Cork is the largest county in Ireland, and its size has had an appreciable effect on the mentality of its inhabitants; they have been known to refer to journeys to other parts of Ireland as "visiting the Republic".
The county has an extraordinary variety of landscapes, from the lush lowlands and valleys of east and central Cork to the barren magnificence of the mountains and peninsulas of west Cork. Cork city is the second largest in Ireland, though not in the minds of many Corkonians, and is beautifully situated at the mouth of the Lee valley.
Before the advent of the Normans in the twelfth century, the county was part of the kingdom of Desmond, ruled by the McCarthys, following their expulsion from Tipperary by their arch-enemies, the O'Briens. As English rule in Ireland became more secure through the sixteenth century, large areas were granted to English "undertakers", who included Sir Walter Raleigh and the poet Edmund Spenser, but the rebellions and wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries put paid to the scheme.
Surnames common in Cork include McCarthy, Buckley, O'Leary, O'Sullivan, Sheehan, Lynch, Crowley and, of course, Murphy. Norman names associated with the county include Keating, Fitzgerald and Savage.