was said to have observed Raleigh from behind and saw smoke rising from him, thinking that he was on fire he threw a bucket of water on him to ‘douse the
fire’! A lovely story but probably not entirely true more likely a little Irish Folklore there. WILDLIFE IN YOUGHAL
We really enjoyed the magnificent views from our apartment window overlooking the town, river and the sea. We watched many birds from the windows and balcony - we saw a Cormorant
catch and eat a large flat fish just below us. Swallows, Swift and Martins
constantly swooped around us they had arrived and were busy building their nests.
As mentioned we did a lot of walking in the area and particularly enjoyed the hike along the ‘Slob Bank’
which had the river one side and the estuary on the other whilst you walked along a narrow causeway deciding the two. A great and diverse habitat for many different types of birds, with marshlands, mudflats and reed banks as well as the rocky coastline. We did this walk several times and saw so much wildlife in such a small area including, Gulls
, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mallards
, Greenshank, Shelduck, Cormorants, Skylark, Pied Oystercatchers, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Linnet and several massive Gannets diving for fish, as well as colourful butterflies
We saw him for 3 days running just below our apartment right in the centre of Youghal
and lots of wildflowers.
We were also really lucky to see a River Otter
just below our apartment on three different days which was probably the same one. Several of the locals said they were very hard to spot so we were really fortunate indeed. Although one of the fishermen told us later that one used to actually walk right up into the town but had not done so for many years. We watched from our excellent viewpoint above the Otter as it swam and floating on its back whilst eating the plentiful fish and crabs around the harbour walls dragging larger morsels back to the shoreline to eat hidden under the rocks. We had some very special moments just watching him from our balcony platform above. FRIENDLY LOCALS
We enjoyed the atmosphere and hospitality in the local pubs and restaurants and the food was really good with plenty of seafood of course. We met up for a meal with Emer who came from Midleton a nearby town and was Charmian’s son-in-laws cousin - such a lovely girl and we spent a few hours
chatting to her. She gave us some useful advice for when we moved on to the Ring of Kerry the following week.
Like Catherine mentioned above all the locals we met were friendly and would also offer advice and suggestions on what to see and do. We chatted to a large family group who were celebrating their daughter’s First Holy Communion
- the little girl looked so pretty in her lacy white dress. Reminded me of when I took mine back in the early 60s with my two sisters all of us proud in our new dresses and my brother looking smart for a change too! Our dear Granny presented us with white inscribed prayer books and rosaries which I still have. They told us that the church was packed with 39 children taking Holy Communion that day which explained why the town was really busy and we had difficulty finding somewhere for dinner that night as most of them were full of families celebrating with their children.
One day whilst walking near the church trying to get a better view of Sir Walter Raleigh’s house
, which is hidden
Identified by Pat
behind a high wall I was approached by Catherine, the church guide who we had met a few days earlier. On telling her I was keen on photography and birds she said, ‘well come with me’, and she marched me down through the churchyard and introduced me to Pat.
Originally a deep sea fisherman he was also a Local Photographer and was particularly keen on bird photography - just up my street.
Pat not only took the trouble to spend an hour with me chatting as we walking around the Old Cemetery listening and watching the birds but at the same time he would stop and give me an easy to understand demonstration on how to take better bird photographs with my Canon camera as well as going through some the numerous functions. He said he had often seen Irelands’s smallest bird the Goldcrest
in the trees here but as they are so small and quick they are very hard to photograph.
When we arrived back at the Church we spotted a Blue Tit
disappear into the church wall itself where it had its nests safe inside. We walked back into the church and
Pat showed me some photographs he had taken of a Wren
that morning on a computer that was at the back of the church displaying a slideshow for visitors. They were excellent photographs, he was very gifted and he explained a little on how he had taken them. Before leaving the church we put the slideshow back on and said goodbye to Catherine and wandered back to the entrance where we departed. Before he did so he gave me his business card and said that to contact him if I wanted any information on the birds we had seen and also if I need any more help with my camera just ask. This sort of occurrence could only happen here in Ireland - he was such an amazing man to give up so much time to someone he had just met well I was just completely bowled over. COBH
We had been really lucky with the weather since we arrived in Ireland, lots of bright sunshine amongst a few scattered showers of course. However we awoke one morning to find it raining ‘cats and dogs’
so decided to head out
to visit nearby Cobh, which is pronounced Cove, and was formerly known as Queenstown in honour of Queen Victoria’s visit to Cobh. What the town is most well known for though is that its was the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912 before it was lost forever.
It did not stop raining all the way to the town so we parked the car near the giant Cathedral Church of St Colman
and headed downhill into the centre to visit the Titanic Experience Museum and hopefully keep out of the heavy rain. TITANIC EXPERIENCE
We spent a memorable couple of hours visiting the museum which is located in Casement Square and the home of the original White Star Line Ticket Office
. This large building overlooks the waters and is steeped in history dating back to the early 19th century and was of course the departure point for many thousands of White Star Line passengers and sadly those who boarded the Titanic on her fatal first and last journey.
At the entrance we bought our tickets and were actually ‘checked-in’ and allocated
View from Titanic Experience
Cathedral Church of St Colman towering above the harbour
a ‘boarding card’ which had the details of one of the 123 passengers who came to the White Star Line Ticket Office on Thursday April 11th 1912. These were the final passengers to join Titanic at her last port of call in Queenstown. Once they were on board there was a total of 2228 people, 337 in first class, 285 in second class, 721 in third class and 885 crew members setting sail for America. PASSENGERS WHO BOARDED THE TITANIC AT QUEENSTOWN
The ticket office lady was very informative and passed me my boarding pass which stated that I was aged 18 and my name was Miss ‘Catherine (Kate) Murphy’
, born in Fostragh, Killoe, Co Longford, Ireland on 6 October 1893. I was the daughter of Michael Murphy, a farmer, and Maria Lyons, who were married in 1871. I really liked the name Kate as my mother was sometimes called this or Kath as her name was Kathleen.
Kate was one of twelve children but only seven survived into adulthood. She and her sister Margaret made plans to emigrate to the USA where several of their siblings
already lived. Her sister Annie lived in Brooklyn and her brother Patrick lived in Philadelphia. It was to the latter city that Kate and Maggie were headed to when they boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as Third Class passengers paying £15 for their ticket.
Whilst aboard the sisters shared a cabin on E-deck with two other Longford girls, Kate Gilnagh and Kate Mullin and they were also acquainted with others from the same area, the Kiernan brothers, John and Phillip as well as Thomas McCormack and James Farrell.
On the night of the sinking Kate’s sister Margaret later recalled crewmen blocking their way up to the upper decks and also seeing lifeboats leaving the ship only partially full. She also reported scuffles breaking out between some third class men and crewmen determined to keep the steerage in their place whilst she saw women and children deep in prayer nearby. Lore has it that it was the intervention of James Farrell who threatened to punch a crewman if he didn't let the women past to the boats, who became the women's saviour.
Kate, her sister, Maggie and the two Kates from Longford
were rescued in lifeboat 16. Sadly the Kiernan brothers and James Farrell were lost in the sinking.
Upon landing in New York the Murphy sisters were finally greeted by their siblings and went on to settle in the country. In 1913 Kate married Michael Guilfoyle who emigrated from Ireland in 1907. Kate and Michael made their home in Manhattan and had three children. Kate was widowed in 1962 and she herself passed away on September 1968 aged 74.
Paul allocated ticket was in the name of Reverend Charles Leonard Kirkland,
57 who was a Scots presbyterian minister from Glasgow, Scotland, his ticket had cost £12. As he was allocated a Reverend we realised that he probably was not going to survive the sinking. Charles was going to visit his sister in Canada. He accompanied Frank H. Maybery and travelled as a Second Class passenger. As we guessed, sadly Charles died in the sinking of the boat, his body even if it was recovered, was never identified.
John’s allocated person also died in the tragedy but Charmian’s survived. She was Mrs Lillian Mae Minahan
who was an American and travelling with her
The Lion Gate
Gateway under which Oliver Cromwell marched
husband who was a doctor and her sister-in-law Daisy returning home after a visit to their ancestral Ireland. They were the only First Class passengers to board Titanic
at Queenstown. The ticket for the three of them had cost £90 compared to Charles’s second class one at £12 and Kate’s and her sisters third class one which had been £15.
Asleep at the time of the collision they were later wakened by the sound of a woman crying in the companionway outside their cabin and immediately began to dress. Leaving their cabin they headed to the Portside boat deck and were shown to lifeboat 14. Doctor Minahan's last words to his wife and sister were reported to be, ‘be brave’.
Sadly he died in the sinking and his body was later recovered by the MacKay Bennett. Following these stories and being allocated to be actual real people who had sailed on the Titanic made the tour so poignant and brought to life individual stories with some very sad endings of course but also a few happier ones for those lucky few who survived. TITANIC’S FIRST AND LAST
During our visit we were shown the original pier known as Heartbreak Pier,
which was the last point of land contact for the Queenstown passengers before boarding the doomed ship - this pier is now gradually falling into the sea as well. The Titanic did not actually moor in Queenstown as it was known then but stayed out in the waters and the passengers were ‘tendered’ out to join the ship for her maiden voyage to New York from this pier.
Actually the dock in Queenstown was deep enough for the ship to anchor but the Captain wanted to make good time to New York and it was far quicker for those 123 passengers to be tendered out rather than for the ship to anchor, pick up the passengers and turn around again which would have taken hours longer. Sadly if it had done this it may well have missed that vital iceberg and the Titanic and all those passengers on board would have continued their lives and most people would never have heard the name of the ship.
We experienced life aboard Titanic and the guide gave
Moby Dick Pub
View from our apartment
us an insight into conditions of the different class passengers. We were shown replicas of their cabins - such a stark contrast between the two as well as sample menus of what they were eating in the different classes. Although for the Third Class passengers there were also some luxuries that they were not accustomed to at home. Firstly they had running water in their cabins which they would defiantly not have had at home in Ireland at that time and also their ticket included three meals a day another luxury in those times.
After the guided tour we watched a simulated version of the sinking of the Titanic and then wandered around various displays some showing artefacts from the RMS Carpathia
the ship that came to rescue those poor souls that survived on those limited lifeboats. The ship had only 20 lifeboats, enough for 1178 people and many of these left the ship only partially full. The existing Board of Trade of that time required a passenger ship to provide lifeboat capacity for 1060 people! The Titanic was actually designed to carry 32 lifeboats but the number was reduced to 20 because it was felt that
the deck would be too cluttered … …. Everyone had assumed that the ship was unsinkable and no drills had taken place. Of the 2228 passengers and crew members who set sail, only 705 Titanic passengers survived.
1512 people did not make it on to a lifeboat and were aboard Titanic when she sank to the bottom of the sea on 15 April 1912. The survivors, mostly women and children, remained in the lifeboats until later that morning when they were rescued by the Carpathia.
It was a moving but interesting experience visiting the museum and it would have been great to walk around the township of Cobh as well but the rain did not ease off and as we walked back to our car we were all soaked to the skin (underware actually). We took refuge in the Cathedral Church of St Colman which looms large above the town looking down on the harbour where the Titanic moored all those 105 years ago but did not dry out much. We had not yet visited the new Titanic museum in Southampton, also closely associated with the doomed ship and ironically was only
a few miles from our home in Winchester, so we made a decision that we should do this at some point on our return to the UK. BLARNEY CASTLE
Well you cannot come to this part of Ireland and not ‘Kiss the Blarney Stone’ - for over 200 years people have climbed the steps to gain the gift of eloquence … ….
Once upon a time, visitors were held by their ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, they are rather more cautious of the safety of us visitors. The Stone itself is wedged right into the walls of the old medieval fortress, originally built over 500 years ago, by the powerful MacCarthy clan from Cork.
Because of my fear of heights I was unsure whether I was going to be able to carry out the task as to kiss it you had to lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk.
Paul, Charmian and I left John below as he was suffering with a bad back and headed up the stairs. This on its
Kissing the Blarney Stone
first and only time of course
own proved to be a difficult task as the stairway was really narrow, with open windows looking out over a drop far below and the stairs just got darker and narrower and we suddenly came to a halt as we joined a queue. I began to feel panicky but Charmian was a great help offering encouragement, saying we were nearly there, although we still had a long way to go of course … … In any event you could not turn around as it was too narrow and others were following up closely behind us! At last we finally made it to the top and we walked out around the parapet. I kept hold of Charmian in front and Paul behind and to tell the truth had my eyes closed for most of the time. We were soon at the front of the queue and Charmian said I could go first, this happening so fast was probably the best thing for me. I concentrated on the Guide’s instructions, he also held on to those attempting it - and yes I did ‘Kiss the Blarney Stone’, but squashed my nose first, hopefully I will now have the gift of the gab
delightful walks in the grounds surrounding the castle and house
My stomach was literally in my mouth and my legs were shaking as we finally made it back down those narrow stairs but it was much easier coming down than going up. Charmian then told me that she had struggled with the ascent also, although she did not show it until we were safely down again, brave girl. LAST DAY IN YOUGHAL
Our apartment was an ideal location to watch the fishing boats come in with the daily catch as well as many locals coming down to the harbour to sit and relax in the scenic location. We laughed at a group of local boys enjoying ‘skinny dipping’ (in the freezing cold), jumping from their boat and then swimming to the harbour’s sloping platform and clambering out only to jump back in again - hardy youngsters these as we watched them wrapped in our layers of clothes from our warm apartment. We also watched many sailing boats come into the harbour to shelter overnight, several from the UK and one from Lymington, Hampshire where Paul used to sail with Bob a few years
On our last day Charmian and I spotted the fishing boats coming in from our window overlooking the harbour so we raced down to see what they had caught. The first boat called Rebecca
had taken some visitors out to fish and they came back laden with Pollack. The skipper said they had caught them about 6 miles out and had calm seas, they had only seen a couple of Cod and it was far to cold for Mackerel yet. He said that lots of fish and chips shops would sell Pollock & Chips and not Cod. He offered us the fish for free for our supper but we said we were going out to our favourite restaurant again to eat freshly caught Salmon, sadly not for free!!
The second boat to moor was called Maisie J
(named after our granddaughter of course) although she is Maisie A! The boat was ladened with 19 crates full to the brim with huge Crabs
which they hauled off the ship on to the dockside. I have never seen so many crabs all together hopefully they left some in the ocean … …
and so ‘it came to pass’ that it was our last morning in Youghal and we had an early start to transport John and Charmian back to Cork Airport for their flight back to Southampton. As we gazed out of our scenic window overlooking the harbour for the last time the water was like a mirror of glass when I spotted a very thin movement out of the corner of my eye and 'Yes' our friendly River Otter
had come to say goodbye. We watched it glide across the water with just a little flutter in the water and then magically ‘he’ climbed out, walking up to a pile of rocks in the harbour wall before disappearing underneath, never to be seen again … .. We said our farewells to John and Charmian at the airport and heading off to the Ring of Kerry - hopefully we may see you there.
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