Queenstown it was for some decades before reverting to its old Irish name in 1922 – the Cobh (cove) of Cork. Is there anywhere in Ireland more full of poignant memories than this embarkation point for America? From here hundreds of thousands of mostly hungry and penniless Irish men and women left to build a new life, especially in the Famine years of 1844-48. Many thrived and prospered, but many died on the journey in the terrible travelling conditions of the time.
It is a pleasant town; its streets climb the steep slope of a hill, the top of which is crowned by the very fine St. Coleman’s Cathedral which has a carillon of 47 bells.
Cobh is situated on Great Island, one of the three large islands in Cork harbour which are all now joined by roads and bridges – Little Island and Fota are the others.
The harbour is one of the largest and safest anywhere, being capable of taking the largest vessels afloat. The great Transatlantic liners used to come in up to the 1960s. Cork Harbour is also the home of the sport of sailing – with mariners enjoying sailing here for over 300 years! This tradition is proudly maintained by SailCork based just a few miles from the town centre at the tranquil East Ferry Marina.
On the quayside there is a memorial to the victims of the Lusitania, many of whom are buried in the old church cemetery. The ship was sunk off Kinsale in 1915 by a German submarine, an action which was responsible for bringing the United States of America into the Great War, the survivors were brought back here. Another sad association is with the Titanic, ‘the safest liner in the world’. Queenstown was her last port of call on her fateful maiden voyage. Cobh is home to the Titanic Experience and the Titanic Trail.
The Queenstown Story is based in what was the transatlantic liner terminal next to the railway station at Cobh. This highly imaginative visitor attraction tells the story of emigration from Cobh in the period of the famine in 1845 up to the era of the great Liners in the 1950s. The historical role which Cobh harbour has played as a port is also illustrated.
At Cobh, one looks over Haulbowline (the base of the Irish Naval Service) and Spike Islands. Spike is now a major heritage destination – why not visit there with SailCork. To the east, Cork Harbour leads to East Ferry (the main base of SailCork). Roches Point Lighthouse can be seen to the south – this marks the entrance to Cork Harbour. To the south west is the village of Crosshaven