We had a much needed Sea Day after leaving Southampton yesterday, whereupon we spent most of the day sleeping in and then catching up with friends that I had met on my South American travels in 2017. I think that is one of the best things about travelling – meeting likeminded people and being able to stay in touch thanks to the Internet. We had met these wonderful people on last year’s trip, and have since managed to catch up in Sydney for lunch last November, and even caught up with two of them in Canada this January and again had a lunch date in Mittagong before Festival. Before we left the South America trip last year, I had known they were all planning on doing the World Cruise this year, so I chose this itinerary for myself and Mr K in order that we might travel part of the way with them – which is turning out to be a bloody good plan on my part, they are such a fun bunch.
Today’s port was Cobh (pronounced, ‘Cove’) which is a touristy export town on the south of Ireland in County Cork. It’s mostly known for it’s maritime and emigration history as it is associated with the Titanic (which was built in Belfast and left via Cobh) and the Lusitania (which was sunk by a German U-boat near Kinsale during WWI which is not far from here). I don’t know much about the Lusitania but it was brought down on May 7, 1915 with 1,198 passengers killed and 764 rescued all of whom were brought to Cobh. There is a Lusitania Peace Memorial in the middle of the small town…
Along with other memorials to the Titanic and also a monument of Annie Moore and her little brothers who were the first people admitted to the United States at the new immigration centre that had recently been built at Ellis Island in New York on January 1, 1892. Cobb was the departure point for 2.5 million of the 6 million Irish who emigrated to the US during the late 19thC to early 20thC. Cobh was also a major exit point for men, women and children who were being deported to the penal colonies of Australia.
We were meeting up with an old friend, Gav, who used to live in Brisbane but who is has been living in Ireland for the last decade or so and we couldn’t wait to see him, check out his adopted part of the world and have a few pints. Gav met us near the ship and showed us around Cobh, starting with the St Colman’s Cathedral.
St Colman’s is an ENORMOUS cathedral for such a tiny town – Cobh is only now home to 12,000 people, but when it was built between 1867 and 1915, was probably home to far fewer. The building itself is one of the tallest in all Ireland with a huge spire that dominates the skyline and is home to a 49 bell carillon, which is one of the largest in Europe. It must have been a very ambitious, not to mention bloody expensive, project when it was built. While wandering under the huge vaulted cathedral ceiling, I couldn’t help wondering about all the poor people living nearby at the time, barely able to afford their potatoes, while the church was building this enormous monument with it’s stone buttresses and stained glass. It’s a beautiful building but seems somewhat out of place here in this tiny seaside town.
After poking around Cobh for a while, we drove to nearby Cork which is a modern bustling city of some XXX people. The high street shopping district could pass for any in Ireland or the UK for that matter. I actually hate travelling and seeing the same chain stores everywhere – it makes me feel like we are globally homogenising everything. We pottered around Cork for a bit, Mr K found some transport stuff to inspect and poke around at, and I popped into some souvenir shops (I forgot to bring my coffee mug again – and I hate the tiny tea cups on the ship) he and Gav climbed up to a church to ring the bells and we then found a handy pub to have a few drinks and a small bite to eat. We were only supposed to be stopping for a short time, but a few hours were quickly passed chatting about life, love, and mutual acquaintance back home.
After lunch we made our way out to Blarney Castle, which of course is what all tourists do in this area. I had been in back in 1995 and it was pretty much as I remember. Poor Gav has probably been here with ever single one of his visiting relatives and couldn’t tell me how many times he had climbed it’s narrow stairways. For Mr K however, this was his first visit so he was determined to kiss the Blarney Stone. 🙂
Blarney Castle is a medieval building dating to 1446 and was built by the McCarthy family. It was believed to have been built on top of a timber home that was built there around 1200 though no remains of that original dwelling survived. The castle is now partially ruined but has some accessible rooms and you can get up on the battlements. On top of the castle is the Blarney Stone where you can hang upside down over a fairly high drop (probably a couple of hundred feet?) to kiss the stone and gain the gift of eloquence.
The castle also has extensive gardens which are probably a delight to visit, but seeing as how it had decided to pour down rain as we approached, we climbed the castle, Mr K kissed the stone and we made our way back down again. So now, I’ve climbed the twisty difficult stairways of Blarney Castle twice and still not kissed the stone!
We then made our way back Cork so we could take a train (with our Leap cards) back to Cobh. The train was clean and comfortable and had free wifi (Australia – you have to get your shit together not this one). Where we head to the Rob Roy pub to find the Nookies (our friends from the ship) all happily ensconced in the pub singing and dancing and whopping it up listening to some Irish performers and downing their ‘who’s counting?’ Guinness. The pub was so packed it was standing room only, and the heat radiating from the building was incredible. We went in and had a single pint and had to go hunt for dinner – the Nookies (crazy buggers!) had been there for six hours enjoying the craic. They had a great day and were in high spirits.
Mr K and I found a local restaurant to have some dinner of fish and chips etc before also eventually heading back to the ship. What a great day. Thanks Gav for showing us around.