Monday, July 8, 2019

A Visit to the Cork Butter Museum

Vintage Butter Wrappers

It has often been said that Cork City, Ireland was built on three things... Beer, bread and butter, but it's the third of those that has been Ireland's most important food export. Situated in Shandon, not far from the church where you can ring the famed Bells of Shandon and the old Butter Exchange, the Butter Museum celebrates the history of this lucrative, successful trade. The Butter Museum is a bit of a joke among many locals I've spoken to and I can sort of see why, but it's cheap to enter, informative and a lot of fun if you have a bit of a sense of humour. I mean, it's a museum entirely dedicated to butter, so it's important to keep your expectations at an appropriate level. If you're a fan of Gilmore Girls and remember the Stars Hollow History Museum episode, it's a little like that and because of its kitschy vibe, I personally found it to be one of the highlights of my recent trip to Cork.

Vintage Butter Wrapper Stamps at the Butter Museum in Cork, Ireland

Admission is just €4, so it's not a steep ask and the self-guided tour starts with a video that details the history of butter production in Ireland. One of the interesting things I learned is that Irish butter is so much more yellow than butter produced in other countries because of the beta carotene in the grass. The butter industry has effected the history and culture of Ireland through the ages, but particularly Cork which at one time had the largest butter market in the world. The film digs deep into the history of butter production, its effects on the economy, society and culture of Ireland and how butter became one of Ireland's biggest exports.

All things Irish butter are on display in the museum from a massive collection of vintage butter wrappers to churns, advertisements and even a churn of 1,000 year old bog butter. Various stories and excerpts from letters line the walls that are intriguing if not entertaining, telling tales of various rituals to protect the butter from evil spirits (quite likely the explanation for spoiled butter back in the day). It's entertaining to say the least and a fun way to spend an hour if you find yourself in the area. The only thing I felt was truly missing from this fun little museum was perhaps the opportunity to taste a bit of Kerrygold Irish Butter, the brand that seems to have sponsored the video in the museum. A tiny little tasting experience similar to brewery tours where you get a glass of the beer at the end would have been the icing on the cake... Or the butter on the bread I should say.

The Butter Museum is open from March to October Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and on Sundays from 11am to 4pm. There are butter making demonstrations at 12pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday, which I didn't know about, but I wish I had. Now I have an excuse to go back... Tickets are €4 for adults, €3 for Seniors & Students and €1.50 for children. There's no charge for children under 12 when they're accompanying a family or group. For more information or to plan your trip, visit

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