Cobh (pronounced “cove,” obviously) has seen its fair share of visitors -- mainly the millions of 19th-century emigrants who boarded ships bound for new lives in America. It was in fact the Titanic’s final port of call, so the spire of St. Colman’s Cathedral was probably the last thing Jack and Rose saw on the horizon before the iceberg. Nowadays the painted hillside cottages look over a sleepy harbor and waterfront promenade, with a Victorian bandstand for impromptu folk gigs.
There’s literally boatloads of history here, sensitively preserved and presented. Your first stop should be the Titanic Experience, housed in the original White Star Line ticket office, which puts you in the shoes of one of the 123 passengers who embarked from Cobh’s “Heartbreak Pier.” If you’ve got enough Kleenex left, head to Old Church cemetery and pay your respects to those who died when the Lusitania was torpedoed nearby in 1915. And don’t leave without exploring more of the world’s second-largest natural harbor (after Sydney) -- there’s a wildlife reserve on Fota Island, and a prison-fortress on Spike Island, known as “the Irish Alcatraz.”