(Queenstown) is a small seaport town on Great Island in
, County Cork, Southwest Ireland. The town faces the sea in rows of terraces rising up the steep hillside, dominated by a tall and handsome 19th century
, designed by Pugin.
In the era of transatlantic travel, it was the first and last port in Europe. In Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days
, the protagonists arrived here from New York City. It was the last outbound port of call for the RMS Titanic in 1912. It played a major part in the story of Irish emigration with over 1.5 million emigrants passing through on their way to a new life, mostly in North America.
Originally known simply as "the Cove of Cork" it started life as a small fishing village but began to grow rapidly when the British established naval fortifications in the area during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1849 the town was renamed Queenstown following a visit by Queen Victoria but in 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, the town adopted a Gaelicized version of "cove" and Cobh became the town's name.
Economy and tourism
Tourism is a large employer in Cobh. Large cruise liners visit Cobh each year, mainly during the summer months, although many of the tourists are transported out of Cobh by bus to other tourist destinations. In all, almost 100,000 cruise liner passengers and crew arrive in the town each year when their ships berth right in the center of the town at Ireland's only dedicated cruise terminal. Tourist attractions are focused on the maritime and emigration legacy of the town and include the Queenstown Story at the Cobh Heritage Centre, Titanic Experience, Titanic Trail walking tour, Cobh Museum, Cobh Road Train, Spike Island tours and St Colman's Cathedral. The town has remained largely unchanged since RMS Titanic departed from Cork Harbour in 1912, with the streetscape and piers still much the same. Facing the town are Spike Island and Haulbowline Island. The latter is the headquarters of the Irish Naval Service, formerly a British naval base.
Cobh was home to Ireland's only steelworks, the former state-owned Irish Steelworks which was closed by its buyer, Ispat International, in 2001. There is a controversy over the slag heap on the steelworks, where there are concerns that it may be leaching into the harbor. Another important employer in Cobh was the Dutch-owned Verolme Cork Dockyard, in Rushbrooke. It opened in 1960 but ceased operations in the mid-1980s. In 1981 the MV Leinster was built at Verolme for service on the Dublin – Holyhead route. The last ship built at Verolme was the Irish Naval Service's LÉ Eithne (P31). Some ship repair work is still carried at Rushbrooke using the drydock and other facilities. The drydock pumps are reputed to date from 1912.
In the 21st century, a number of new developments were completed, such as a new retail park at Ticknock in 2008, and a leisure center (with 25m swimming pool) in August 2007. In 2010, tours of Spike Island commenced, with tours leaving from Kennedy Pier, near the town center.
Arts and culture
The Sirius Arts Centre is a hub for the arts in Cobh and is located on the waterfront. It hosts cultural events and music concerts both in-house and around Cobh.
The Cobh Peoples Regatta is held every year around August, and a cultural highlight of the summer. The event includes on-stage performances from local musicians and performers as well as a pageant to decide the 'Regatta Queen'. The festival typically ends with a fireworks display over the harbor and attracts up to 20,000 people.
Cobh was the setting for the 2009 Connor McPherson film The Eclipse and also used as a filming location for the 1999 movie Angela's Ashes.