I’d like to say that I left Dawn House at….well dawn…..but I didn’t. After another excellent Irish breakfast where I met and chatted with the 4 Kiwi guests who had arrived late the previous night, I packed up, paid the €40 and at 10:00, I headed off westwards to Cobh (pronounced Cove) along the N25.
It was a lovely sunny morning and the 90 minute drive to Cobh was delightful and gave me cause to believe from now on, I’d have lovely scenic coastal vistas for the rest of this Irish road trip…..in glorious sunshine.
And I pretty much did !
35 miles from the b&b I crossed a bridge over the River Tourig and in doing so, left Co. Waterford and entered Co. Cork. Another 21 miles along the N25 and I turned off onto the R624 for the 5 mile drive south to the town of Cobh and arrived at 11:30, so made good time despite stopping several times to take photos, like the one above.
I’d never heard of Cobh before but soon discovered that it has strong links to both the RMS Titanic and the RMS Lusitania and was only too eager to highlight them for tourists. It’s also Ireland’s only dedicated cruise ship terminal and over 100,000 passengers and crew arrive every year……..only to get onto buses to be taken to other tourist destinations !
No but seriously though, Cobh was a delightful little seaport with a population of under 10,000 and until I did a bit of research for this post, I wasn’t aware that Paddy Walsh, who taught at my old boarding school in my first year (and went on to become Bishop of Down & Connor) came from Cobh. Despite that, I quite liked the place.
Originally called Cove, the name changed to Queenstown in 1850 to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria and then changed again to the Irish version of Cove, namely Cobh, in the late 1920’s.
So it was when it was Queenstown that RMS Titanic arrived from Cherburg to take on the last of its passengers before heading out into the Atlantic in 1912 for its appointment with an iceberg. The link to the RMS Lusitania was just as tragic as when sailing from the US to Liverpool during WW1, it was sunk near Cobh by a German U-boat with the loss of 1,198 passengers. Many of the 700 survivors, along with the bodies of the dead, were taken to the town and there are over 100 graves and a memorial above the town to remind tourists of that fateful event.
On a lighter note, the town sure has one big ass Cathedral. I’ve never seen a town so dominated by one building before. It’s freakin’ massive and looms…..yes not like that squat Hook Head lighthouse….looms over the town and harbour like a modern day colossus.
Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself here. First of all I parked in a lovely area that could have come from any small town in France…..or from the set of ‘Allo, ‘Allo.
As it was 11:30 on a Sunday in the off season, the town was as quiet as a very quiet mouse with laryngitis. The blue skies had also become grey so my first impressions of the town were not that favourable, despite the brightly painted buildings and the pretty harbour.
Walking to the end of the harbour jetty, I turned around and was overwhelmed by the sight of St. Colman’s Cathedral towering above the town. This massive Roman Catholic Cathedral, one of the tallest in Ireland, has the only church carillon in the country with 49 bells and they were getting a good workout when I was there because as well as being rung at regular times each hour, there was also a First Communion Mass in progress at the time.
Apologies for the “white” sky but they say God moves in mysterious ways and providing nice weather for my visit to Cobh wasn’t one of His ways.
Leaving ground level, I climbed hundreds of steps up to the Cathedral, going against the flow of proud parents and their little darlings who were dressed in their First Communion finery. I’d seen a little girl in the town square on my arrival and as well as being dressed top to toe in white, she also had a cute little white parasol. Now I understood the reason.
I don’t know if the Cathedral would have been open later or charged for entry but as people were still leaving it after the Mass, I just went in.
If the outside had been impressive, the inside was even more so. I’m not a fan of Cathedrals as I usually find them large, cold and impersonal places but this one was different. Yes it was large but it was more modern than most Cathedrals and so there wasn’t an abundance of cold, stone pillars, crumbling masonry and statues of local bigwigs that no one remembered anymore.
In fact the pillars were just like the ones in my old home church in Ballymoney.
By the time I’d reached the Cathedral, taken several large gulps of oxygen and waited for my heart to stop beating in my ears, the sun had come out and so once inside, the Cathedral was beautifully lit with that warm light that only nature and dozens of 200 watt spotlights can provide.
Outside the main doors, the large open area was now empty, except for a man who approached me from his clapped out car which was on the Cathedral grounds with its boot/trunk open. He was holding what looked like loops of nasty string over his wrist and when he asked me where I was from, I was a bit taken aback so just said England rather than ignoring him.
Having now discovered I was a tourist rather that a more savvy local, he asked if I wanted to buy some “blessed medals” and it was THEN that I ignored him !
I left him pacing around in front of the doors and didn’t have the heart to tell him there were no others inside and took a photo of the view back down to the harbour.
Down at ground level I went to the Titanic Exhibition building at the side of the harbour because it was housed in the original office where those poor souls bought their tickets.
No refunds !
There was also a Titanic themed restaurant at the side of the building which I guess was to be expected but I have to say all these Titanic cash cows are a bit much. Sticking “Titanic” in front of a few menu items was a bit tacky.
The ship was built in Belfast (N.Ireland) and registered in Liverpool (England). On its fateful maiden voyage it sailed from Southampton (England) to Cherburg (France) and finally to Queenstown (Ireland) before setting off to New York (US) but hit an iceberg and sank 400 miles south of Newfoundland (Canada).
All these locations have exhibits of some sort which is ok by me. But when a company called Titanic Artifacts Inc found the sunken remains of the ship and brought many of its “treasures” to the surface, this opened up a whole new can of maritime worms to be exploited. These artifacts travel the world from Las Vegas to Cape Town and have probably repaid the salvage fees many times over. Many locations completely unrelated to anything to do with the Titanic have parts of museums containing its story in some way.
Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for example !
Oh well, if you build them, they will come, as someone once said in a movie that, ironically, not many people went to see.
There was a gift shop of course and I did have a bit of a laugh at this one item……..
I heard some singing coming from the harbour so went to investigate. I found 6 locals entertaining about 7 people and two dogs with their lively shanty type music so I captured most of one song which, given its simple tune and repetitive chorus could well be the next Irish Eurovision entry.
Finally, to end with, here are a couple of non Titanic related photos just for the hell of it. The first is a statue of some local woman who won a silver medal at the Olympics and the other is a photo of some pretty sea shells…..from the seashore no less !
It was time to leave Cobh so I drove back to the N25 and continued westwards to Cork and managed to get a great central parking place right on St. Patrick’s Street. I wasn’t up for a great deal of walking but I did my best.
Despite, or maybe because, it was a Sunday, it was really busy in the city. Ignoring the Burger King across the road, I found a Subway with wifi and caught up on emails and messages while having a slightly more healthy meal.
After this unfulfilling feast, I left and was still very tempted by the menu at a nearby eatery……..
It’s not often I find a menu with so many meals I could order…….but I was good and walked on.
After a few hours exploring the city centre I’d had enough and returned to the car, taking in a few last scenes.
I so prefer the countryside to cities !
I left at 17:00 and immediately started looking for a b&b along the R600 towards Kinsale. Just 9 miles from my parking bay in Cork and 4 miles from the airport, I saw a sign for the Insiara b&b which looked great from the roadside so I stopped to ask for availability and rates.
Once again I had the benefit of touring in the off season so the owner, John, offered me a family room for €35 which was the best deal at the best b&b on my whole trip. The room was huge with a lovely en suite bathroom and the lavender soap and shower gel were so good that a few days later I bought 3 of each at a store to bring home before I left Ireland !
I had a bit of a rest before heading out to find a place to eat.
John told me there was a good pub just 5 miles further down the R600 towards Kinsale so I took his advice and had a great chicken curry from the bar menu at The Huntsman in Belgooly.
Back at the b&b I met John’s wife, Eileen, and we arranged the time for breakfast (I always picked 08:30) and after watching a couple of shows on the laptop, this wuss was in bed by 23:00.
Well I’d done a lot of walking and I’ve got little legs….with an old, overweight, unfit body on top of them.
I’d also crossed the 1000 mile mark since setting off from Leeds (1025 to be precise)
I slept like a very tired log.