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BLACKROCK IN CORK – not to be confused with its counterparts in Dublin and Louth – stretches along the south shore of the River Lee as it meets Lough Mahon.
It started as a small fishing village, and spent centuries being mostly focused on the water. In the late 16th century, citizens appealed to the British authorities to build a castle to defend against pirates. This site became the Blackrock Castle that stands today, although the current building dates from the 19th century (the original having been destroyed “when a party… led to a fire“).
The neighbourhood has been getting good write-ups for years. Back in 1837, Samuel Lewis noted that: “The scenery is of the most varied and pleasing character, exhibiting numerous elegant villas and cottages, with lawns, gardens, and plantations reaching down to the margin of the Lee”. (He also explained kindly that the river itself was “constantly enlivened by steam-boats and other vessels.”)
Today, although having long since been swallowed up by the city, it remains a largely leafy area of Cork. Several of the city’s major amenities are located nearby, from Mahon Point shopping centre to Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Take me there! OK, here you are in the redeveloped village square where the weekly farmers market is held.
So what’s the big draw? Blackrock has a pleasant waterside location and plenty going on. There’s a weekly farmers market (see above) and a strong tradition of sport in the community – most notably hurling but also football, soccer and rowing.
Recently it’s seen a new wave of young families moving in, drawn by the location and the housing stock.
What do people love about it? The pride that locals take in the area is special, says resident Peter Horgan.
For me it’s real sense of community pride and ownership that exists in Blackrock. Whether the GAA, the rowing, soccer or rugby there’s a sense that there’s something there for everyone. Even outside of sporting organisations the walkways and cafes down at the marina by Blackrock Castle and all around Blackrock are generally kept very well, usually by local people.
And… what do people NOT love about it? The influx of young families is great – but amenities can be slow to catch up, Peter says.
We need a playground for young families. There’s a real boom starting to occur in the area again with young couples and families taking houses and sites that may have been idle – and that’s great but we need to make sure that there are more facilities for that growth.
What’s the story with house prices? High for Cork. The average price of a home in Blackrock today is €314,000 according to Daft.ie. That makes it one of the most expensive areas of the city – pricier than neighbouring Douglas (€298k) and only really outstripped by Rochestown (€327k).
How long will it take me to the city centre? It’s about an hour’s walk to Patrick Street from Blackrock village, or 15 minutes in the car if the traffic is kind.
The same journey on the bus – Blackrock is on the 202 and 215 routes from the city centre – takes around 20 minutes outside rush hour.
Where should I get lunch? The Castle Cafe – a modern cafe that was part of the castle redevelopment – offers extremely well-regarded brunches and lunches with a view. The sausages come highly recommended.
Alternatives: The Natural Foods Bakery serves excellent sandwiches, cake and coffee. Or if you’re there on a Sunday, graze at the farmers market.
And what’s my new local? The Blackrock Inn is a large and lively gastropub which does sports, music, late DJs… you name it really. It’s right on the golf course and there’s a pleasant beer garden for those all-too-rare sunny days.
Alternatives: For a quiet pint, the Pier Head Inn will see you right. It’s a small place with good pints by the waterside.
Schools and supermarkets? There’s a Tesco superstore in the Mahon Point complex, and an Aldi just off Blackrock Avenue. There’s also a SuperValu on the Skehard Road.
There are six primary schools in the area: St Michael’s (Church of Ireland, mixed); Scoil Ursula (Catholic, mixed); Holy Cross (Catholic, mixed) and Gaelscoil Mhachan (Catholic, mixed) in Mahon; and Beaumont Boys and Beaumont Girls (Catholic, boys and girls respectively).
There are three post-primary schools: Educate Together (multi denominational, mixed); Nagle Community College (interdenominational, mixed); and Ursuline (Catholic, girls).
Anything else I should check out? If you have kids (or, you know, just like space and stuff) then a visit to the Blackrock Castle Observatory is probably a must. There are daily planetarium shows and a rotating cast of visiting exhibitions. Plus the aforementioned decent cafe.
OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of Blackrock trivia to impress a local. It is well known that George Boole, the mathematician whose system of logic paved the way for the computers that run our lives today, lived down the road in Ballintemple. It may be less well known that his death was probably hastened along by his wife.
Boole had contracted pneumonia after a long walk in the rain; his wife, believing that the cure of an ailment should resemble the cause, put him to bed and wrapped him in wet sheets. He died shortly afterwards.
Do you live in Blackrock? Share your opinion in the comments!