Cobh is a port in Cork Harbour, County Cork, in southwest Ireland. It's pronounced "cove" and that's what it means, a sheltered harbour. It's part of the commuter belt for Cork city and in 2016 had a population of 12,800, but Cobh retains a small town atmosphere, with colourful terraces rising up the hill to the cathedral, and visiting cruise ships towering over the waterfront.
Until the 18th century, shipping to this region used small ports such as Youghal, Kinsale and Cork city. Ships grew bigger as Britain created a maritime empire, and bigger still as metal and steam replaced sailing vessels. Cork Harbour is a "ria", a drowned river valley and sheltered cove of 7 - 26 m depth, so large warships, freighters and liners can use it. In the 19th century "The Cove" became fortified as a navy base and was renamed Queenstown after Queen Victoria visited in 1849. It was one of Ireland's main ports of emigration, with some 1.5 million embarking here on their way to North America. That was one source of revenue that led the White Star Line to schedule Titanic to call here westbound in 1912. They didn't see any point in it calling on the eastbound return; and sure enough, it didn't.
As Ireland struggled towards independence the royal name rankled, and the town became An Cóbh, which is the gaelicised version of "cove". But the British didn't leave - they retained three "Treaty Ports" as Royal Navy bases, here at Cobh / Queenstown, at Castletownbere on the southwest tip of Ireland, and at Lough Swilly in County Donegal. The Cobh port was not a land territory like Gibraltar or Hong Kong, but a collection of military installations dotted around the harbour, including at Crosshaven. In 1938 all three were handed over to Ireland and fell derelict. Ireland's own navy base was, and still is, on Haulbowline Island, which was not part of the Treaty Port. Cork Harbour remains busy with all kinds of shipping.
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.
- The main sights are within town or walking distance, though you'll want wheels to circumnavigate the island.
- You can buy a Parking Disc in the TIC or local shops, but a few blocks back you should be able to find free street parking without inconveniencing locals.
- Taxis wait in Pearse Square. Operators are A Cabs +353 21 481 4000 and Cove Cabs +353 21 481 2299.
- 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 Belvelly Castle is the 14th / 15th century turret that greets arrivals via the road bridge to Cobh. It fell derelict in the 19th century but in 2018 was restored as a private residence. During World War I, sailors on shore leave at Queenstown would be brought here by enterprising coachmen to see "Blarney Castle"; there was even a counterfeit stone to be kissed. But given the nature of Blarney, those coachmen had demonstrated a genuine example. Next to the turret, Cobh Bouncy Castles has no connection with either the ersatz or echt Blarney, but sure it's tempting . . .
- 4 Cuskinny Marsh is a wetland nature reserve, accessible 24 hours.
- 5 Fota Wildlife Park and Arboretum is a few km north, see Cork.
- 6 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 a British base as part of the Treaty Port of Queenstown 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.
- 7 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, Meet at Commodore Hotel, ☏ . Daily at 11:00 and 14:00. One hour walking tour explaining the Titanic story in Cobh. Adult €15, child €7.50.
- Titanic Experience, White Star Line Building, 20 Casement Square, ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:30. Immersive tour retracing the steps of the last 123 passengers who boarded Titanic from this building, plus static exhibition. Adult €10, conc €8.50, child €7.
- 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.
- 1 SailCork, East Ferry Marina, Cobh, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-18:00. Learn dinghy or cruiser sailing, powerboating or other seafaring skills.
- 2 Cobh Golf Club is north off R624. Blue tees 6530 yards, par 72, visitor round €25-35.
- 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.
- Cobh Farmers Market is on the waterfront Friday 10:00-13:00.
- Wan Fu on Lynches Quay does takeaway daily 15:00-23:00.
- Grand Italia (aka Mimmo's) in Casement Square is open Tu-Su 16:00-22:00.
- Jacobs Ladder is within Water's Edge Hotel, see Sleep. They do good seafood, open daily 12:00-21:00.
- Quays Bar & Restaurant, 17 Westbourne Place, ☏ . M-Sa 12:00-21:00, Su 12:30-20:00. Bar and restaurant with patio on the waterfront near railway station.
- Town centre pubs are clustered around Casement Square, then north up the hill along Midleton St.
- The Mauretania, 14 Casement Square, ☏ . Historic four-storey house built c. 1855, now a small, cosy public house named after the ocean liner.
- Ryans Bar, Casement Square, ☏ . Great friendly pub with live music.
- Tarrant's Bar, 11 Casement Square. Good trad pub (though founded in 2005), live music.
- Kelly’s Bar, 19 Casement Square, ☏ . Small, busy central bar. Mezzanine, large-screen TVs, popular with sports fans.
- Connie Doolans Bar, 2 East Beach, ☏ . Olde-world maritime theme, overlooking the sea.
- Quarry Cock, 2 John O'Connell St (200 m north of cathedral), ☏ . Nice local bar with lovely pine timberwork.
- Jack Doyles, 18 Midleton Street (by Quarry Cock), ☏ . Daily 12:30-19:00. Gastropub named for Cobh's famous boxer, crooner and actor Jack Doyle.
- The Roaring Donkey, 9 The Park P24 DX96, ☏ . M-Sa 17:00-23:30, Su 15:00-23:00. A lovely old pub, established 1880 at the top of the hill. Front bar is quite small but widens at the back. Often has live trad music.
- Further out:
- Ard na Laoi, Westbourne Place P24 F224, ☏ . A friendly place on the waterfront with two double and three treble rooms. It didn't open in 2020. B&B double €70.
- 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 service. 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.
Doctor: for out-of-hours service call South Doc +353 1850 335 999. They may direct you to one of the regular town GPs if one happens to be open.
Dentist: Cobh Dental Clinic is in Casement Square, +353 21 4 813 813. Out of hours try +353 87 27 64 755.
Pharmacies and chemist shops in town operate a 24 hour service by rotation.
Police: the Garda Station is 300 m west of the railway station on Lower Road and is open 24 hours a day. 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.