Approaching the small charming seaport town of Cobh, one would not realize the historic importance it had played in the last centuries. It seems to be a typical seaside town in Ireland, small and unassuming. There is one road going in that hugs the sea and when you look up, you note the colorful structures which are built along a steep hill in the Cork Harbor. Cobh, formally known as Queenstown, is filled with endearing Victorian architecture but it has a lure of sadness and stillness.
Cobh is a quaint old-fashioned town just 20 minutes from the city of Cork, if you are traveling by car. It is worth the visit to learn about its historic ties with the RMS Titanic, RMS Lusitania and Ireland’s immigration past. Cobh is also a lovely place for strolling the streets and absorbing the town’s pleasant views.
Cobh has centuries of sea faring history and strong regal connections. There are also ties to both sinkings of the RMS Titanic and the RMS Lusitania, which were only three years apart from each other. Cobh, or Queenstown as it was called then, was the final port of call for the RMS Titanic before it set across the Atlantic on April 11, 1912. Just days before it hit an iceberg on the way to New York and sunk on April 15, 1912.
As for the RMS Lusitania, it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat three years later in 1915, during World War I, and 1201 people were lost. The Lusitania was struck close to the shores of Kinsale and sunk in a quick eleven minutes. Many of the deceased were brought to or washed up on the shores of Queenstown. Along the outskirts of Cobh, there are almost 200 victims buried in mass and induvial graves, in the Old Church Cemetery.
While visiting, I had checked out the Cobh Heritage Centre which I felt important to visit. Especially when it came to understanding the history of Ireland and its immigration. The Heritage Centre, which was built inside the old train station displays an emotionally filled exhibition brining life to Irish immigration, and stories of the ill-fated Titanic and Lusitania. If you are planning to visit Cobh, take a half hour or so to visit the Centre. You will leave knowing the importance of this town beyond its aesthetics, which will make your visit more special.
Seventeen year old Annie Moore (statue above) was the first Immigrant to pass inspection into Ellis Island, New York. Queenstown (Cobh), was her departure port along with her two brothers in December of 1892. This tiny seaside port sent off up to 2.5 million adults and children, who left Ireland in search of a new beginning.
Visit to Cobh
When I visited Cobh, I had no expectations because my visit was part of a day trip in Cork, which ended at the Jameson’s Distillery in Middleton. I had briefly read about Cobh but wanted to learn more while exploring the town. My first stop was at the Heritage Centre, which gave me a briefing of the importance of Cobh. Learning about the role that it played with Ireland’s immigration and Ellis Island was a great connector for me with historical moments. Many years ago, I had visited Ellis Island with my daughter to learn its history, as well as in search for a family member’s name etched on The American Immigrant Wall of Honor. I take pleasure in moments in travel like these, those a-ha moments, connecting one historical event with another.
Since I only had a couple of hours to explore Cobh, I decided on a stroll along the main road and to visit the towering cathedral atop of the hill. I could not get enough of the feel of this charming town- the colored Victorian buildings, the old fashioned lamp posts, the bright overgrown flowers and the salty air that had a slight chill to it. Wearing my down filled coat and black gloves to stay warm, I wandered through the streets and eventually found my way up to Cobh Cathedral.
Once I was up at the Cathedral, I looked down to where I was with a view of Cork Harbor. Since I was visiting in October, the skies were gray and cloudy while the air was damp and salty. I enjoyed the feeling, as well as the views and thinking of what this town had seen over the last centuries. It was a quiet and still day, but I know Queenstown (Cobh) has seen it share of frantic and sorrowful days. Times do change.
After quickly visiting the cathedral and admiring its stately architecture, I wandered back down to the main road and found myself inside The Mauretania Pub. It was chilly and I had been outside too long, plus I saw a sign for “Irish Coffee”. Since I do love an Irish Coffee, especially while in Ireland I popped into this friendly pub for warmth and coffee with bit of whiskey. I adored this pub, the bartender who made me my drink and the hot Irish Coffee that warmed my 2% Irish heart. If you visit Cobh, do not forget to come into this pub for a pint, a whiskey or an Irish Coffee!
When it was time for me to leave Cobh, I left with a feeling of wanting to come back and explore more. Maybe stay a night or two, consume several local Irish dishes and absorb my surroundings. Although that sounds like many of my town visits that I have done in Ireland over the decade. Maybe that is how I like to do things, so I will just keep doing it.
There are no foreign lands. It is The traveler only who is foreign…– Robert Louis Stevenson
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