Picturesque, steeped in history of tales of emigration and located in the second largest natural harbor in the world, Cobh, County Cork is bustling with activity and bursting with attractions and exhibitions.
The waterside town is awash with culture and its ancient history marks the starting point of Tourism Ireland’s latest tourism initiative, Ireland’s Ancient East. There are so many great things about Cobh from walking tours, to the incredible food, to the nearby Jameson Distillery, the traditional music and much more.
Cobh is used to welcoming visitors and the warmth of the welcome is legendary. After all, Cobh was developed as a Victorian spa retreat in the mid-19th century and became Ireland’s most important port for trans-Atlantic travel.
If you would like to create some memories that will last a lifetime, take the plunge and visit Captivating Cobh – ‘captivating’ because it will hold you in its spell long after you’ve left.
There’s so much to see and do in this town we put together a list of ten top attractions for visitors to the area:
1. Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh, or Queenstown as it was once known, was said to be the saddest town in Ireland due to its connection with Irish emigration. Almost three million people from every corner of Ireland emigrated from this port and scattered across the globe. Their story is told in wonderful detail in the amazing Cobh Heritage Centre.
At the center you can explore the conditions on board the early emigrant vessels, including the dreaded "coffin ships”; experience life on board a convict ship leaving for Australia in 1801; witness the tragic story of the Lusitania, which sank off Cork Harbour and learn about Annie Moore, the first immigrant ever to be processed at Ellis Island.
The center has a specific exhibition dedicated to the ill-fated Titanic, including a message in a bottle that survived from the ship, and it also offers a Genealogy Record Finder Service so you can trace your ancestors.
2. Escapade Cobh
Fancy exercising your brain? Then Escapade Cobh is for you. This amazing new fun attraction challenges small groups to pit their wits against a series of challenges to escape from a virtual Spike Island prison (see below), rob a bank or assist Sherlock Holmes in solving a dastardly crime.
Teamwork and thinking outside the box will go a lot further than brain power. This attraction is ideal for a group of friends or crafty, clever, cunning, smart and quick-witted kids who can help their parents out when they get stuck.
3. Golfing and sailing
Reduce your handicap at Fota Island’s Championship golf course, home to the 2014 Irish Open, or try Cobh’s own 18 hole, par 72 links course at Marino Point. Or test your sailing skills in a 'fair south-westerly' breeze in some of the finest cruising waters in Europe with SailCork, which offers water-based activities for families and ‘hearties’ of all ages.
4. Fota Wildlife Park
Fota also boasts one of the best Wildlife Parks in Europe. Many of the animals here roam free, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most amazing creatures.
The park’s Tropical House is home to butterflies, birds, reptiles, amphibians and tropical fish and their Asian Sanctuary houses Sumatran tigers, warty pigs, and lion-tailed macaques.
Lions are the new arrivals for 2016. Make sure your phone battery is charged – there will be lots of snaps taken!
5. Ireland’s Alcatraz, Spike Island
Off limits to civilians for some 200 years, Spike Island is now open to visitors, and a recently completed €5 million investment is phase one of a massive tourism project. The island has a fascinating history, from monastic settlement to military fortress, a convict depot, prison and army and naval base.
Take the ferry from Cobh and explore the extensive star-shaped fort, see the jail cells, walk the ramparts, marvel at the 360-degree views of Cork Harbour, see the huge gun that protected the harbor from attack, hear about the high-society artist Willam Burke Kirwan, convicted of the violent murder of his young wife, or John Power, a Waterford orphan who was so brutalized by the system that he ended up murdering a prison warder and the Young Irelander, John Mitchel after whom Fort Mitchel is now named.
6. Spike Island Adventure
While you’re on Spike, make sure you visit Spike Island Adventure – a self-declared fun factory for families where you can learn all sorts of useful skills. They will take care of your kids or, better still, join in and make it a family adventure.
And for those of you who just love the water they offer family kayaking tours around the island, which has a history dating back to medieval times.
7. Titanic Experience
Cobh was, of course, the last port of call for the Titanic. The Titanic Experience offers visitors an opportunity to travel in the footsteps of an actual passenger on that famous ship’s tragic maiden voyage. Only at the end will you discover if you were one of those who survived or was lost!
The Experience is housed in the original White Star Line Ticket Office, which was the embarkation point for the final 123 passengers to board Titanic on April 11, 1912.
8. Cobh’s Road Train
Combining breathtaking panoramic views of the town with brilliant history and local stories told by the driver, Martin, this is an attraction surely not to be missed for anyone visiting Cobh. Cobh Road Train takes you around the town, stopping at two fantastic locations: the viewpoint known locally as the Black railings and the famous St. Colman’s Cathedral. Children especially will love a ride through Cobh on the train on this hour-long, informative and fun trip.
9. St. Colman’s Cathedral
Perched on the hillside, St Colman’s Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in the region. Impressive and imposing from the outside, the stained glass and carvings inside are exquisite. Its 49-bell carillon is the only such instrument in this country and is the largest in Ireland and Britain.
10. Cork Harbour boat hire
Explore Cork Harbour and see Cobh from the sea on a fantastic boating adventure with Cork Harbour boat hire. These easy to drive boats are led on a one-hour tour of the harbor by a safety boat. It is great fun for people of all ages. No previous boating experience is needed and all equipment is provided.
For more on Cobh, see www.visitcobh.com.