FORTUNE -- "There are no multi-lane highways across the street from its redbrick and glass building," writes Fortune Vivienne Walt.
"Rather, a pair of horses munches on a rangy patch of grass, near to an empty soccer field, while a few miles away, dairy cows laze on the green fields of Blarney under a stormy sky—just as they did decades ago, when Steve Jobs flew into Cork in 1980 to open Apple's overseas operation."
Walt, who was in Dublin for a Web Summit this week, made the pilgrimage to Apple International Operations' building in Cork, 156 miles to the southwest, where the lion's share of Apple's overseas profits are funneled to minimize U.S. taxes. (See Apple's mysterious Irish subsidiary.)
"From the front," she writes, "Apple HQ could well be mistaken for a high school, bland and modern, and just three stories high. And foot traffic is thin enough that when Fortune wandered up to the entrance on Tuesday morning, security guards quickly took notice. Was there anyone we could say hello to, we asked? No, the nearest public-relations staffer was in London."
Walt reports that although Ireland's Finance Minister Michael Noonan declared in mid-October that the country was going to crack down on "stateless" entities like Apple Operations International -- which for tax purposes reside neither in Cork nor in Cupertino -- the country is not about do anything that would drive U.S. tech companies out of Ireland.
As Walt reports, there are just too many of them.
"Ireland is now stuffed with tech giants. Drive out of Cork's small airport, and among the first buildings you see are large operations for Amazon (AMZN) and IBM (IBM); Dell and the Massachusetts cloud-computing company EMC (EMC) each has a large building in Cork's Mahon district. In Dublin, so many U.S. technology companies are squeezed into the city's Silicon Docks that Ireland's Industrial Development Agency, or IDA, recently launched an app showing photos of headquarters buildings for dozens of companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, which now has the tallest building in the country."
We made a pilgrimage to southern Ireland to check out Apple's mysterious global headquarters -- amid the horses and cows, here's what we found (before we were shooed away).
By Vivienne Walt
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