Cork is a complex and fascinating city. The centre used to be made of marshy islands between which flowed various branches of the River Lee. (“Cork” is an anglicisation of the word Corcaigh or Corcaigh Mumha which is Gaelic for “The Great Marsh of Munster.”) The first streets built in Cork were North and South Main Streets which were built on marsh areas and were enclosed within the Old City Walls. Over the centuries the river branches were arched over and streets were formed. Streets such as Patrick’s Street, the Grand Parade, the South Mall and many others were all originally branches of the Lee. Today’s city features the North and South Channels. Cork still maintains what is essentially a Medieval city plan- she was not treated to the same kind of city restructuring that were taking place in many European cities such as Paris, London, or Edinburgh or Irish cities such as Dublin and Limerick. Nonetheless Cork boasts some fine Georgian period buildings in places such as South Terrace, Camden Quay and St. Patrick’s Hill.
It’s the complexity of the city that gives Cork much of it’s charm. The two river channels can be quite disorienting for anyone not aware of the city’s layout. The hills of the North Ridge (“the North Side”) feature many nooks and laneways to get lost in. The Shandon Quarter to the North is well worth the climb. For those feeling very energetic, Shandon Tower is worth exploring. From her balconies near the top you can look down upon the whole city.