Dominated by a mighty neo-gothic cathedral, Cobh -- pronounced "Cove" -- lies on the Great Island, one of three islands in Cork harbor linked by roads and bridges. The small town is the gateway to County Cork and has one of the world's largest natural harbors.
Originally called Queenstown to commemorate a visit in 1849 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Cobh has a sprinkling of brightly colored houses and steep, winding streets leading to the center. However the center itself is quite flat with a waterside park and varied selection of bars, shops, cafes and restaurants. Monuments -- to sporting legends, Antarctic explorers, emigrants and Maritime tragedies, including the sinking of the Lusitania and the Titanic -- are everywhere you look.
This town has a sad history. It was the last port of call of the Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912; a museum opened in 2012 to commemorate the voyage's centenary. It was also where many victims and survivors from the Lusitania tragedy were brought ashore. For thousands of mostly penniless emigrants, Cobh was the last sight of their homeland as they left to build a new life, especially in the famine years of 1844 to 1848. Although some thrived and prospered, many more died on the journey in the terrible traveling conditions of the time.
Cobh developed as a popular seaside resort in the early 19th century, and the town's fame was further boosted in 1838 when the first transatlantic steamer, Sirius, crossed to America in 18 days.
Nowadays, Cobh is always busy with visitors; about 60 cruise ships call on the port each year.
Cruise ships dock at Deep Water Quay, and passengers disembark directly onto the wharf alongside the Cobh Heritage Center. There is no designated terminal building.
Cobh Heritage Center has a cafe, shops and toilets but no public telephones or Wi-Fi. A local tour representative comes onboard ships to provide passengers with maps and information about the town and surrounding area. Otherwise, Cobh Tourism Ambassadors -- they wear green vests so they're instantly recognisable -- are available on the dock to answer any questions you might have. To cover all eventualities, there is also a Tourist Information Center nearby. (Old Yacht Club on the waterfront; 21 481 3301; open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends)
The Irish Police Force (An Garda Siochana) produces a leaflet with helpful information for tourists visiting the Cobh area. Visitors can pick one up at the tourist information center. Some suggestions they give are: Leave valuables in the safe on your ship; keep a separate note of passport number, credit cards and driving licence; and carry with you a note of emergency contact numbers for each of these services. If you rent a car, park only in secure car parks. To call an ambulance or police, dial 112 or 999.
The euro is the official currency, and there are ATMs in town. Banks include the Trustee Savings Bank (29 West Beach; 21 481 10 52; open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The bank building used to be Cunard's offices; Cunard started its scheduled calls to Cobh in 1859, and survivors from the Lusitania were landed at Cunard Wharf at the rear of the building. Another bank is The Bank of Ireland (18 Westbourne Place; 21 481 1088; open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m). Both banks are close to the promenade. For current exchange rates, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
Irish Gaelic is the official first language, but English is spoken by all.
Ideal souvenirs include Waterford crystal, tweed jackets, rainwear, Aran sweaters, antique jewelry and linen tablecloths.