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Climbing steps through four levels rewards you with a breezy, salt-air view from the top.


Kennedy's great-grandfather, left Ireland in Physically, it's not much: A barn and a wing of the modern house survive from JFK and his entourage visited here in June of , a few months before he was assassinated. While it's now just a private home, anyone interested in the Kennedys will find it worth driving the long narrow lane to see. Permanently moored on a river in the tiny port of New Ross, the Dunbrody Famine Ship was built as a re-creation of similar vessels that sailed to America full of countless hungry Irish emigrants.

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The Dunbrody is a full-scale reconstruction of a 19th-century three-masted bark built in Quebec in It's typical of the trading vessels that originally sailed empty to America to pick up goods; during the famine, ship owners found that they could make a little money on the westward voyage. On board, extended families camped out for 50 days on bunk beds no bigger than a king-size mattress. Commonly, boats like this would arrive in America with only 80 percent of their original human cargo in worst cases, only 50 percent.

Those who succumbed to "famine fever" often typhus or cholera were dumped overboard, and the ships gained their morbid moniker: "coffin ships. Visits here include a tour of the ship with an excellent guide, and roots-seekers are welcome to peruse the computerized file of the names of the million immigrants who sailed on these ships from through This acre wooded Irish National Heritage Park features replicas of buildings from each era of Irish history.

Since Ireland's countless ancient sights are generally unrecognizable ruins — hard to re-create in your mind — this park is intended to help out. You'll find buildings and settlements illustrating life in Ireland from the Stone Age through the 12th-century Norman Age. The oldest city in Ireland, Waterford was once more important than Dublin.

But today, while tourists associate the town's name with its famous crystal, locals are quick to remind you that the crystal is named after the town, not vice versa come for the crystal, stay for the history. That said, Waterford is a plain, gray, workaday town. With a tradition dating back to , Waterford was once the largest — and still is the most respected — glassworks in the world. The economic downturn of shattered the market for luxury items like crystal, forcing the huge Waterford Crystal factory outside town to close.

The company was soon after bought by American investors who opened a new, scaled-down factory in the town center and later sold it to a Finnish company for a handsome profit. While 70 percent of Waterford Crystal is now manufactured by cheaper labor in Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, the finest glass craftsmen still reside here, where they create "prestige pieces" for special-order customers. The Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre offers a one-hour tour of this hardworking little factory, and it's a joy.

It's more intimate than the old, larger factory, and you're encouraged to interact with the craftsmen. Large tour groups descend midday, so try to visit before or after Cobh sits on a large island in Cork Harbor, connected to the mainland via a short bridge and a drive-on ferry. If your ancestry is Irish, there's a good chance that this was the last Irish soil your ancestors had under their feet.

Cobh was the major port of Irish emigration in the 19th century — of the six million Irish who have emigrated to America, Canada, and Australia since , nearly half left from Cobh. The town's inviting waterfront is colorful yet salty, with a playful promenade.

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The butcher's advertisement reads, "Always pleased to meet you and always with meat to please you. It's stirring to think that this modest little port town was the Titanic's final anchorage — and the last chance to get off. Occupying the former White Star Line building where the Titanic 's final passengers boarded, the compact Titanic Experience museum packs a decent punch as it recounts the story of the ship and its final moments.

Filling a harborside Victorian train station, the Queenstown Story museum is an earnest attempt to make the city's history come to life. The topics — the famine, Irish emigration, Australia-bound prison ships, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic — are interesting enough to make it a worthwhile stop.

While Cork is the biggest town in southern Ireland, nearby Kinsale is actually more historic and certainly cuter.

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In addition to a wide range of produce, visitors can grab a coffee here or sample local fare at Farmgate Restaurant. Initially conceived in the early 18th century by wealthy merchants presumably anxious to part their fellow citizens from their cash, this has remained Cork's main shopping hub. An easy couple-of-minute's stroll from The English Market and known locally as "Pana" the broad, curving street boasts many fine shops including upmarket department store Brown Thomas.

Shopping, of course, is one thing, but the citizens of Cork are a sociable bunch and, particularly during fine weather, visitors will see groups of friends and family simply chatting and spending time together. Various architectural styles reflect change over the past two hundred years or so. Dating from , and rebuilt on several occasions since then, St. Patrick's Bridge abuts the thoroughfare. A leisurely minute walk from St. Patrick's Street takes you to this Anglican cathedral. The structure was built with Cork limestone, the interior walls are of Cork marble, and detailed mosaics decorate the choir.

The exterior is adorned with intricate carved icons, and the stained glass windows tower brightly above the interior. There are scarce remains of the site's earlier cathedrals, although nine carved heads and the Dean's Gate still survive from the medieval building. This is still an active congregation, but the church is open to visitors to admire. It still features the original pavilion and ornamental fountain from the era. In the gardens here, visitors will find Cork Public Museum , a cafe , sculptures, a skate park, and a water-lily pond.

Across the River Lee on the north side of the city, St. Anne's Church is known for the famous Shandon Bells tower. The church still uses its original 18th-century bells, which have become one of the city's must-see sights.

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Visitors get the chance to ring the bells from the first floor, view the internal workings of the clocks, see the bells firsthand, and enjoy spectacular degree views of Cork City and beyond from the balcony. Not far from St. Anne's is another one of Cork city's attractions, the atmospheric and historic City Gaol, which opened in and closed in Originally the prison housed both male and female prisoners who committed crimes within the city's borders.

In , the City Gaol became an all-female prison, which it remained until men opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty were incarcerated there in The complex then deteriorated until it was restored and opened to the public as a tourist attraction in Just northwest of Cork city is one of Ireland's most talked-about attractions, Blarney Castle is home to the world-famous Blarney Stone, said to instantly give those who kiss it the Irish "gift of the gab.

Inside the castle, visitors can climb the battlement to kiss the famed stone and take in the views, and also explore the massive stone building - dungeons included.

Shop for Irish sweaters, crystal, and gifts at the adjacent Blarney Woollen Mills. The pretty fishing village of Ballycotton, about a minute drive from Cork, is a favorite escape for its beaches, seafood restaurants, and for the beautiful five-mile Cliff Walk along the cliff top track from Ballycotton village to Ballyandreen beach. The path leads between rolling meadows of the East Cork countryside and the cliffs with beaches below. The permanent collections of the Crawford Art Gallery contain paintings, sculpture, and prints as well as crafts, stained glass, and ceramics.

The sculpture galleries include Greco-Roman casts by Antonio Canova and Irish and European sculpture dating from the 19th century through modern works. The museum's collection of paintings is extensive, with works ranging from the 16th century through the present, with a special exhibit dedicated to female artists.

The gallery also frequently offers drop-in creative events, including presentations and hands-on experiences. Set on the shores of the River Lee where it meets Cork Harbour, Blackrock castle's numerous battlements and sturdy fortifications seem to embody the castles of fiction and fantasy. Built in , it is now owned by Cork County Council and houses an observatory and visitor center.

The observatory features a planetarium, a cinema, and several interactive exhibits. The observatory hosts visiting exhibits that explore science, nature, and space, and also sponsors a variety of special events. A little under a half hour's southerly drive from Cork, and at the gateway to scenic West Cork , is the quaint deep-sea fishing and yachting town of Kinsale. Once a medieval fishing port, historic Kinsale is one of the most scenic resorts on Ireland's southwest coast.

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In recent years, the town has also become a world-class golf destination. Other activities include heritage town walks, an annual gourmet festival, a wine museum and, in neighbouring Summercove, 17th-century Charles Fort. A few kilometers' drive east of Cork City, the acre wildlife park is home to animals that are - as much as possible - free to roam in their natural environment, where visitors can observe and interact with them.

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You may be joined at your picnic table by ring-tailed lemurs although of course they should not be fed , and giraffes wander freely in the central enclosure. Unlike many safari parks, Fota is not a drive-through experience. On that, a word of warning, it's a lengthy walk around the park, and to get the most from it, at least half a day should be put aside for a visit. A minute drive southeast of Cork city takes visitors to the historic port of Cobh formerly Queenstown.

The town is famous as the last port of call of the doomed Titanic on its maiden voyage in These days, it's still a favorite dock for cruise liners from around the world. Millions of Irish who emigrated to North America and elsewhere during the s and s departed from here, most never to return.

The town is dominated by St. Colman's Cathedral, which dates from In the 6th century, Spike Island was the site of a monastery, and more than a millennium later was fortified as the acre star-shaped fortress of Fort Mitchel. Its main use since then has been as a prison of one sort or another. Visitors can tour the entire complex, seeing various prison cells used from the mids to the s, and hear stories of some of the famous prisoners.