Cobh is a small seaport town on Great Island in Cork Harbour, County Cork, Southwest Ireland. The town faces the sea in rows of terraces rising up the steep hillside, dominated by the tall and handsome 19th century St Colman's Cathedral, designed by Pugin.
In the era of widespread transatlantic travel by ship it was the first and last port in Europe. In Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days, the protagonists arrived here from New York City. It was the last outbound port of call for the RMS Titanic in 1912. Despite the very heavy tourist-related promotion of the Titanic in Cobh the port's involvement in the ship's story was slight: it was docked for just 2 hours and took on just 123 passengers out of the full complement of over 2,200. More significantly, the port played a major part in the story of Irish emigration with over 1.5 million emigrants passing through on their way to a new life, mostly in North America.
Originally known simply as "the Cove of Cork", it started life as a small fishing village but began to grow rapidly when the British established naval fortifications in the area during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1849 the town was renamed Queenstown following a visit by Queen Victoria but in 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, the town adopted Cobh, a gaelicised version of "cove".
The Tourist Office is in Market House on Casement Square, just above the Lusitania memorial. It's open M-F 09:00-17:00.
Irish Rail commuter trains run every 30-60 min from Cork Kent station to Little Island, Glounthaune, Fota (for Wildlife Park), Carrigaloe, Rushbrooke and Cobh, taking 25 min, single fare €5.
Change in Cork for trains from Dublin Heuston, Limerick, Waterford and Mallow (for Cork Racecourse).
Change at Glounthaune for Carrigtwohill (for Barryscourt Castle) and Midleton (for Jameson Whiskey Distillery).
1 Cobh railway station is on the sea front by the cruise ship terminal.
Cobh is on an island, so by road there are only two access routes:
- - From N25 East Cork Parkway take junction 3 onto R624 south. This crosses Fota Island then reaches Belvelly to follow the coast into Cobh.
- - 2 Passage West Ferry is reached by R610 east of Cork, and crosses to Carrigaloe 1 km north of Cobh. The ferry runs daily 06:30-21:30 and takes 5 min, cars €6 single, €8 return.
There's no bridge across the island's eastern channel; the "East Ferry" sailed from medieval times, latterly cable-hauled, but ceased in 1913.
Cork Connect Bus 200 runs every 30-60 min daily from Cork St Patrick's Quay, taking 35 min to Cobh.
See Cork#Get in for the ferries from Roscoff and Santander. They dock at Ringaskiddy, west across the channel.
Cruise liners often visit: they may dock here or at Ringaskiddy, or land passengers by tender for excursions. They're mostly on round-trip itineraries, but check the upcoming cruise schedule in case a point-to-point journey is possible. For instance transatlantic one-way cruises from New York to Southampton might set down passengers here.
- Parking Discs can be bought in the Tourist Information office or local shops for €.5/hour, maximum of 2 hour parking anywhere in Cobh. The disc zone covers the town centre and some surrounding streets and is marked with signs by the footpath.
The Taxi Rank is in Pearse Square; it is possible to travel anywhere on the Great Island for around €10 max (2011 price). All taxis have meters fitted and must by law operate them whilst on a journey.
- Anthony Cannon, ☏ .
- A Cabs Cobh, 21 Coolamber Drive, ☏ .
- Cove Cabs (kiosk in town centre), ☏ .
- Barry's Cabs, ☏ .
- Harbour Cabs, ☏ .
- Island Taxis Cobh, ☏ .
- Titanic Memorial is on Pearse Square. This grand "unsinkable" liner was launched in Belfast in 1911 and began her maiden voyage for the White Star Line on 10 April 1912. The timetable was for RMS Titanic and her sister ships to sail from Southampton, cross the Channel to Cherbourg then overnight to Cobh, then onward to New York. Eastbound there was to be no stop at Cobh; the owners were eyeing the emigrant trade. She was too big to dock in Cherbourg or Cobh so passengers transferred by tender. 123 joined at Cobh, seven passengers left, and a stoker deserted. Two hours later Titanic was back under way into the Atlantic. Near Newfoundland she was gashed by an iceberg and sank in the early hours of 15 April, with the loss of over 1500 lives.
- Lusitania memorial is on Casement Square. RMS Lusitania was a large Cunard liner plying between New York and Liverpool. On 7 May 1915 she was 12 miles off Kinsale Head, near the end of her eastbound crossing, when she was torpedoed by German submarine U-20. The single torpedo blast triggered a big secondary explosion and the ship sank within 18 minutes. The speed and list of the sinking prevented launching of most lifeboats, and 1195 people perished of the 1959 aboard. Survivors were landed at Cobh, as were many bodies. There was international anger at the attack: 128 US citizens were aboard, with the millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt being among those lost, but the USA stayed out of the war for another two years. Germany maintained that Lusitania was an enemy British ship within a designated war zone, and was carrying munitions. The shipwreck lies 93 m deep, so it's diveable but a hazardous technical exercise - not least because there are indeed munitions, now in an unstable condition.
- 1 St Colman's Cathedral, 5 Cathedral Place. Daily 08:00-18:00. Towering neo-Gothic RC cathedral - the steeple is 91.4 m tall. Construction began in 1868, whereupon the bishop decided that it should be altogether grander than what had been planned by Pugin. The disruption and cost overrun meant the place wasn't completed until 1919. There's a remarkable 47-bell carillon, with the largest bell a humonguous 3.44 metric tonnes. Donation.
- Cobh Heritage Centre (The Queenstown Story) (next to railway station), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Museum inside the former dockside building depicts the town's emigration and other history, including the Great Famine and Titanic. Adult €11, conc €9, child €6.
- Cobh Museum, Scots Church, High Rd. Apr-Oct M-Sa 10:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00, Su 14:30-17:00. In an old Presbyterian church opposite (but separately run from) the Heritage Centre, this small museum has various exhibits of town life and its maritime history. Adult €4.
- 2 Old Church ruins. This was built in 1694 as a Protestant church over earlier structures. It was abandoned and fell into ruin from 1815 when St Mary's was completed on Roches Row, but the cemetery remained in use. It was often used for those dying at sea or passing through the port-of-call, so it has a cosmopolitan selection. Best known are the mass graves of Lusitania victims but there are many other interesting graves. The 17 members of the crew of Lapwing died in 1804/05 of dysentery. The famous boxer, singer and crooner Jack Doyle (1913-1978) lies here.
- 3 Fota Wildlife Park and Arboretum is a few km north, see Cork.
- 4 Spike Island (Ferry from Kennedy Pier). There may have been a monastery here, but the main feature is the great bastion used for defence and as a prison for convicts awaiting transportation and for republicans. It remained as a British base under treaty after 1921 (along with two others), until in 1938 it was handed back to Ireland. It's named Fort Mitchel, but perhaps not for much longer, as John Mitchel was a notorious advocate of slavery - see Newry, where he grew up.
- 5 Haulbowline is the island half a km northwest of Spike Island. Just admire it from afar: although it's joined to the west harbour shore by a causeway, it's an Irish navy base, ugly and off-limits.
- Titanic Trail Tours, Carrignafoy, ☏ , (mobile). Michael Martin leads 75-90 minute tours explaining the Titanic story in Cobh, €9, price includes pint of beer at pub at end of tour, daily at 11:00, June to August also at 15:00, meet at Commodore Hotel, private tours available. There is also a Ghost Trail in the summer.
- Titanic Experience, White Star Line Building, 20 Casement Square, ☏ . 09:00-18:00 daily, last tour 17:00. Retrace the footsteps of the last 123 passengers who boarded Titanic at Queenstown via cinematic shows, scene sets, holographic imagery and touch screen technology. €9.50, senior/student €7.50.
- SailCork, East Ferry Marina, Cobh, ☏ . Have fun learning dinghy or cruiser sailing, powerboating or navigation. Enjoyable courses for juniors and adults under the guidance of Eddie English and his crew.
- Sirius Arts Centre has a gallery but is mostly a performance space, open Th F 11:00-16:00, Sa 13:00-16:00. It's on the waterfront west side of JFK Park.
- Fail to notice what day it is for a couple of weeks, while otherwise being a meticulous travel-planner, if you're the hero of Around the World in 80 Days. If ever a traveller needed the assistance of Wikivoyage, it's the fictional Phineas Fogg, who makes a £20,000 bet that he can circumnavigate and return to London in that time. Homebound from New York and behind schedule he commandeers a vessel, rapidly burning all its coal to maintain top speed then burning its wooden fittings. The fuel runs out off Ireland so he lands at Queenstown, takes the night train up to Dublin then a steamer to Liverpool. He can just about make it - then he's arrested for a few hours. It's soon cleared up but Fogg arrives in London a day late. The author Jules Verne (himself a keen amateur sailor who knew the harbours of Europe) had thought up the final twist several years before he used it in this story. Fogg has gained a day by circling eastbound, it's still only Saturday 21 Dec 1872, and he wins his bet and more importantly true lerv. So we're asked to believe that he never noticed being a day adrift all the way across San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Ireland and Liverpool. The theme tune to the 1956 film version with David Niven, sung by Sinatra, doesn't namecheck Queenstown / Cobh but County Down, for the sake of a clunky rhyme with London Town. Still, if the alternatives were Malay godown or Puget Soun' . . .
- Eurosaver and Centra are two convenience stores by the harbour.
- The retail park 1 km north next to Old Church ruins has Lidl and Aldi, open daily.
All of the hotels serve food. Good food can also be enjoyed at restaurants.
The Wong Fu Chinese Restaurant, serving Chinese food is on East Beach near the yellow clock tower. is on East Beach near the yellow clock tower. There is a Chinese restaurant, the Hong Kong on West Beach opposite the pier. Takeaways include the Good Food Company and the Ocean Palace Chinese restaurant on Midleton Street at the back of town. The Bella Vista Hotel also operates a Chinese restaurant and takeaway.
- Jacobs Ladder Restaurant and Bar, Yacht Club Quay, Lower Road (at Waters Edge Hotel), ☏ . 12:00-21:00. Bistro, seafood, local produce, outdoor terrace with harbour view, beside Cobh Heritage Centre and Train Station on the lower road by the waterfront. €10-30.
- Mimmos Restaurant, 4 Casement Square, ☏ . Italian and traditional restaurant, takeaway, fish and chips.
- The Quays Bar & Restaurant, 17 Westbourne Place, ☏ . Full bar, patio, TV, wi-fi, on waterfront dock near rail station. Under €10/person (lunch).
There are many excellent bars in Cobh to enjoy a drink, whether you prefer a quiet atmosphere or music.
Most of the bars (pubs) are located around Casement Square in the town centre, including:
- The Mauretania, 14 Casement Square. Corner-sited end-of-terrace curved four-bay four-storey house, built c. 1855 and on historic register, now a small, cosy public house named after the famous ocean liner.
- Ryans Bar, Casement Square, ☏ .
- Tarrant's Bar. Founded 2005, live music.
- Kelly’s Bar, 19 Casement Square, ☏ . Small, busy bar at Westbourne Place near the Commodore Hotel. Mezzanine, large-screen TVs, popular with sports fans.
Heading back towards the eastern end of town are three pubs:
- Connie Doolans Pub, 26 Westbeach, ☏ . Olde-world maritime theme, overlooking the sea.
- Anchor Bar, 14 East Hill, ☏ . Last pub in town, on the top of a steep hill with a fine view of Cork harbour.
The centre of town gets quite busy (and sometimes noisy) on Friday and Saturday nights so if you want a quiet drink and a chat it's better to head to the back of the town, up that mountainous hill, the area is known locally as the "Top of the Hill". Here you will find the following bars:
- The Quarry Cock, 2 John O'Connell St (About 200 m behind the Cathedral), ☏ . Nice local bar with lovely pine timberwork.
- Jack Doyles, 18 Midleton Street (Just around the corner from the Quarry Cock), ☏ . Popular with sports fans, especially fans of Celtic Football Club which has its local supporters club here. Named after the famous boxer, crooner and Hollywood actor Jack Doyle who was from Cobh.
- The Roaring Donkey, Orilia Terrace, Tiknock, ☏ . 17:00-23:30 daily. A lovely old pub, established 1880 at the top of the hill. Front bar is quite small but widens at the back. Live traditional music on a regular basis.
Further afield than these bars you will probably take a taxi. The other bars on the Great Island are:
- The High Chapperal, Ballymore Village (3.5 km from the town centre), ☏ . Family-oriented country pub, music at weekends, popular with card players.
- Ard na Laoi, Westbourne Place, ☏ . A friendly place with 5 rooms. single €45-50, double €68, triple €99.
- 1 Bellavista Hotel, Spy Hill, Bishop's Road, ☏ . 18 bedrooms, also has self-catering suites, nice harbour views. Dog-friendly. B&B double €90.
- Commodore Hotel, 4 Westbourne Place P24 WR60, ☏ , fax: . A grand 150 year old Victorian landmark which housed Lusitania refugees temporarily. Mid-priced and some decor showing its age, but good value and really slick servic. B&B double €100.
- Waters Edge Hotel, Yacht Club Quay, ☏ . Small friendly hotel with 18 bright rooms and a waterfront restaurant. B&B double €120.
- 2 Knockeven House, Rushbrooke, Cobh P24 E392, ☏ . Beautiful welcoming B&B. No dogs. B&B double £120.
- See Cork#Sleep for Fota Island Resort.
The town is served by several doctors' surgeries and a number of dentists. For out-of-hours doctors service contact South Doc, Telephone: 1850 335 999. Cahill's dental surgery provides out of hours dental surgery in case of emergency. Call 087 27 64 755 for out of hours service only.
There are several pharmacies and chemist shops in the town, and they operate a 24 hour service by rotation.
Police: The Garda (Police Station) is located about 300 metres west of the railway station on the Lower Road and is open 24 hours a day. The phone number of Cobh Garda Station is 490 8530 or for emergencies dial 999 or 112.
As of Oct 2020, Cobh town centre has good 4G and mobile coverage with Three and Vodafone, and 5G with Eir, but the rest of the island has little or no signal.
- Kinsale 50 km west is a charming historic small port.
- Blarney with its famous castle is only 6 km northwest of Cork city.