The Bells of Shandon


My dad likes to build things. He likes to know how things work, how they fit together, how to fix them. To make a living he works as a mechanical engineer back in South Africa. When he came to visit us in Cork for a few days on his way home from a Norwegian business trip, I thought he would like the experience of climbing the 132 steps to the top of the Shandon Tower and to ring the 18th century bells (he also likes music and is currently in the process of building a harp from scratch).


We played a song or two on the bells by pulling certain ropes (numbered according to sheet music – see below). My dad was in charge of the ropes 1 – 4 and I tugged away at ropes 5 – 8. Amazing Grace was a bit of a challenge because of the one part of the song that has the same note played twice (the second strike wasn’t too effective). I suggest starting with Kumbaya.



He was very interested in the tower’s clock. It is nicknamed “The Four-Faced Liar” because of the time being displayed slightly differently on each clock face. We peered at the inner workings of the clock through plexi-glass and ducked under doorways, having to climb a small ladder as we got closer to the top of the tower (which did have a really great view). Along the way we also had to put on protective gear for our ears in the case that someone might ring the bells when we were right next to them.



€5.00 will cover the cost of an adult climbing the tower to play the bells, (€4.00 for seniors over 65 years and students, €2.50 for children under fifteen years old; children under five years of age can enter free of charge). There’s also a family rate of €12.00 that includes two adults and up to four kids under sixteen years old.

Opening hours from November – February are 11:30 – 15:00, from June – September opening hours are 10:00 -17:00 (11:30 – 16:30 on Sundays) and then in March, April, May and October the tower is open from 10:00 -16:00  (11:30 – 15:30 on Sundays). The last entrance to the tower is 20 minutes before closing.

If you’re afraid of heights then, hold on tight when you get to the top of the tower; it’s really high and quiet dizzying.





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