In 1610, during the reign of King James I, the first charter was granted for what has become Ireland’s most famous covered food market; it has been officially in business since 1788. Housed within a Victorian facade with vaulted ceilings and grand columns, the market is packed with vendors — many family-run for generations — selling regional delicacies alongside fresh produce and imported goods. Market visitors hoping to sample some local flavors will find, among other things, blood sausage, tripe, pig trotters, buttered eggs and spiced beef. Those with a less adventurous palate will also find deli meats, cheeses, fruits and baked goods on offer.
Elizabeth Fort has played a part in Ireland’s tumultuous history since 1601; it was constructed in timber on the orders of British politician Sir George Carew to defend British military interests in Ireland and named after Queen Elizabeth I. Built on a limestone outcrop just south of Cork’s walls, it was expanded into its present stone star-shape in 1624–26 under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell and saw much action for the next two centuries withstanding sieges between Britain and Ireland.
By 1719 the fort was a military barracks for 700 British soldiers but after they moved to a larger base in 1806 it served many functions, including a deportation center for criminals being sent to Australia; a food depot during the Great Famine of 1845-52, when the potato crop failed; and an air raid shelter in World War II. Latterly it became a Garda (Irish police) station before being opened to the public in 2013.
Everyone wants the gift of eloquence, and some say the Irish have it, well, the gift of the gab anyway. So, how are they so blessed? It's all down to the Blarney Stone. For over two centuries people have been coming to Blarney Castle in the south of Ireland to kiss this stone set into the battlements in the hope of gaining a silver tongue. It used to be that you were hung over the battlements from above by your ankles, these days there's less risk involved in leaning backwards from the parapet walkway while holding securely to a metal railing.
The origins of this magic stone are still debated. Was it Jacob's pillow, St Columba's deathbed pillow, or the stone that gushed water for Moses? Was it brought to Ireland after the Crusades or given to the Irish by Scot Robert the Bruce in gratitude for helping him defeat the English in 1314? We'll probably never know. But after you kiss it, tour the ruined castle, visit elegant 19th century Blarney House, wander around the lake.