A day ashore in Cobh, County Cork, Republic of Ireland
Cobh is often labelled ‘for Cork’ which is 30 miles away, on the mainland. Cobh itself is situated inside Cork Harbour, on the southern shore of Great Island. As you arrive you will see the the skyline is dominated by St. Colman’s Cathedral, perched high above rows of painted cottages overlooking the harbour. Cobh is lovely, a proper local town flourishing alongside little gift shops, galleries, cafes and pubs.
Language: Irish is the official language but everyone speaks English and signs are bilingual.
Time Zone: Winter UTC (GMT) / Summer UTC (GMT) +1.00
Cobh – what you need to know
Cobh is pronounced ‘Cove’. It is a sheltered deep water port within the second largest natural harbour in the world. It has an extensive history and a multitude of names, being variously labelled Cork, Cobh and occasionally even Cove! The British renamed the town Queenstown in 1849 to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria. The original name ‘Cobh’ was reinstated in 1921 following the establishment of the Irish Free State.
Great Island is accessed from the mainland by boat, road or train. The arrival of the railway in 1862 made Cobh an important hub for Irish emigration – both voluntary and enforced – and many tourist attractions in town are focused heavily on this legacy
RMS Titanic made her final call en route to New York, here on April 11, 1912, dropping anchor near the entrance to Cork Harbour. Seven lucky passengers actually disembarked but 123 passengers boarded and of those 79 perished at sea – they are remembered in Cobh’s Titanic Memorial Garden.
What to see within walking distance of your ship
A deep-water berth means that you can literally walk off the ship straight into town. So no need for buses or shuttles. The ship also docks right next to the railway station. So Cobh is a very ‘easy’ port -you can’t get lost because you can see your ship from pretty much anywhere in town, making it very easy to just wander.
All these attractions are free to enter.
The Tourist Information Office is in the town Library, just inland from the Lusitania Memorial, it has a display of fascinating old photos of the town and maps to help your exploring. There are also noticeboards around town displaying three suggested walking routes for visitors.
Look out for the Annie Moore Statue – she was a Cork girl who left Queenstown in 1891. Annie became the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island, New York – where there is an identical statue.
For stunning views over Cork Harbour it’s definitely worth the climb up to St. Colman’s Cathedral. In Gothic Revival style, designed by Pugin, this is one of the tallest buildings in Ireland.
Attractions with an entry charge include…
The Heritage Centre is literally just beside your ship, in the restored railway station. Focusing on Irish Emigration from the 1600s, it is absolutely fascinating. It covers the Great Famine, emigration, deportation, the sinking of the Lusitania and Cobh’s fame as the final port visited by RMS Titanic.
The Titanic Experience is further along the harbour in the original White Star shipping line offices. Many people find this quite an emotional experience – on entry you are allocated a named ticket which allows you to follow the story of an actual passenger on that tragic voyage – at its conclusion, you will discover your fate! It gets very busy and is definitely worth booking in advance; https://www.titanicexperiencecobh.ie/book-tickets-2/
Guided Titanic Tour walks take about an hour and is best pre-booked: https://titanic.ie/
If the weather is kind take the ferry out to Spike Island. The star-shaped fort has a sad history as a convict depot, housing those sentenced to be transported to the Penal Colonies of the British Empire. See fortifications, secret tunnels and jail cells dating back to 1847. Walk the ramparts for views of the entire harbour.
If you’re travelling with kids or nervous sailors who are best kept away from tales of sinking ships and convicts, consider visiting Fota which is just ten minutes away by train. Fota Arboretum & Gardens are free but Fota House, its renowned art collection and restored Victorian Kitchen Garden are by paid admission. As is Fota Wildlife Park, home to lions, tigers, rhino and more. You can prebook special access and experiences; https://www.fotawildlife.ie/facilities/wild-experiences-fota/
There are some lovely small craft shops and art galleries in Cobh, some wonderful pubs – many with live music – and a selection of restaurants, cafes and bars. It is not sophisticated but it is not ‘mass market’ either.
A DAY IN Cork
Cork City itself is more sophisticated than Cobh. Known as the ‘culinary capital of Ireland’ it is proud of its foodie scene and is probably also a better bet if you want to spend time shopping. But don’t rely on checking the time for your return on the tower of St Annes Church- the local name for its clock is ‘the four-faced liar”! Don’t cut your return too fine as the trains do get full…
Lots to see in Cork – the main attractions there are considered to be…
- The English Market for traditional specialities, cafes and restaurants
- Merchants Quay mall & the shops around Oliver Plunkett Street,
- Cork City Gaol
- Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral
- Franciscan Well brewery
- Cork Museum
- Elizabeth Fort
How to get to Cork from your ship
If you want to visit Cork you can travel the 30 miles or so into town by;
- Train – 45 minutes from the just outside the ship – run every half hour.
- Bus – 50 minutes or so including 10 minute walk to bus stop.
- Taxi – 30 minutes. Taxis at the Heritage Centre or pre book.
- Ships excursions and /or shuttles.
SHIPS EXCURSIONS from Cobh
will normally include the Jameson Whisky distillery, Cork, Kinsale, Killarney or Blarney Castle (where kissing the Blarney Stone is obligatory) but in all honesty, I would prefer to stay close to the ship and explore Cobh.
I love the friendliness and welcome of the local people, all of whom seem happy to chat and point you in the right direction. The Guinness flows, musicians play and visitors from cruise ships are made to feel very, very welcome! To experience ‘real’ Ireland, it is definitely worth choosing an itinerary that includes Cobh!
I hope you’ve found this helpful, especially if you haven’t visited Cobh before. I would love to know what you do when you visit so please take a moment to comment below! There are also some small affiliate links there that help towards the running of the website – if you click through and buy anything from them it gives us a few pence but doesn’t cost you any extra! It’s a great help and thanks to all those who do!
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