Cork Butter Museum, Cork
Fat fortunes were made and lost in the Butter Exchange, where now the stone cow’s head looks down, not on the city’s dairy kings, but on the visitors to the Cork Butter Museum
And it’s a sign of just how important the butter business was that it occupies the full two floors of this 19th-century building – the biggest Butter Exchange in Europe.
It’s here that you’ll learn how the lushness of the grass in the south of Ireland makes the milk particularly rich and flavoursome - the perfect raw material for really good butter.
You’ll be taken through the complete history of Irish butter, from being stored in bogs to keep ‘fresh’ - marvel at the ‘1000-year-old keg of butter’ - to the glory days of the worldwide butter empire. In fact by 1900, Cork butter was so popular it was exported to all over the globe, including Jamaica and Australia, in tins and heavily salted to preserve it during the journey. Just a few decades later refrigeration knocked the bottom out of the market until Kerry Gold modernised Irish butter production and turned the faltering trade into today’s mighty butter behemoth.
I have to admit to first being a little sniffy at the idea of a butter museum, then secretly hoping for giant butter sculptures or trombone-playing butter men a la Douglas the Lurpak mascot.
The Museum pays full tribute to a crucial section of the Irish economy. From the actual making of butter - to most of us probably a bit of mystery involving vague ideas about churning - to the selling of it, including the changing design of butter wrappers – my favourite being the one from 1922 exhorting consumers to do their patriotic duty and buy Irish Free State butter – just about every aspect of the business is covered.
And it’s located in Shandon, a hillside of shabby, decaying yet enticing little 19th century streets which are definitely worth a wee wander.