Cobh (pronounced Cove in Gaelic) is the port for Cork, the third largest city in Ireland. The port lies in a huge, protected bay and is the second largest deepwater port in the world after Sydney, Australia. It was the departure site for many ships whose names have gone down in history - the Titanic being the best known. The Lusitania also left from here along with zillions of starving Irish fleeing the potato famine years. Prison ships left here for Australia, taking many of England’s poor thieves to a better life if they lived through the journey. If you pay much attention to Irish history and the lives of the locals, it’s easy to get depressed.
Cobh is an easy port to visit by cruise ship. We berthed right next to the old railroad station, which houses a great museum devoted to some of the most historic ships that left here. The town itself is quite picturesque with brightly colored buildings that would look right at home in the Caribbean. The cheery colors lift the mood on the rainy dreary days that make Ireland so green. It never gets very cold here; the waterfront is lined with palm-like trees, but it never gets very warm either. It was clear that the locals expected us, appreciated us, and were ready to meet all our tourist needs. Generally two cruise ships a week visit here.
Since we’ve been to Cobh and Cork by car and cruise twice before, we jumped off the ship as soon as the lines were tied and headed for a coffee shop to use the internet at more reasonable prices than the ship’s. In an hour bills were paid, magazines were downloaded, email was answered, we enjoyed a mug of strong coffee, and we were ready to wander around. We joined many members of the ship’s crew who had never been here before. This is a unique stop for them since the ship will spend the summer in the Baltic. We also saw them lined up on the sidewalks near hotels and pubs, with their Ipads and phones out, taking advantage of the Internet just as we had.
In the afternoon we took a ship’s tour to Kinsale, a town we had never visited. It was described as a cute seaside town, but quite frankly it was not as cute as Cobh, where we are docked. Here too, brightly colored buildings were prominent. Kinsale is noted for gourmet restaurants, something that cruisers are not very interested in. Today is a bank holiday so lots of locals were enjoying the town. Parking was a challenge, especially for the coach. Our guide said that the Irish take traffic rules as advisory only and many cars were parked on the sidewalks and where the double yellow lines indicated it was totally forbidden.
Then we headed to the ruins of Charles Fort, which was built by the British to protect them from continental invasions, since they couldn’t trust the Irish to stick up for them. The fort had been massive and cost zillions of pounds to build, but had to surrender the one time is was in battle, since the land outside the fort was at a higher elevation and the soldiers were sitting ducks inside. After the British left, the locals filled it with straw and tried to burn it down. What’s left has been turned into a historic heritage site.
The ride through the countryside was as lush and green as you would expect in a land that has 200+ days of rain a year. Europe had a long and nasty winter and spring has just arrived. Gorse was blooming bright yellow on the hillsides. Grass grows readily and the rolling hills were filled with beef and dairy cattle. The Cork area also boasts 300 golf courses, although since Ireland has fallen on bad economic times, the businessmen playing with expense accounts have disappeared and cattle may be grazing on some of those greens once again. In the decade before 2008 the Irish economy boomed and for the first time people immigrated INTO Ireland, raising its population 17%. This lead to a building bubble similar to our own and we passed half finished housing estates (subdivisions) that will succumb to the lush vegetation soon if things don’t pick up.