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Getaway with John Hagan
24 Hours in Cobh
Special Contribution
By John Hagan
Lusitania Memorial Cobh Photo by Mrs. Doris Hagan

Nestling on the south coast of Ireland near Cork City, the village of Cobh( formerly known as Queenstown) is steeped in history as John Hagan discovers.

Spike Island

Since Saint Carthage first founded a monastery in the seventh century, this 104 acre island in Cork Harbour, just off the coast from Cobh, has served as a centre of learning, a sanctuary, a fortress, a smugglers hideaway, a place of detention and home to a community of workers and their families. The island is a significant repository of Irish history stretching over 14 centuries. In 1779 using Irish convict labour, the British constructed Fort Westmoreland and in 1847 Spike became a convict depot where those who were criminalized by hunger during the Potato Famine were interned. It was here that 2000 Irish convicts (including John Mitchel) were held before transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) or the West Indies. In July 2009 the Island was opened to the public with guided tours leaving Cobh Pier at 2pm daily during the season. Tel: +353 (0) 214811485; spikeislandguidedwalkingtours@gmail.com

The Titanic Trail

Cobh Photo by Mrs. Doris Hagan

Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic before it embarked on its assignation with a rogue iceberg in the North Atlantic. The Titanic Trail is a leisurely 60 minute stroll around the streets of Cobh visiting locations directly connected to the Titanic, such as the White Star Line Office where passengers awaited embarcation, together with the Titanic Memorial, Lynch’s Quay and Admiralty House. The walk, which leaves the Commodore Hotel at 11am each morning (and at 2pm June-August), also provides a wider insight into many aspects of Cobh emigrant, military and maritime heritage including the world’s oldest yacht club. Tel: +353 (0) 872767218; www.titanic-trail.com

Cobh Heritage Centre

Cobh Hertiage Centre Photo by Mrs. Doris Hagan

Between 1848 and 1950 over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland with over 2.5 million of these departing from Cobh making it the single most important port of emigration. The Cobh Heritage Centre, housed in the restored Victorian Cobh railway station, illustrates the origins, history and legacy of this maritime traffic from the days of the early ‘coffin ships’ to the modern ocean liner. Multi-media exhibitions enable visitors to understand just what life was like on board the convict ships, and also recreates the horror of World War 1 with the sinking of the Lusitania off Cork Harbour and the associated loss of 1,198 lives. Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic and displays illustrate something of the luxurious conditions associated with trans-Atlantic travel during the early part of the twentieth century. The centre also contains a restaurant, gift shop and provides a genealogical search service. Just outside the Centre is the statue of Annie Moore who was the first emigrant to be processed on New York’s Ellis Island when it officially opened on 1 January 1892. The Heritage Centre is open on Monday to Saturday from 09.30am to 5pm and on Sunday from 11am to 5pmTel: +353 (0) 214813591;www.cobhheritage.com

St. Colman’s Cathedral

Cobh waterfront and St. Colman's Cathedral by Mrs. Doris Hagan

Enjoying the most advantageous position of any Irish cathedral, St Colman’s dominates the skyline overlooking Cobh. Dubbed by historian Emmet Larkin as “the most ambitious building project undertaken by the Church in nineteenth century Ireland”, the construction began in 1868 and was completed in 1915. Built from blue Dalkey granite and Mallow limestone in the form of a Latin Cross, and bristling with flying buttresses and gargoyles, the Cathedral (open daily) is one of the finest examples of neo-gothic architecture in Europe, and its carillon – the largest in Ireland with 49 bells one of which weighs 3.6 tonnes – was once famously used to welcome Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on a visit to Cobh.

Gilbert’s Restaurant

No better place to end (or indeed start) the day in Cobh than in the award winning Gilbert’s Restaurant sited in Pearse Square, just below St Colman’s Cathedral. In a relaxed friendly atmosphere, enjoy a meal sourced from local produce. Specialities of chef Westley Cassidy include sweeetcorn soup, roast lamb, and Ireland’s finest crème brulee. Fully licenced, and also serving snacks, tea and coffee, dinner includes an ‘early bird’ option. Tel: +353 (0) 214811300; www.gilbertsincobh.com

While in Ireland John Hagan was a guest of Tourism Ireland Ltd.

For further information on Ireland www.discoverireland.com



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John Hagan, who serves as a travel writer for The Seoul Times, is a freelance journalist based in Tasmania, Australia. Born in Ireland, and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Wales, he emigrated to Australia in 1976 to take up a lecturing position. He contributes articles to a number of newspapers and magazines in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, UK and Australia.

 

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