We arrived in Cobh at eight a.m. Since we had to meet up with others for a tour at eight-thirty, I was up early. And, I’m so glad! Entering the harbor, as the sun rose, was exquisite!
On a high point in the town stands the cathedral of the diocese of Cloyne, St Colman’s, which is one of the tallest buildings in Ireland.
Legend tells us that one of the first colonists of Ireland was Neimheidh, who landed in Cork Harbour over 1,000 years BC. He and his followers were said to have been wiped out in a plague, but the Great Island was known in Irish as Oilean Ard Neimheadh because of its association with him. Later it became known as Crich Liathain because of the powerful Uí Liatháin kingdom, who ruled in the area from Late Antiquity into the early 13th century. The island subsequently became known as Oilean Mor An Barra (the Great Island of Barry & Barrymore), after the Barry family who inherited it.
The port city Cobh is pronounced like “cove,” and that’s what it means in the Irish language. The Irish “bh” combination sounds like our “v.” Thus Siobhan in Irish is “Shavon. From 1849-1920, it was known as Queenstown. Cobh is home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal.
The city’s naturally protected harbor made it important as a tactical center for naval military base purposes, especially during the Napoleonic Wars.
We met our tour guide, Michael, and set off through Cobh to the scenic Ring of Kerry. The lush green countryside reminded us of home in Oregon. We stopped at various points along the way for photos as Michael provided a running narrative about the area.
Since we are on the Voyage of the Vikings, a little history seems appropriate. In pre-Christian Ireland, independent kingdoms were presided over by lords in the 300’s- early 400’s CE. In 432 CE, the first missions of St. Patrick were established. By the late 400’s hundreds of churches had been established.
Viking raids began in 795 CE and continued for two hundred years. During the ninth and tenth centuries Norse warriors ransacked the countryside, especially the monasteries with their silver relics. As pagans, they had no respect for Christian symbols. The Vikings eventually settled down in the lands they had conquered. By 950, the Vikings had stopped raiding in Ireland and developed instead as traders and settled in the lands around their towns.
We were thankful life is peaceful now and just enjoyed the sights.
We passed by Belvilly Castle, a recently restored medieval fortified tower house. It was used by Sir Walter Raleigh in the early 1580s who described it as “broken down” and had it restored. Its last occupant was Sir Peter Courthorpe, from 1624 to 1650, and by the middle of the 19th century it was being described as a ruin. The 24 karat gold tree was an addition by the new owners, who reportedly spent two million Euros on the renovation.
Torc Waterfall is just one attraction along the Ring of Kerry. There was an abundance of rhododendrons, just like the ones we have at home. Sadly, we didn’t seen any leprechauns. We did however see the Muckross House. Built in 1843, it was presented by William Bowers Bourn and Arthur Rose Vincent to the Irish nation in 1932 and became the first National Park in the Irish Free State. It formed the basis of the present-day Killarney National Park.
We stopped in Killarney for a little tourist shopping and lunch at Murphy’s.
In Cork we saw the Singer Sewing Machine building with its great mural design. The upper floors of the building were wrapped in the striking design as part of a city council-commissioned pilot public art project.
The inspiration for the design was from the old black sewing machines which were once sold from Singer’s Sewing Shop below. Some of the old machines are still on display in the window of what is today the Singer’s Corner Sewing Centre.
We stopped for a better view of the magnificent cathedral. A huge event of some sort was being held by the waterfront and people were parked up the hills.
Once we returned to the pier, we had time to appreciate the waterfront statue commemorating Annie Moore and her brothers. Annie was the first person to be admitted to the United States of America through the new immigration center at Ellis Island, New York on 1 January 1892. Two and half million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950 left from this port. This was also the final port of call of the Titanic before she sailed on her maiden . . . and final voyage.
This turned out to be one of my very favorite ports. Larry and I both have ancestors from this area, so I hope we can return! We enjoyed a lovely sail away through the harbor and settled in for the evening with visions of Dublin.