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OUT & ABOUT IN IRELAND: Kiss and tell county with tales of the unexpected.

CORK is Ireland's second city and an ideal place to visit for a long weekend.

And it is ideally placed to see some of south west Ireland's most scenic attractions.

Cork is also the largest county in Ireland containing rich farmland, wild sandstone hills and a magnificent coastline shaped by the Atlantic.

The region boasts some of the most varied and spectacular scenery. The south western coastline, sculptured by the ice-age and influenced by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, is steeped in ancient history and folklore.

The city was built on an island in the River Lee and the bridges, converted warehouses and 18th century buildings provide an attractive backdrop.

In the centre, a huge covered market sells fresh produce including fresh and smoked salmon.

Familiar designer stores line the main streets and the narrow paved lanes are full of fascinating and unique shops.

There is also a multitude of restaurants and superb traditional Irish pubs with long bars of dark polished wood and brass.There's no shortage of pubs and clubs and places to visit ranging from the Beamish Brewery, which is the oldest in Ireland, to the ancient, restored, Cork City Gaol.

The Maryborough Hotel is also worth a visit. Situated on the edge of town, it is built in the grounds of an 18th Century mansion that has been carefully restored.

The best way to see the city is to walk, and there is a signposted Walking Tour and leaflets to help visitors through the hilly streets.

Cobh, set on the estuary of the River Lee which runs deep into the heart of Cork City, was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic in 1912.

The port was called Queenstown in those days, in honour of Queen Victoria who first stepped ashore there.

In 1912 some passengers, who were probably disappointed not to be making the Atlantic crossing, disembarked after the Titanic's maiden voyage from Southampton.

Three years later, by a twist of fate on May 7, 1915, the great liner Lusitania was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine just off Cobh harbour.

She sank in 20 minutes with the loss of 1,198 lives. It was this act that brought the Americans into World War One.

A great stone in the local cemetery marks the mass grave of the Lusitania victims. In the town centre a monument in the form of an angel standing above two tired local fishermen symbolises the loss and rescue efforts.

The idyllic expanse of the harbour, which is sheltered from the Atlantic by two peninsulas and Spike Island, is a view of peace and tranquility.

Cobh is also home to one of the most moving museums in the world.

After years of famine many families - totalling 2.5 million people since 1848 - left the port for a new life in America, but the Atlantic was frequently too strong for the `coffin ships' they sailed in and many families died beneath the cold waves.

These stories and more are told in graphic detail in the Queenstown Story, which is situated in a museum, Cobh Heritage Centre, once an old Victorian railway terminus.

The 15th Century Blarney Castle, which is one of Ireland's most visited tourist attractions, is located in 400 acres of parkland and gentle hills five miles west of Cork City.

Kissing the Blarney Stone, which is set in the castle ramparts, is said to give you "the eloquence of Irish talk" - gift of the gab.

After climbing up the tower's long spiral of narrow, worn steps, you must lie on your back holding two iron rails and lean down and backwards to kiss the stone.

Close by, in the village of Blarney, the Woollen Mills provide a great shopping experience for classic clothing and gifts including crystal glass and knitwear.

The fishing port of Kinsale, which is also known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, is situated 15 miles south of Cork.

It is another great place for watersport, golf, horse riding or simply walking and exploring the town.

Kinsale is also steeped in history. The Battle of Kinsale, fought in 1602 between a combined Spanish and Irish force and English armies, was a turning point in Irish history.

The harbour is guarded by two star-shaped fortresses built in the 17th century.

The old Courthouse, which is now a museum and the 13th century St Multose Church, are also worth a visit.

The village of Glengarriff, in the south west of the county, is well known for its breathtaking beauty.

Rocks and huge boulders are covered in rich foliage. Ilnacullin, or Garinish Island, is also famous for its Italian gardens and exotic terraces.

The island is a paradise of colour with rhododendrons and azaleas in spring and cultivars, climbing shrubs and herbaceous perennials which dazzle from June onwards.

The centrepiece is the Italian garden and pools which are surrounded by a wild garden and a long glade called the Happy Valley.

Licensed ferries leave regularly for the island which is open from March through to October.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 4, 1999
Next Article:Style File: `Must have' items for fashion gurus.

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