Spike Island though used for many years as a training camp for the army, is principally known as a prison. Occasionally dubbed the Alcatraz of ireland this island was used as a prison until quite recently. Originally used as a holding centre for convicts sentenced to transportation and servitude in Australia and Tasmania, the patriot and popular hero, John Mitchell was one of the island's most famous detainees. Spike Island was used at that time ( late 1700's- mid 1800's ) in addition to the hulks or so-called 'Floating Gaols' moored off Dublin and Cobh. On one of these floating Gaols, The Surprise, a riot broke out in 1824. There were inhuman conditions and vast overcrowding on these boats and on this occasion, the prisoners from Munster attacked a new contingent from Dublin, killing one man and wounding dozens. The old, old rivalry between Cork and Dublin was obviously a feature of life even then.
Leaving the railway station, a few minutes uphill brings you to the the street overlooking the front prom. Here it is immediately obvious that the architecture is in no way representative of that of an average, medium-sized Irish town. It looks much more like an English seaside town and is frequently compared to Brighton. This elegant air is in keeping with a town visited by Queen Victoria in 1849 and one where Winston Churchill spent many months overseeing the dispatch of troops to the British Empire. Looking upward, you will see many more terraces and crescents of period houses. Remember that in its golden era, great tranatlantic liners stopped regularly at Cobh and that these streets were thronged with colourful and important visitors.
The nicest way to come back from the centre of town from the cathedral is via West View. West View, also known as 'the deck of cards' is a spectacular street, mildly reminiscent of San Francisco, where houses tumble downward one on top of the other in a remarkable domino effect. Though built in the 1800's the 23 houses are in pristine condition, all painted different colours and mostly with flower-filled window boxes and hanging baskets as well. The effect is magical and walking down West View is great fun, if a little precipitous. What walking back up again is like, we would have to ask a resident but isuspect it's anything but fun. According to local legend, it was running up and down hills just like this one, that honed Cobh-born Somia O'Sullivan's skills as an athlete.
Kennedy Park, known locally as 'The prom' extends right to the edge of the sea. It's a very popular town park, always busy with local families and visitors alike. Again, there is that elegant seaside resort vibe and the park is dominated by a really pretty bandstand. Nearby is a canon which acts as climbing frame for local children and there is plenty of seating on the grassy and paved areas. This park is exceptionally well landscaped and given its gorgeous location is well worth spending some time in. It faces the town and allows you to gradually absorb the atmosphere while getting your bearings. There are several interesting pieces of sculpture but far and away the most striking and evocative is 'The Navigator', which will definitely stop you in your tracks. The Navigator (see extra photo) bears an uncanny resemblance to a grown man sitting in the bath playing with his toy boats. This might be your first impression but after you've walked around it several times, photographed it at least twice and let the flowing water run over your fingers, I guarantee you that a long internal meander on the whole concept of navigators will follow.
Leaving the park, you are now at the centre of town with the harbour behind you and Casement Square and the cathedral in front. The large yellow building immediately to your right is the original White Star Office. The White Star was the shipping line which owned the Titanic and these were its offices in Cobh. The piers where the passengers boarded the tenders were right behind this building. Part of it is now used as the local post office and the other half is occupied by the famous, choc-full -o -memorabilia, Titanic Restaurant. This is an interesting building to visit both inside and out and is of course a stop on the local Titanic Tour.
The Titanic trail is a tour which aims to explore (or exploit, depending on your point of view) the connections between the Titanic and Cobh. As everybody knows, Cobh was the last port of call on the Titanic's maiden voyage in 1912. 123 passengers embarked at Cobh, making up the total of 2,206 people on board. Every location which has any connection with the Titanic is visited on this tour and to those with a specific interest in the ship, and indeed to the average visitor, it can be extremely interesting. One of the buildings visited is the Cunard Line offices , now a TSB branch, on East Beach. This building has received an architectural award in 1994 and the photo shows some of the rosette detail, a motif I also noticed in the cathedral.
The Titanic Trail Walking Tours take place everyday all year round and leave from the Commodore Hotel. A complimentary pint of Guinness is served at the end of each tour in one of the local pubs. Tours cost EUR8.50 and last from 60-75 minutes. Children are charged half-price.
Coming out of the cathedral, hopefully to blue skies and bright sunlight, you now get a big reward for your effort in climbing up so high. Cross the road to the railing at the other side and revel in the panorama of Cork harbour laid out below. Cobh is actually an island within the harbour and immediately facing it are the smaller islands of the former prison, Spike Island and the former Nayy base of Haulbowline. To the right is Ringaskiddy ( where you can see the Brittany Ferries ship berthed) and to the east is Roches Point. During the heyday of emigration, people flocked to this vantage point for last glimpses of the vessels carrying their loved ones and it is still a favourite spot for birds eye views of the town and harbour.
Casement Square is one of two large squares in the centre of town. To the rear, the large yellow building with the arch underneath, used to be the town hall and was used as a temporary morgue for some of the victims of the Lusitania disaster in 1915. Today the building is used as a public library and courthouse. I can think of nowhere nicer to sit and browse through some books. The rest of the square is laid out in shops, bars and restaurants and is usually a livelyspot to have a drink or a coffee in.
Cobh has a thriving Arts Centre , right in the middle of town and open to all. The Sirius Arts Centre takes its name from the paddle steamer Sirius, built in 1838, the first ship to cross the Atlantic from Cobh to New York without a sail. The centre occupies an elegant Italianite building designed by Anthony Salvin and built in 1854 by James Smith Barry for the Cork Royal Yacht Club. The RCYC founded in 1720 is probably the oldest yacht club in the world and though the HQ is no longer at Cobh, the building is now put to even better use as an Arts centre. The Sirius operates a monthly schedule of music, visual art, literary events and occasional theatre. All events are open to the public and the concerts in particular draw large crowds. Photography also is well catered for at the Sirius and in the past year there have been several controversial and cutting edge exhibitions. All events are advertised locally and everybody on the mailing list is sent a monthly schedule of events.
Nah, forget all these themed expensive museums with audio-visual gadgets and flashing lights. Cobh's real proper Museum, like, is in an old Presbyterian Church west of the town. In fact directly above the audio-visual flashing lights 'Heritage Centre'!! Climb up the steep steps behind the Heritage Centre, or up the main road leading out west of the town.
Its been the town museum for over 30 years!
It is one of those nice museums with lots of things packed in glass cases. And helpful ladies ready to answer any questions. Lots of stuff on the Lusitania and Cobh's shipping history. And other stuff too. Including the obligatory sweaty sports clothes of Cobh's famous sportspeople, Footballer Robbie Keane and Olympic runner Sonia Sullivan.
AND you can do some family history research. The museum has files of information about the people who passed through the port, over 200 years. Lots of shipping passenger lists and directories. Considering soo many Irish men and women left Ireland from Cobh, and many more British passed by, your ancestor may be listed here...
Very reasonable entrance charge when I visited - 1.50 Euros for adults, 75c reductions
Finish your trip in the excellent Titanic Bar that is now the stuff of local legend: It is the brainchild of a guy who - though from good stock - fell on hard times and down to his last penny managed to win the lottery! With that money he realised his lifelong dream: a bar and restaurant dedicated to the most famous shipping catastrophe. The Bar is situated on the original pier from where the liner left to the last leg of its fateful maiden journey. The interior is full of antiques of the Titanic's sister ships and of all kinds of memorabilia (photos, post cards, share certificates etc) of the Titanic itself. It also serves absolutely delicious bar food and some of the nicest Burgers I have ever tasted.
It's always good to be there. Especially on sunny summer evenings it is great fun to lounge around its outside area, overlook the Harbour (and Cork's own Alcatraz: Spike Island, still an active prison island) and reminisce about life on the sea.
I think this is one of the most colourful streets I've ever seen!
On those typical gray irish days you need to see colour, so why not go for a walk and take a picture of this very special street.
Just don't do it after the pub cause this is on a high hill and if you loose your balance you come tumbling down til Titanic (the pub)
This was the highlight of my Cobh visit and something I would like to recommend you to do if you are interested in the Titanic and/or early 20th century Cobh. Michael Martin, almost a local celebrity and the creator of this tour, brings the age of oceam steamliners back to life and gives you an insight into the city in the 1910s. The historian is a real Titanic expert and very commiutted to his tour. Indeed, on that day I was the only one who has prebooked the tour online and he ran it nevertheless.
The tour goes along the former piers of the big shipping company and lasts for around 1 to 1 ½ hours. Michael focuses the story on the 123 passengers that embarqued the Titanic in Cobh, but also draw the bigger picture. It includes also the Lusitania, the Irish emigration and the unveiling of the Titanic Memorial by Millvina Dean, the last Titanic survivor.
You can book the tour online for 9,50 EUR. It includes a discount on the „Titanic Experience“, an exhibition located in the former White Star Line builing as well as a pint of Beamish Stout. Meeting point is in front of the Commodore Hotel, just a short walk away from the train station. The tour runs daily at 1100 and in the summertime also at 2 pm (all data as of early 2013). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Cobh's houses have been generally very colourful, but the best known of them are the so-called „Deck of Cards“ houses. They are the houses of a street called „West View“. The 23 almost equal houses were built on 23 levels and each one differs in colour from its neighbouring building. No wonder that they are one of the most often photographed motives in Cobh. Best view can be enjoyed from the western end of Beechmount (where Park View becomes West view), close to the Cathedral. From there, you can see the front and the back of the houses.
There is more to Cobh than just a large church and a Heritage Museum. There are also friendly locals to meet. My partner Mark knew his family immigrated from Cobh on the ship the Mauritania. He has done a lot of research on his Irish ancestry. As we strolled through the town we saw a very small bar on a corner called The Mauritania. We felt we just had to drop in for a photo of Mark at the Mauritania. Little did we know that we would meet some really nice folks to hang out with inside. The owner of the bar was a man in his his late 50's. There were two younger men playing darts in the back of the bar. We told the owner about Marks connection to the Mauritania. They started playing old Irish songs and Mark sang along with them. At one point he and my daughter got up to dance to one of the songs. The owner and the two other men pulled me up from my chair and had me singing along with them while Katie and Mark danced. I have a vido of them dancing posted here on this page.
Yacht Club Quay, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland
Good for: Couples
We stayed here last year vitually to the day and a lot of work has been done to an already lovely...more
Westbourne Place, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business