I glanced out the train window at the pastel-colored buildings in the distance, like an inviting “welcome!” to incoming traffic. I then shifted my focus to the storm clouds on the sea’s horizon.
“And our last stop is Cobh, folks,” the train conductor announced. As I looked out at the powerful and eerie Atlantic, I imagined myself as an Irish woman setting sail to New York 105 years ago. “Cobh is our last stop, folks! The Titanic is off to the New World!”
A historic gem of Ireland
Cobh Ireland (pronounced Cove) is just a 20-minute train ride from Cork city, and is perhaps one of the most unique towns I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Not only are the vibrant colors appealing to the eye; the seaport is full of soul and rich history.
Formerly known as Queenstown until 1920, Cobh is a historic gem of Ireland. 2.5 of the 6 million Irish immigrated to North America through Cobh, including Annie Moore, who was the first person to be processed on Ellis Island.
And of course, the Titanic is what gives Cobh its name to fame. Queenstown was the last stop before the legend sailed its fate, only to be swallowed by the Atlantic within a day.
Over a century later, boats continue to flock to Cobh, as it is Ireland’s dedicated cruise terminal and maritime port.
Exploring the Titanic and Maritime Treasures
I quickly realized that even without stepping into a museum, the town itself is a historical attraction. When we stepped off the train, we were greeted with statues of Annie Moore and framed newspaper clippings about the Titanic from the last century. We stumbled into the entrance of the Cobh Heritage museum, where locals chatted and read the newspaper in the café, almost as if it was still 1920.
The Titanic Museum is a virtual experience, where guests receive a boarding card from the White Star Line Ticket Office. Each card has the details of one of the 123 passengers who boarded the Titanic from Queenstown on April 11th 1912. Throughout the experience, led by a tour guide, you learn all about the history of the Titanic, and at the end you discover if your passenger survived.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to visit the Titanic Museum, but we did stop for coffee in the Titanic café, which had a gorgeous view of the sea, and the interior decorated with black and white pictures from the 1900’s.
Exploring the Colorful Town
As I am a sucker for color, the pastel buildings are what originally drew me to Cobh. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the more I explored the town, the more vibrant shades I stumbled upon.
Some of the photos don’t even appear to be real, especially with the scattered clouds and blue-skied backdrop.
Without a doubt the most picturesque view in Cobh is in front of the “Deck of Cards”, which are a series of bright-painted houses. They remind me a bit of the “painted ladies” in San Francisco. What truly makes it remarkable is the St. Colman’s Cathedral in the back.
The Deck of Cards are just up the road from the center of town. To get a good picture, the park across the road is your best bet. I even tried climbing the hill to get the whole cathedral in, but I lost in a battle with the mud.
The St. Colman’s Cathedral is equally remarkable, both on the outside and the inside. It towers over the town and sea, and the cathedral bells can be heard from across town.
The rest of the colorful buildings can be found anywhere throughout the city, and the quaint coastal shops and cafes are full of life.
Even on a frigid February day, Cobh was a breathtaking photo-op full of historical tidbits and treasures. I will return while living in Ireland, without a doubt.
Would you like to visit Cobh? Comment below!