Cobh is a paradise for budget travelers who just want to soak in a day of sightseeing. The beautiful town has a lot of interesting sites to offer and most of these are in short walkable distance from the town centre. What is remarkable with this guide is that you get to visit these spots for free.
One can literally have a whole day, have a self-guided walk and just enjoy these places. No entrance fees, all you need is a good walking shoes. For a small town, Cobh has a beautiful scenery to go along with a rich heritage and culture. The following free attractions are subject to change but as of this writing there are still no charge to see them.
The Waterfront or the quay is a stretch of sidewalk next to the Cork Harbour, the second largest natural harbour in the world (largest is Sidney Harbour). If you are arriving by train, the Waterfront is right across the station. This walk would take you to the center of town or if walking westbound, this would be a more leisurely stroll to the playground and to seaside residences.
On the way to the town, you would feel the vibe of Cobh as you watch the ships and boats cruised with Spike Island and Hawlbowline Island in the background. For someone not familiar with Cobh’s past, there’s a lot of maritime history waiting for you to discover in our town. We have museums with nominal fees that explore Cobh’s association with the Titanic and Lusitania if you feel so inclined.
The highlight of the Cork Harbour Waterfront walk to town would probably be the Cobh Promenade. The Promenade ground is also called Kennedy Park and is an open public park with tons of benches and a clear uninterrupted view of the Cork Harbour. One can bring a picnic box and sit on the grass here or buy snacks from the many stalls that lined the Waterfront and from across the street.
The park has a small kids playground too and a bandstand that buzzes with concert during summer weekends. There are objects of interest like memorials, sculptures and old cannons and an incredible photo-op view of the Heartbreak Pier, the last land contact of the Cobh passengers before they boarded to RMS Titanic.
The Two landmarks
St Colman’s Cathedral
Towering above the hill is the gothic cathedral of St Colman. This is one imposing figure that can be seen at many parts of town and is a distinctive photo backdrop of Cobh. Getting close to this structure is an awe-inspiring experience; both exterior and interior have too many exquisite architectural details that simply cannot just be passed up. A nice view of the town centre and the shimmering Cork Harbour awaits you on the cathedral ground.
Of notable interest is the bell tower that housed the carillon, all 49 bells which is the largest in Ireland and Great Britain. You can hear it during Mass, special occasion and on regular interval and during the summer, the carillon is being played on Sunday for a recital.
Deck of Cards
The postcard worthy Deck of Cards is the view that most Cobh visitors would probably want to see and take a selfie. There is no denying this is one for your Instagram hall of fame. The 23 colorful houses on West Hill are stacked on an incline and a true icon not just of Cobh but of Cork and Ireland.
From the town centre, walk up to Casement Square and the houses would open up on this steep hill. There’s a park midway through the street where you can have your first pictorial of the houses with St Colman’s Cathedral as the backdrop. There are other shooting locations of this famous place too and each offer a different appealing view.
Two Lovely Gardens
Titanic Memorial Garden
Overlooking the Cork Harbour where the Titanic set its last anchorage, the Titanic Memorial Garden is an open and public park dedicated to the 123 passengers who boarded from Cobh. The town of Cobh together with Cork City Council and other entities built the garden and erected a glass memorial to remember the victims and also the survivors. Worth mentioning, volunteers from Cobh Tidy Towns make sure the garden is tended and the surrounding is clean.
Though outside of the town centre, this well kept garden has guided signpost and is easily walkable (no parking inside the facility). There are stories and infos on boards for casual reading and benches to enjoy the flowers, the landscaping and the Celtic Sea.
A few meters walk from St Colman’s Cathedral is the very serene and peaceful Bible Garden. True to its name, the garden has some plants mentioned in the Bible and also has spaces and fixtures for reflection like Garden of Olives, Pool of Solomon and others.
The garden is located inside the historic St Benedict Priory where one can also visit the Adoration Chapel and a shrine to St Oliver Plunkett. There are many memorial benches for visitors to pray or meditate or just imbibe the view of Cork Harbour on this hilly location.
If art is in your agenda on your trip to Cobh or if you just want to visit an art museum, i suggest check out the exhibition on Sirius Arts Centre. It has revolving exhibitions from local, national and international artists, and also occasional events and activities on their art space along the Waterfront.
Street arts are also abundant on the walls of the town. Some of these prominent murals are near to many of the attractions mentioned on this post. A close look on this wall arts is an exploration on the diverse local history and personalities of Cobh and also to its love of colours.
And finally, there is the Old Church Cemetery where a mass grave for the Lusitania victims are resting. This is also home to Jack Doyle and other famous sons and daughters of Cobh’s. Walking on this revered ground is sometimes like a time travel to 18th and 19th century and is also a bridge to Cobh’s ancient past.
Cobh is called a heritage town because of its affluent local and maritime history and its association to the Titanic and Lusitania. This distinction makes it an ideal place to visit in Ireland. Cobh is a town that embraces tourism and welcomes its visitors. I hope the 9 free attractions here encourage locals and tourists to see our town as an affordable destination.
*Get updated with some Cobh news here.