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We went to see Apple's European HQ in Ireland -- here's what we found

Tim Cook in IrelandTwitter/Tim CookApple CEO Tim Cook at Apple’s office in Cork last November.

Apple has publicly stated that it wants to significantly expand its operations in Ireland.

The Cupertino, California, company currently employs 5,500 people in Cork, where its European headquarters are based — and Apple CEO Tim Cook has plans to hire an additional 1,000 people in the region by mid-2017.

But relatively little is known about what Apple does in this small city on the south east coast of Ireland, population 120,000.

The company’s main campus is situated in a suburban area of Cork called Hollyhill, while it also has another discrete, yet large, office in the heart of the city.

Business Insider visited these sites — as well as a site for a proposed €850 million (£669 million) Apple data centre on Ireland’s west coast — to see what we could find out. Apple did not allow us to enter any of its buildings.

This map shows where Apple's European headquarters are in relation to its proposed data centre and the Irish outposts of other Silicon Valley giants.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Having visited Apple's global headquarters in California less than two years ago, I was eagerly anticipating a visit to its second biggest hub in the world. This is the first Apple logo I encountered in Ireland; it was at Apple's main Hollyhill site.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

The logo was attached to a 'Shipping & Deliveries' sign. When I pulled up there were several lorries coming in and out of the entrance, possibly containing some of the customised iMacs that are made in Cork.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

I was turned away by a security guard at the shipping and deliveries entrance. I wasn't able to park my hire car in the Apple car park either as I didn't have a pass, so I parked in a housing estate over the road.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

A local dog walker told me the housing estate is home to an Irish travelling community that Apple and Cork City council relocated. He said it was 'very dangerous.' The council reportedly spent €5 million (£3.9 million) building the estate for the travellers that used to live in caravans on a plot of land that Apple wanted to expand onto.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Retrieving the rental car from the housing estate proved difficult. When I returned, a pack of aggressive dogs were reluctant to let me in. I managed the car retrieve it in the end, albeit with the help of the Garda (the Irish police).

Business Insider/Sam Shead

After accidentally leaving the car somewhere I shouldn't have, I walked straight past a security checkpoint and onto Apple's Hollyhill campus. This is the first of Apple's newer buildings at Hollyhill that I came across.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

In order to gain access to Apple's offices, visitors must have a prearranged appointment with an Apple employee.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This is what the signs around the Apple campus look like. The main buildings are simply called 'Hollyhill' followed by a number.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This glass bridge joins two of Apple's latest buildings together. The vast majority of people in these buildings are thought to work in customer services, where they take calls from Apple customers across Europe.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

The majority of the campus was off limits, requiring an employee badge to enter.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

An on-site gym provides Apple employees with somewhere to work out when they're not at their desks. There were over a dozen treadmills on show as I walked by.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

The buildings in Hollyhill aren't particularly high but they're incredibly long when measured horizontally.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This lamp post on the Hollyhill campus had a strange glass window with something metal on the inside. It could have just been a switch, but it could also be something more exciting.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This telecoms mast in the Apple car park was also intriguing. It's unclear what Apple uses it for exactly.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

The car park had a couple of electric cars in it that were attached to a charging point. Apple is making increasing efforts to become a greener company -- much of the Hollyhill site is powered by solar energy.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

There were also a number of motorbikes in the car park, including this Harley Davidson.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Apple employees in Cork aren't allowed to smoke across most of the campus. There are designated smoking areas they must visit if they want a cigarette.

Business Insider/Apple

An Apple accounting calendar was lying on the floor of the car park.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This shelter was also in the car park although it's unclear why it's there or who is meant to use it.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

A number of building applications can be found on empty plots of land at the Hollyhill site, highlighting Apple's plans to construct new offices to accommodate a growing workforce. However, a lack of suitable housing in Cork is threatening to derail Apple's expansion plans.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This is one of the plots of land that Apple wants to build on at Hollyhill. This may have been where the travelling community was based before it was moved on by Apple and Cork City Council.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Around the Hollyhill campus, there are also some pleasant walking routes for Apple employees to use at the end of a busy day or maybe even during their lunch break.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Down in Cork city centre, Apple's second biggest base in Ireland can be found at Lavitt's Quay. An Apple employee told Business Insider that somewhere between 500 and 1,000 staff work here across a wide variety of roles, including customer services, finance, and operations.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This is the view over the River Lee from a point close to Apple's office at Lavitt's Quay.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Roughly two-and-a-half hour's drive from Cork, this site near the town of Athenry on the west coast of Ireland is where Apple is hoping to build an €850 million (£669 million) data centre. The blue dot is me but the site where Apple wants to build the data centre will be on the eastern edge of the forest, according to planning documents seen by Business Insider.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

A local said this is the entrance to the proposed data centre site. Apple is currently waiting to hear from an Irish planning board as to whether it will be able to go ahead and build the data centre, which it wants to have up and running next year.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Athenry Golf Club backs on to Derrydonnell Forest. One of the bartenders at the golf club said it would be great to see Apple come to Athenry as there are lots of people in the town looking for work. The receptionist said she hadn't heard about Apple's plans.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Locals in the town of Athenry were largely in favour of the new data centre. The medieval town home is home to 3,950 people (based on 2011 statistics).

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Athenry is home to an astonishing number of number of pubs, including The Skillet Inn.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

This was the only sign of technology that I saw on my quick walk around Athenry.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

Other routes into the site where Apple plans to build the data centre were inaccessible.

Business Insider/Sam Shead

But this is a computer-generated image of what Apple's data centre could look like when finished. Apple is planning to build up to eight data halls in the middle of Derrydonnell Forest.

Apple

But Ireland is by no means the only European country that's important to Apple. Take a look at the slideshow below to find out more.

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