Though some ships tie up at the deepwater harbor at Ringaskiddy, most dock right in the center of Cobh (pronounced Cove), a historic seaport (formerly known as Queenstown) on the south coast of Ireland, and the gateway to Cork City. Turn right on going ashore, and the center of Cobh is just a two-minute walk from the dock—look out for Tourism Ambassadors in green vests, who will assist you. Twelve miles downriver from Cork City, this was the point of departure for about 2.5 million emigrants in the century following 1848. It was the last port of call for the Titanic on her maiden voyage in 1912, and in 1915 many survivors of the Lusitania tragedy were brought ashore here.
Learn more about Cobh at the Queenstown Story Heritage Center, which occupies the former train station right on the dock, and has a shop selling a good selection of Irish crafts. On your way to the town, you will pass the Tourist Office, in a Palladian-style villa on the waterfront. Beyond the attractive waterside park and bandstand, the town center has some charming Victorian architecture, and a good selection of bars and cafés, but the shopping is basic. It’s compact and on level ground, unless you decide to visit the cathedral, which involves climbing a steep path or stone steps—or take a taxi from Pearse Street, where they cluster.
The modern train station is on the quay, and trains (wheelchair accessible) leave for Cork City every half hour—a 24-minute journey—returning on the hour. The main shopping area of Cork City is a ten-minute walk from Kent Station, but there are plenty of taxis. Alternately, enquire about the hop-on, hop-off bus service to visit the sights. The Cork train also stops at Fota, about 10 minutes out of Cobh, where you can visit an 18th-century house, gardens, and arboretum and an excellent wildlife park, all on flat terrain.
Best Bets for Cruise Ship Passengers
Queenstown Story at Cobh Heritage Centre re-creates the heyday of the ocean liner and tells the story of Irish emigration.
Titanic Trail guided walking tour of Cobh’s historic highlights, daily at 11 am.
Organized bus excursion to Blarney Castle, one of Ireland’s biggest stone tower houses next door to Ireland’s largest craft shop, or to Kinsale, a historic seaport known for its lively bars and restaurants.
Cork City by train, for historic sites, the arts, shopping, and vibrant city life (note shops don’t open until noon on Sunday).
Fota Island for the wildlife park, house, arboretum, and gardens (the last two are free).