Cobh is a picturesque town in County Cork, Ireland, with a fascinating history and a rich maritime heritage. Located on the south side of Great Island, in the second-largest natural harbour in the world, Cobh is home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal, and it welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
One of the most notable events in Cobh’s history was the visit of Queen Victoria in 1849, which prompted the town to change its name from Cove to Queenstown. The name was changed back to Cobh in 1920, after the Irish War of Independence.
Cobh was also the departure point for millions of Irish emigrants who left for North America between 1848 and 1950. Among them was Annie Moore, who became the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island in New York on January 1, 18922. There is a statue of Annie Moore and her brothers on the waterfront of Cobh, commemorating their journey.
Another famous connection that Cobh has is with the Titanic, the doomed ship that sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg. Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic, where it picked up 123 passengers who boarded the ship from two tenders. Seven passengers disembarked at Cobh, including a Jesuit priest and a family who decided to stay longer in Ireland.
Here are nine things you should not miss when you visit this historic place.
Visit Spike Island
Spike Island is a small island in Cork Harbour that has been used for various purposes over the centuries, from a monastic retreat to a military fortress to a prison. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction that offers guided tours, exhibitions, and activities for all ages. You can learn about the island’s fascinating history, explore the fortifications and cells, and enjoy the panoramic views of the harbour. Take a ferry from Cobh’s Kennedy Pier to get to Spike Island.
See the Deck of Cards
One of the most iconic sights in Cobh is the Deck of Cards, a row of 23 brightly coloured houses built on a steep hill overlooking the town and the harbour. The houses are named after the cards in a deck, from Ace to King, and each one has its own unique character and history. The best place to admire the Deck of Cards is Spy Hill. This viewpoint offers a spectacular perspective of the houses and the cathedral behind them.
Kick Back with a Pint in Kelly’s
If you are looking for a cosy and friendly place to enjoy a drink and a bite in Cobh, look no further than Kelly’s Bar. This traditional Irish pub has been serving locals and visitors since 1880, and it has a great atmosphere, live music, and delicious food. You can sample local craft beers, try their famous seafood chowder, or just relax by the fireplace and chat with the staff and patrons.
Have a Nostalgic Look Around St Colman’s Cathedral
St. Colman’s Cathedral is a magnificent Gothic Revival church that towers over Cobh and can be seen from miles away. It took 47 years to build, from 1868 to 1915, and it features impressive stained glass windows, marble columns, and a carillon of 49 bells. The cathedral is open to visitors daily, and you can join a guided tour or explore it at your own pace. Don’t miss the chance to climb up to the carillon tower and enjoy the views of the town and the harbour.
Titanic Experience Cobh
Titanic Experience Cobh is an interactive museum that tells the story of the Titanic’s final voyage from Cobh (then known as Queenstown) to New York in 1912. The museum is in the original White Star Line Ticket Office, where 123 passengers boarded the Titanic on April 11, 1912. You can follow their footsteps, learn about their lives and fates, and experience what it was like to be on board the ship through audiovisual displays and artefacts
Explore Fota Wildlife Park
Fota Wildlife Park is a 100-acre park home to more than 100 species of animals worldwide, including giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, kangaroos, lemurs, and penguins. The park is dedicated to conservation, education, and research, and it offers visitors a unique opportunity to see the animals roaming freely in natural habitats. You can also join feeding times, talks, and workshops to learn more about the animals and their environments. Fota Wildlife Park is located on Fota Island, connected to Great Island by a bridge. You can drive or take a train from Cobh to Fota.
Discover Cobh’s Maritime History at Sirius Arts Centre
Sirius Arts Centre is a multi-disciplinary arts centre that hosts exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and events throughout the year. The centre is housed in a former Royal Cork Yacht Club building, which dates back to 1854 and has a distinctive Italianate style. The building is also historically significant as it was used as a naval base during World War I and II and as a point of departure for many emigrants from Ireland. You can visit the centre to see the current exhibitions or attend one of their events.
Take a Harbour Cruise
One of the best ways to appreciate Cobh’s beauty and location is to cruise around the harbour. You can hop on one of the boats that depart from Cobh’s Kennedy Pier and enjoy a scenic and informative tour of the harbour, the islands, and the landmarks. Along the way, you can also spot some wildlife, such as seals, dolphins, and birds. Some cruises include a stop at Spike Island or Fota Island for further exploration.
Learn About Cobh’s Emigration History at Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh Heritage Centre is a museum that traces the history of Cobh as a major port of emigration from Ireland to America, Canada, Australia, and other destinations. The museum is located in the former Victorian railway station, the last stop for many emigrants before they boarded the ships. You can learn about their stories, journeys, and destinations through exhibits, displays, and multimedia presentations. The museum also covers other aspects of Cobh’s history, such as the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Irish famine.
Good to know
Cobh has a mild and temperate climate, with average temperatures ranging from 5°C in January to 16°C in July. The weather can be unpredictable and changeable, so it is advisable to pack layers and waterproof clothing for your visit.
Cobh has several events and festivals throughout the year that celebrate its culture and heritage. Some highlights are the St Patrick’s Day Parade in March, Titanic Commemoration Week in April, Cobh Summer Swing in July, Cobh People’s Regatta in August, and Culture Night in September.
If you need emergency assistance, dial 112 or 999 for the police, fire brigade, or ambulance. Both numbers are free of charge.