Cobh (Cork) Cruise Port

Port of Cobh (Cork): An Overview

Dominated by a mighty neo-gothic cathedral, Cobh -- pronounced "Cove" -- lies on the Great Island, one of three islands in Cork harbor linked by roads and bridges. The small town is the gateway to County Cork and has one of the world's largest natural harbors.

Originally called Queenstown to commemorate a visit in 1849 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Cobh has a sprinkling of brightly colored houses and steep, winding streets leading to the center. However the center itself is quite flat with a waterside park and varied selection of bars, shops, cafes and restaurants. Monuments -- to sporting legends, Antarctic explorers, emigrants and Maritime tragedies, including the sinking of the Lusitania and the Titanic -- are everywhere you look.

This town has a sad history. It was the last port of call of the Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912; a museum opened in 2012 to commemorate the voyage's centenary. It was also where many victims and survivors from the Lusitania tragedy were brought ashore. For thousands of mostly penniless emigrants, Cobh was the last sight of their homeland as they left to build a new life, especially in the famine years of 1844 to 1848. Although some thrived and prospered, many more died on the journey in the terrible traveling conditions of the time.

Cobh developed as a popular seaside resort in the early 19th century, and the town's fame was further boosted in 1838 when the first transatlantic steamer, Sirius, crossed to America in 18 days.

Nowadays, Cobh is always busy with visitors; about 60 cruise ships call on the port each year.

Hanging Around

Other than the Cobh Heritage Center, there is no reason to hang round. If you turn right on leaving your ship, the center of Cobh is within 300 feet of the cruise terminal.

Don't Miss

Cobh Museum: This small museum is housed in a former Church built in 1854. It's known as the Scots Church because of the number of Scottish people in the congregation. Exhibitions there reflect Cobh's cultural, social and maritime history and feature photographs of the town, model ships, 19th-century paintings and watercolors, including sketches by Queen Victoria of the harbor. The town was the last port of call for RMS Titanic, and the Museum holds the last written record for the ship in the pilot's log book. (Scots Church, High Road, Cobh; 21 481 4240; open April to October, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m and Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.) Admission is 4 euros.

The Queenstown Story: This dramatic multimedia exhibition, located in Cobh's restored Victorian railway station, tells the history of this port town. Visitors can retrace the steps of the 2.5 million adults and children who emigrated from Ireland to find a better life and discover a little about what it must have been like onboard the convict ships that left Cobh for Australia in 1801. Learn more about the sinking of the Lusitania off the coast and about the survivors and bodies that were brought to this small community. Listen to the story of Annie Moore and her two brothers, who left Cobh to start a new life in America, and how she was the first ever emigrant to be processed at Ellis Island. (The Old Railway Station, Cobh; 21 481 3591; open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. January 3 to April 30, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 1 to October 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. November 1 to December 22)

Titanic Experience: This permanent visitor attraction is located in the original White Star Line Ticket Office in the heart of Cobh. It's where 123 passengers boarded Titanic on the fateful maiden voyage to the U.S. The story of Titanic is told through the eyes of the Queenstown (now Cobh) passengers. (White Star Line Building, 20 Casement Square, Cobh; 21 481 4412; open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Sunday)

The Titanic Trail: This is a guided walking tour of approximately one hour, which uncovers the historical legacy of Cobh and the harbor. Learn about the last days of Titanic, the heart-wrenching tragedy of the sinking of the Lusitania and the town's fascinating and varied history. See the pier Titanic departed from, and learn the story of Spike Island and convict transportation. At the end of the walk, a complimentary sample of local beer is served in Jack Doyles, one of Cobh's most traditional Irish Bars. (Trail departs from Commodore Hotel Westbourne, Cobh; 87 276 7218; leaves 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday to Sunday)

Fota Island Golf Club: A 15-minute taxi ride from the pier takes golfers to this 18-hole parkland course, the venue for the 1997 Amateur Irish Open and the Smurfit Irish PGA Championship. There are clubs and carts for rent. Call first to check that the course is open for visitors. (21 488 3700)

Harbor Trips: One-hour tours of Cork Harbor start from Kennedy Pier. During the trip, you'll see the Martello Towers, which were built and used by the British Empire in the 19th century, and Spike Island, where convict hulks were moored. Trips operate daily throughout the year. (James Scott & Company, Westlands House, Rushbrooke, Cobh; 21 481 15 49)

Shopping: Most shops in Cobh -- mainly independent stores -- are located around the Post Office and the promenade. Don't expect large department stores or chain stores, but there are lots of shops that sell craft items and souvenirs. These include Christys Irish Store at Cobh Heritage Center and the Tregan Craft Center next to Titanic Experience. If you're a follower of fashion, best take a trip to neighboring Cork. It has most of the High Street names, as well as independent shops. If you're after a bargain, try Dunnes Stores or Penneys. (The latter is called Primark in the U.K.) Most stores in Cork city do not open before noon on Sundays.

Cork City: Located 12 miles from Cobh, this is the Irish Republic's second-largest city. Visit the Crawford Art Gallery, the Huguenot Quarter, the Opera House and Elizabeth Fort, a British built structure dating back to the 1500s and built in a vain attempt to keep Cork's citizens in order.

St. Colman's Cathedral: The Cathedral stands on a high vantage point overlooking town. Its structure features a 100-meter-high spire and a tower with a 42-bell carillon, the largest in Ireland.

It also includes Ireland's largest bell (3.6 tons), named St. Colman. The carillon is played from a console in the belfry, consisting of a keyboard and a pedalboard.

Cuskinny Marsh: This is a bird sanctuary where hundreds of varieties of our feathered friends swim and breed. The Marsh is situated on the Tay Road, the name of which has an interesting history. Long ago, two French families who lived in Cuskinny House and Marinho Point would meet every weekend for tea. Locals pronounced "tea" as "tay," hence the name of the road.

Getting Around

On Foot: It's a short distance to walk from the dock to town. However, it's quite steep, so walking to the cathedral and museum might prove difficult for some.

By Rental Car: Car rentals are available from Great Island Car Rental (21 481 1609), and your car can be collected just outside the gate to the quay. There is Avis, too. (Emmet Place, Cork City; 21 428 1111)

By Taxi: There are always plenty parked at the dock, or you can walk up the hill to town and get one from the taxi rank in the town center. Taxi drivers are always friendly and chatty.

By Train: There are trains to Cork every half hour, and the journey takes 25 minutes. The railway station is accessed through a gate on the quayside.

By Coach: Cobh Sightseeing Tours (Westbourne Place, opposite the Tourist Office, 087 347 5050) offer 75-minute tours of the town. No booking is required; just hop on. Tickets cost 30 euros for a family, 12.50 euros per adult or 5 euros per child.

By Cobh Road Train: These fun, touristy trains take you around town, stopping at local viewpoints where passengers can disembark. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes and leaves every hour from the town center across the street from the Lusitania Peace Memorial. Trains run from 11 a.m. Tickets are 20 euros per family, 8 euros per adult and 5 euros per child.

Lunching

Though Irish food is homely and hearty, the country is perhaps more famous for its alcoholic beverages. World-famous dark stout Guinness is top of the list. Ask for a "glass" if you can't cope with a pint. County Cork is the home of Murphy's (similar to Guinness), while Irish Whiskeys and liqueurs are worth a try. One of the most popular is Bailey's Irish Cream, a mix of whiskey and cream, while Irish coffee is also made with whiskey and cream.

Gilbert's Bistro in the Square: There, you can enjoy contemporary Irish food served bistro-style in a relaxed setting. Every dish is cooked to order. Expect dishes like black pudding served with seasonal leaves and a cider apple dressing or jumbo prawns in garlic. (Pearse Square, Cobh; 21 481 1300; open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday)

Jacob's Ladder Restaurant: Enjoy fresh local produce with a modern bistro-style touch in this restaurant overlooking the harbor. (WatersEdge Hotel, Yacht Club Quay, Cobh; 21 481 5566; open 12:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday to Sunday)

Titanic Bar & Grill: The deck area overlooks the original Titanic pier. Expect a friendly Irish welcome and a hard-to-choose-from menu with options including homemade soup, burgers of all kinds, steak sandwiches and vegetarian options. (Scotts Building, 20 Casement Square, Cobh; 21 481 4585; open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday)

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships dock at Deep Water Quay, and passengers disembark directly onto the wharf alongside the Cobh Heritage Center. There is no designated terminal building.

Cobh Heritage Center has a cafe, shops and toilets but no public telephones or Wi-Fi. A local tour representative comes onboard ships to provide passengers with maps and information about the town and surrounding area. Otherwise, Cobh Tourism Ambassadors -- they wear green vests so they're instantly recognisable -- are available on the dock to answer any questions you might have. To cover all eventualities, there is also a Tourist Information Center nearby. (Old Yacht Club on the waterfront; 21 481 3301; open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends)

Watch Out For

The Irish Police Force (An Garda Siochana) produces a leaflet with helpful information for tourists visiting the Cobh area. Visitors can pick one up at the tourist information center. Some suggestions they give are: Leave valuables in the safe on your ship; keep a separate note of passport number, credit cards and driving licence; and carry with you a note of emergency contact numbers for each of these services. If you rent a car, park only in secure car parks. To call an ambulance or police, dial 112 or 999.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The euro is the official currency, and there are ATMs in town. Banks include the Trustee Savings Bank (29 West Beach; 21 481 10 52; open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The bank building used to be Cunard's offices; Cunard started its scheduled calls to Cobh in 1859, and survivors from the Lusitania were landed at Cunard Wharf at the rear of the building. Another bank is The Bank of Ireland (18 Westbourne Place; 21 481 1088; open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m). Both banks are close to the promenade. For current exchange rates, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.

Language

Irish Gaelic is the official first language, but English is spoken by all.

Best Souvenir

Ideal souvenirs include Waterford crystal, tweed jackets, rainwear, Aran sweaters, antique jewelry and linen tablecloths.

For More Information

On the Web: Visit Cobh

Cruise Critic Message Boards: Northern Europe & Baltics

IndependentTraveler.com: Europe Travel Guide

--By Gilly Pickup, Cruise Critic contributor

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