48 Hours In Cork
Introducing: Caroline O’Donoghue
My name is Caroline O’Donoghue, and I’m an author, podcaster and screenwriter. I’m also a Cork person, a fact about myself that I thought was deeply unimportant until I moved to London. After a few years away, I found that everything I wrote – from my young adult fantasy series All Our Hidden Gifts, to my adult novel The Rachel Incident – was strongly informed by growing up in Cork city.
So, while 90% of my visits home are spent staying in my parents’ house and seeing family, every once in a while it’s lovely to try and see old parts of the city with completely fresh eyes. This is where The River Lee hotel comes in: a couple of nights there and I feel like I have a new take on the place I grew up in.
Thank Crunchie It’s Friday
Check in on Friday & begin in The River Club Bar. The first time I brought my husband Gavin to Cork, I bought him a honeycomb old fashioned here.
It’s basically an old fashioned with a massive Crunchie inside it, and it’s my favourite thing on the menu.
Then there’s the chicken karaage, which I’m still not sure I’m pronouncing correctly, but is so sticky and crispy that I could eat two plates of it. And frequently do. I get an early night with a book – Sheila Heti’s Pure Colour.
You Had Me at Pancakes
Everybody loves pancakes. We are a fractured and complicated species, but we seem pretty much united by one thing, which is that everybody loves pancakes. This means we all have the same pancake problem: namely, that we don’t order them at breakfast, because they don’t seem substantial enough to set us up for the whole day, and we end up going the eggs Benny route instead.
That is why I love these pancakes, which are served with butterscotch, toasted walnuts and orange segments. They’re just the right amount of sweet, with just the right amount of fruit, so they’re both a decadent treat but feel like a real, proper breakfast and not a child’s insane birthday meal. The perfect way to start your Saturday.
If These Ivied Walls Could Talk
I head to UCC. My latest novel, The Rachel Incident, was largely set on this campus, and while the heroine Rachel isn’t too impressed with college life, it’s undeniably a beautiful place.
It’s a really lovely little campus, historic enough to feel a bit Ivy League, but relaxed enough that a poor fresher ran up to us and said “I’m sorry, do any of you know the difference between a lecture and a seminar?”
Take one of their daily guided tours if you can. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the campus as well as new developments and stories.
The Breakfast Reisling Club
Afterwards it’s lunch at newly opened Lea’s in the Glucksman, with a sausage roll that kept me full all day.
It’s barely noon, but I have a very successful novelist friend who has introduced me to the concept of “breakfast Reisling” so I’m having a glass in her honour.
Mums the Word
It’s pottering time in town, as well as popping in to meet my mum at her sweet shop, Sweet Heart. She opened it shortly after I moved to London and I’m so proud of her for making such a destination shop – particularly as it seems like almost everyone is selling ‘novelty’ sweets these days.
While you’re here, be sure to take a nose in Pinocchio’s too for the little ones in your life. It’s right across the street & was my first ever job in Cork as a teenager.
Confessions of a Shopaholic
After this, I hit up Nine Crows for their incredible vintage selection. Then I scoot over to the iconic English Market for some tasters at The Real Olive Company, who actually supply a lot of produce on The River Club’s delicious English Market Tasting Board.
And finish out your afternoon of retail therapy with a spot of window shopping in the exquisitely curated Olori boutique, where sisters Lisa and Susan Jane bring some of the chicest & most beautiful clothes to Cork.
A Pint of Plain
On your way back to the hotel, cosy up in one of the many charming heritage pubs that Cork has to offer like Sin é, Arthur Maynes, The Hi-B, there’s so many to choose from.
Today’s choice is the ever-charming Mutton Lane for a pint of stout.
The City is your Oyster
At last, it’s back to The Grill Room for Ballycotton oysters and Champagne to start, followed by a delicious, local Quigley’s steak.
I might skip the dessert and indulge in another honeycomb old fashioned before retiring for the night... A ridiculously decadent way to end the day.
A View of the Past
On Sunday I end up doing something that almost all Cork people recommend that tourists do, but never do ourselves: climb the Shandon bells. I lived just off Shandon Street for over a year when I was 20, and it ended up being the inspiration for my latest novel.
The fact that I walked past the bell tower every day and never went up there is insane to me. It really is kind of fabulous: you get to play a song on the bells, which I was far too invested in, and the climb is satisfyingly tricky.
I felt like a god by the time I got to the top, and the spectacular views of the city make it worth the exertion.
Taste the Nostalgia
Then it’s back to The River Lee for afternoon tea, which is their take on classic childhood treats like Swiss rolls and jammy dodgers.
It’s a mad little treat to end your stay.
There you have it: pretty much the perfect weekend in Cork, filled with some of my favourite places from my earlier life. I return to London again by dinner time, albeit with slightly burning calf muscles after the Shandon climb!