Cobh, pronounced like “cove,” is classic Ireland. While on your British Isles cruise, you’ll be quickly amazed and intrigued by the history of the region. You’ll be welcomed to Cobh with views of the breathtaking St. Colman’s Cathedral, your first glimpse at how special this place is. The history of Cobh is less picturesque: think the potato famine, the emigration of millions from Ireland in the 19th century, and the fact that Cobh was the final port of call for 123 passengers before they boarded the ill-fated Titanic.
Today, however, Cobh balances the heady with plenty of local kindness and charm, and attractions like the Cobh Heritage Centre, the Titanic Experience, and others pay homage to what was lost. You’ll leave Cobh with a new appreciation and understanding of Irish history. Enjoy touring the local cathedrals, shopping for handmade souvenirs, and gulping a cold pint in one of many authentic Irish pubs in town. Head on a train to nearby Cork, where you can shop for fancy artisanal cheeses at the unique English Market, or take a ferry to Fota Island, home to Ireland’s only wildlife preserve dedicated to the conservation and education of its rare species.
Within the original White Star Line’s office building is the unmissable Titanic Experience, a museum and visual tour dedicated to honoring the lives of the 123 passengers who boarded the fated Titanic leaving Cobh in 1912. You’ll learn their stories and preserve their legacies during a special, interactive guided tour.
Not far from the Cobh Harbor is St. Colman’s Cathedral, which is a must-see historic sight while on a Cobh cruise. The dramatic architecture is just one reason to stop here. Not only does this breathtaking cathedral make a great photo op, it also offers a glimpse at the last structure emigrants from Ireland saw before heading off to America and other new homes in the mid-19th century.
Home to Ireland’s only wildlife park, Fota Island makes an ideal afternoon excursion for wildlife and nature lovers passing through on a Cobh cruise stop. The Fota Wildlife Park is home to the exotic species you’d expect, like giraffes, leopards, red lemurs, kangaroos, tigers, and rhinos. It’s one of the biggest animal conservation efforts in Ireland, so an afternoon here not only gets you up close and personal with these special animals, but helps maintain their habitat, too. Along with the wildlife park, you’ll also find a golf resort and a set of historic gardens on the island.
If you don’t know much about Cobh, one of the best ways to discover more about the city is to visit to the Cobh Heritage Center, which is conveniently attached to the local rail center. The Centre tells the story of Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown, which chronicles the joys and hardships of millions of its emigrants. It’ll take about an hour to take a self-guided tour, plus there’s a restaurant for you to rest and grab a bite.
When you make the trip to Cork from where your Cobh cruise ship is docked, you shouldn’t miss a chance for retail therapy at the English Market, which was established way back in 1788 and is still a bustling spot to this day. Foodies can lose themselves exploring the local stalls, where freshly baked bread, meats, cheeses, and produce are available along every corner.
Ireland’s churches are some of the most beautiful in the world, and Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is no exception. Enjoy an afternoon walking around this ornate Gothic Revival cathedral, which is made of local Cork limestone and is home to over 1,000 priceless sculptures.
Be captivated by Spike Island’s colorful history as a defense and fort, then a military prison until 2004. Enjoy a guided tour through the prison grounds, where you’ll see preserved artillery and scary prison artifacts. It’ll take about a half day to see it all, so leave plenty of time to make it back to your cruise ship in Cobh. A ticket to Spike Island includes the picturesque ferry ride along the Cork Harbor.
Looking for a time machine to medieval Ireland? Look no further than the Cork Public Museum, where bronze-age artifacts tell a rich story of the history of Cork. Tour the Georgian house where the museum is located, soaking up all the historic information you’ll get from a guided tour. When you’re done, stop for a cappuccino at the museum’s cafe.
The Quays Bar & Restaurant
Address: Westbourne Pl, Kilgarvan, Cobh, Cork, Ireland
Enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner at The Quays Bar & Restaurant, where oven-baked cod, steak, fish and chips, and baked duck are menu staples. Quay’s is a no-frills place, but offers some pretty stunning harbor views. Ask for a seat on the patio if the weather is nice when you arrive.
Titanic Bar and Grill
Address: 20 Casement Square, Kilgarvan, Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland
Within Cobh’s Titanic Experience, you’ll find the conveniently located Titanic Bar and Grill, which has all the entrees you’d expect at a bar and grill. Think burgers, fish and chips, fried chicken, bangers and mash, and other comfort foods. Grab a cold beer and enjoy the views from the glittering Cobh harbor. There’s also live music on weekend nights.
Address: Princes St, Centre, Cork, Ireland
A day trip to Cork isn’t complete without a stop at this historic covered market that’s practically an institution in the area. Foodies will love perusing the food stalls, bakeries, and butcher shops that promise an authentic, intimate experience. The English Market has become one of the most beloved sites in the city, serving local Corkians for nearly 200 years.
Address: 41 South Mall, Centre, Cork, County Cork, T12 TC96, Ireland
Located just off the River Lee, Electric’s riverside views are just one of the top reasons to come here, right behind their tasty cocktails and delicious comfort food mains. The bar’s evening menu is available starting at 5pm, where you can sample local Irish steaks, juicy duck burgers, beer-battered fish and chips, and more. You’ll find classic bar noshes here, plus oysters and cheese boards for those wanting just a small bite. Head upstairs for great views.
Cork itself is one of Ireland’s oldest cities, and the area saw plenty of development as early as the 1600s. Some of Cork’s bridges and churches are still in use today. The nearby seaside town of Cobh was once called Queenstown, and its history is deeply rooted in the immigrant communities who came to the area in the 19th century. Cobh was also the place where the last passengers of the Titanic boarded the fated ship on its tragic journey. The 1912 tragedy of the Titanic is commemorated here in a variety of ways, like at the Titanic Experience, located in the old building of the ship’s manufacturer, the White Star Line, and the Titanic Walking Tour available in Cobh. The city of Cork itself is home to a rich collection of Victorian architecture, historic churches, and the famous Old Gaol.
Your Cobh cruise ship will dock at Deep Water Quay close to the Cobh Heritage Center, but the amenities at the Heritage Center are minimal. There’s no public wifi, but they do provide a restroom as well as a cafe for thirsty or hungry travelers needing to rest and grab a bite. There is also a local tourism information center not far from the port, if you’re looking for more information on things to do in the area.
You’ll berth in Cobh (pronounced “cove”), and from the port town of Cobh you can take a short train ride to Cork for the day, which is about an hour round trip. Trains run every hour, and when a large cruise ship passes through town, extra trains are often supplied to accommodate the increase in traffic. Bike rentals are available for getting around Cork for the day, plus car rentals and a comprehensive local bus service make getting around Cork pretty easy. Taxis are readily available near the cruise port.
Souvenirs and goods created by local artisans are the big draws for shopping in Cork, where tweed clothing and rain jackets are two of the commonly hawked items. You’ll find the majority of shopping is located along St. Patrick’s Street, like the Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre, and Oliver Plunkett Street, which are home to both Cork’s major malls and department stores as well as local boutiques. If you head into Cork via train and are looking for gastronomic experiences, check out English Market for artisan cheeses, smoked meats, and plenty of cozy cafes.
The Republic of Ireland uses the euro as its official currency, while Northern Ireland uses the pound sterling. You’ll find the euro is widely accepted as Cork lies in the Republic of Ireland geographically. Visa and Mastercard are commonly accepted in this part of Ireland. Carrying a little bit of cash to cover a meal or a pint is recommended while you’re stopped on your Cork cruise. Tipping isn’t a widespread practice the way you’ll see it done in the United States. If a bill includes a service charge, you don’t have to tip additionally. It’s not required at pubs unless you get service to your table. Best practices for the area include tipping your taxi driver 10% or rounding up to the nearest euro, and tipping 10-15% for good service at restaurants.