It’s nice to feel welcome.
We were guided into the town of Cobh by friendly little blue motorhome signs, directing us to the carpark by the railway station where there are dedicated bays for vans to stop for a night or two. It’s not a campsite and there are no facilities. It was just some parking spaces and a little sign saying that we’re happy to have you stay a couple of nights. And it was pretty much full. We only stayed one night, but we went out for dinner, visited a couple of the museums and went to the supermarket – not a bad return for the town of Cobh.
The view was great, overlooking Haulbowline Island and the approach into Cork harbour. Behind us was the line into the town’s train station. It’s true to say that the trains were a little noisy, but there weren’t many running overnight.
Oh, and we were dwarfed. Our little van looked lost in a sea of enormous motorhomes. As we sat by the van having a cup of tea and watching the world go by we could hear a group of teens approaching along the promenade that ran between the parking area and the water. “That one’s really cool” they agreed, before noticing us sat there. We smiled. They looked startled, they blushed, giggled and hastily went upon their way. So there you have it, Betty Bus – officially declared to be much cooler than your average motorhome.
Cobh has also been known by the names of Cove and Queenstown in the past and has a long history of emigration. Almost half of the people that emigrated from Ireland did so through the port of Cobh (then Queenstown). Many left via Cobh for entirely different reasons, as convicts loaded on ships to be transported to Australia. These in themselves were reason enough to visit the town, but there are also two infamous maritime tragedies are closely linked to the town.
On 11th April, 1912 the RMS Titanic made it’s final port of call at Cobh before beginning the final leg of it’s fateful journey to New York, a destination it would never reach. Of the one hundred and twenty three passengers that boarded that day, only forty four survived. The story of the Titanic is one we all know, but the museum housed in the White Star Line’s ticket office is still worth a visit. The first part of the tour is guided and we were lucky enough to get the tour all to ourselves. The derelict pier where the passengers boarded the tenders to be taken to the ship (The Titanic was too large to dock at Cobh) still remains, a ghostly reminder of that tragic voyage.
Across the road is the Queenstown museum, which gives a much broader view of the towns history, including the WWI sinking of the RMS Lusitania on 7th May, 1915, victim to a U-Boat’s torpedo attack. Both survivors and the dead were bought ashore to Cobh and over one hundred of the one thousand, one hundred and ninety eight people who lost their lives are buried in the town. There have been many controvosies and conspiracy theories around the sinking of the Lusitania. The Germans claimed the ship was carrying ammunition and was therefore a legitimate target. The British have always denied this. Divers have found some evidence of munitions aboard the wreck, although not in any great quantity. Some believe the sinking could have been prevented and was allowed to happen to bring the Americans into the war, although if that were true it was a tactic that failed. The truth is lost in the mists of time.
We’d enjoyed our time in Cobh, it had been interesting and educational, but it was time to move on and head further East. We’d visited Hook Head when we first arrived in Ireland and it looked a great place to camp for the night, but a broken alternator belt had meant we’d had to find a campsite and an electric hookup to charge our batteries. We decided to try again. In the calmer sunny weather we were experiencing it felt a different, much less wild place than we’d seen two weeks earlier. It was the perfect place to spend the night.