Located on the south coast of Ireland off the coast of Cork on and island is Cobh. From being the final stop to the Titanic, having a famous prison, to being a port city that even modern day cruises to stop. Cobh Ireland feels and is a bit different from the rest of Ireland. Find out why you need to visit Cobh, Ireland.
1. The Titanic was in Cobh Ireland
Cobh Ireland, formerly known as Queenstown from 1849 to 1920, was the final stop and last port of call before setting sail for New York. We all know how that story ends. Of the 2,400 plus passengers on the Titanic, only 123 of them were from Cobh.
Today you can visit a Titanic memorial garden or visit the Titanic Experience in Cobh Ireland. The experience is uses state of the art technology using touch screen displays and holograms to bring the tragic story to life for visitors while remembering those lives that were lost.
You can also walk the Titanic Trail which takes you through the streets and buildings that the final passengers walked onto the pier that took them to their final days.
2. They have their own prison island
Before coming to Cobh Ireland, we thought Alcatraz was the only prison island. Little did we know there are quite a few around the world as Smithsonian Magazine points out and they didn’t even include Spike Island in Cobh. That leaves us wondering how many there actually are!
The island wasn’t always a prison, it started out as a monastic settlement in the 7th century. The island was used by smugglers, turned into a place of defense with Fort Mitchell, then finally turned into a prison. Spike Island was a successful home to all of these thanks to its strategic placement in the harbor.
Now a tourist attraction for those interested in the prison years of Spike Island, visitors can explore the grounds and learn about the history of some of their famous inmates as well as the big uprising that took place here. There are interactive movies and exhibits as well as stories from some of the famous people who once were kept here.
The island was used to send serious criminals and convicts including any rebels from the IRA during the Irish War of Independence.
What was most interesting for us to learn about would be the riots caused by inmates when they successfully set some of the dorms on fire in 1985. Besides being interesting to read the timeline of the entire riot unfolding, it did come to a peaceful end. We were mostly curious about the photos on display from the riot because it looked like the inmates were wearing casual clothing, no uniforms.
For anyone visiting Cobh Ireland, be sure to block out 3 hours to visit Spike Island, it has won awards and has tons of great reviews.
3. They have their own Painted Ladies
We love referencing San Francisco’s painted ladies when we find a row of colorful homes when we travel as we already did in Telc, Czech Republic, but we were surprised to find Ireland also has it’s very own set of painted ladies here in Cobh known as the “Deck of Cards.”
This adorable row of houses makes for a picture-perfect setting, especially with the backdrop of St. Colman’s Cathedral and the harbor.
4. They have the world’s second largest harbor
Locals are proud to say that Cobh Ireland is home to the 2nd largest natural harbor behind Sydney. Or, so they say. After doing some digging it looks as though Cobh may not actually have the world’s 2nd largest harbor after all. But I am not going to be the one who bursts anyone’s bubble.
Whether or not this claim is true, the harbor is actually quite large. After taking a short boat ride over to Spike Island we really were able to see the magnitude of the size of the harbor. So, regardless of titles, the harbor here is impressively large.
5. There’s a gorgeous cathedral
The centerpiece of Cobh Ireland would be the magnificent and enormous cathedral that steals the skyline in this seaside town. St. Colman’s Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic church that took 47 years to build! The spire and bell tower soar at 100 feet making it the largest in the country.
Visitors can take a look inside, sadly there was a funeral in procession at the time of our visit and we did not get to go inside. Even then, the Catholic cathedral was easy to admire from the exterior.
6. They have a rich history
Besides being the last port of call for the Titanic, Cobh Ireland has plenty of fascinating stories to tell. From Irish Emigration to the famous sinking of Lusitania in the harbor. You can learn about it in the Cobh city Heritage Center.
The center is located in a beautifully restored Victorian railway station and gives visitors a history breakdown with exhibits on the Titanic, Lusitania, Emigration, the local maritime history, and the Irish famine. Also, if you have any Irish in your blood you can explore your genealogy here.
Cobh Ireland is actually an island in the Cork Harbor. Where we were most fascinated with Cobh, Cork also has a lot to offer. From the fantastic shopping on Merchant’s Quay, the AMAZING array of food in the English Market where Queen Elizabeth visited, the incredible St. Fin Barres Cathedral and the zen labyrinth, to fantastic craft beers at Franciscan Well.
You can easily spend an entire day here and we recommend doing so when you visit Cobh.
8. Kiss the Blarney Stone
Nearly a half a million tourists per year flock to the Blarney Castle to give the famous Blarney Stone a kiss. Why you ask? The famous stone, which was a gift from Robert the Bruce of Scotland in 1314, was declared it had magical powers from a witch. Legend said anyone who kissed the stone would acquire the gift of eloquence.
Whether or not we now have the gift of eloquence after smooching a dirty stone while hanging off the top of a medieval castle, visiting Blarney Castle is a must. The castle is in partial ruins but is preserved enough that some rooms are accessible by foot, including making the climb to the top for the kiss.
Besides exploring the castle, you can check out the grounds surrounding the castle including gardens, waterfalls, and beautiful flora and fauna. There is even a poison garden full of poisonous plants and descriptions of how the poisonous plants have been used for medicinal reasons and or sinister reasons! Some of the plants in the garden are rather surprising and common plants you see on an everyday basis.
You can easily spend a few hours here, especially if you take the time to walk the grounds and enjoy the waterfalls and gardens. This is definitely a must-see stop in Cobh Ireland.
A special thanks to our friend Mark, who we met and trekked with on the Poon Hill Trek in Nepal for showing us around his hometown! We love meeting back up with friends we make on the road plus get to see the best of an area with an actual local!
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