To The Stars And Back At Blackrock Castle

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Whilst travelling, as much as I love ticking off all the must-do attractions of a city, I always try to find time to do something a bit off-the-beaten-track; something different that won’t necessarily be on every visitor’s list. If you are looking for such an experience here in Cork, Blackrock Castle might be just what you need.

Blackrock Castle

Somewhat overshadowed by the fame of Blarney, Blackrock Castle is located less than 15 minutes drive from Hotel Isaacs (or take the 202 bus from Merchants’ Quay, a mere stroll across the river from us) and is the perfect place for seeing a more local and less-visited part of the city. Feeling energetic? Why not walk or bike it? (we provide helmets at reception) This is about the journey, not the destination and if you aren’t on a tight time limit this is by far the most enjoyable way to travel. Pass the City Hall and Ireland’s most modern office complex at One Albert Quay before emerging onto the tree-lined river-side pathway that will lead you to the peaceful village of Blackrock. Once a popular railway line, it is now an oasis of tranquillity with autumnal colours making it the perfect time to visit.

Blackrock Castle is open daily from 10-5 pm with the last admission at 4 pm. Admission will cost €6.50 for adults, or just €4.50 for seniors and students.

The History

Part-castle, part-fort, part science observatory, Blackrock Castle can best be described as a little bit of everything with a rich and varied history. Originally built as a fort to defend the prosperous port of Cork in the 16th century, various additions and renovations have occurred over the years as the castle changed ownership and functions including serving as a private residence, gun battery, office, rowing club headquarters, and restaurant. Today the Castle is used as a research centre for the astronomy department at Cork Institute of Technology with labs and an observatory on the top of the tower. The centre runs short historical tours of the tower every hour that point out the main features of Cork Harbour affording many stunning picture opportunities. Downstairs, there is also a small exhibition on the history of Cork City as well as some replicated cannons.

What To Expect

The result for the tourist is a unique visitor experience quite unlike any other castle that one is likely to visit on one’s trip to Ireland. This is not a ruin! This is equally not a case of wandering around stately dining rooms. The majority of the “castle” (or “premises” as the guide prefers to call it) is based around an interactive exhibit on space with lots of videos on the extra-terrestrial and endless possibilities for exploration outside of our cosmos. I can’t say I desperately care for space and such things but I was genuinely surprised by how much fun this centre is. There are buttons to push, magnets to experiment with, headphones, gizmos and gadgets, and even the possibility to send your very own message to space (which sadly will take 43 years to deliver).

The Planetarium

The highlight of any visit is undoubtedly a trip inside the planetarium. What can I say? Think of a knowledgeable guide giving you a whistle-stop tour of the night-time sky for the month showing you the positioning of the planets and how you can manage to see them (if you set your alarm early enough that is). Science may not be your cup-of-tea but there is no denying that this whole experience is fun led by a team of some of the most joyful, passionate staff members who will not fail to make you smile. Who knows? I might even set my alarm to see if I can catch a glimpse of Jupiter or Venus one of these mornings! It might pass the time as I wait for my star message to deliver.

Finishing The Day

After working up a healthy appetite, take the weight off the feet with a hearty meal at our award-winning Greenes Restaurant.

Warm up with a hot whiskey or allow one of our expert mixologists to create you an out-of-this-world cocktail at Cask (winner of Best Cocktail Bar in Ireland at the Sky Bar Awards).

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