5 stories from the sea

Take a deep breath – we’re delving beneath the sea and bringing Ireland’s maritime tales to the surface

Dunbrody Famine Ship, County Wexford

Love, loss and legendary ships – the coast of Ireland’s Ancient East is peppered with stories that have unfolded upon the waves

1 A fortress by the sea

We’ll start on land at Camden Fort Meagher. Looming over the entrance to Cork Harbour like a leviathan, there has been a watchpoint here since 1550. Through the years this defensive outpost has grown both outwards... and downwards. Over half of this imposing military structure is now underground, comprising of a series of tunnels and spiral staircases, including one hewn from sparkling granite. Although these halls are quiet now, they once echoed with panicked shouts and the boom of artillery as gallant soldiers defended the coast of Cork.

2 The Ship of Dreams

Before she set out on her ill-fated voyage, that legendary ocean liner known as the Titanic made one last stop in Cobh, County Cork. The pretty harbour town was dwarfed by the gargantuan ship which lay waiting to leave with 123 new passengers who boarded at the docks. As people on the shore waved goodbye, no one could have imagined it would be the last time the ship would be seen again. Titanic Experience Cobh takes you on a virtual journey through its passage, from first to third class, and all the way to the final moments of the voyage, where the lucky ones drifted to safety on a lifeboat...

3 Exodus

Hungry, scared and often alone – Irish emigrants who were forced to leave home during the Great Famine of 1845-1852 faced an uncertain future as they journeyed to the New World. Lasting up to six weeks, the voyage across the Atlantic on what were known as “coffin ships” was a horrendous experience that many wouldn’t survive. To get a sense of what these brave souls went through, step on board a reproduction of an emigrant vessel at the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Irish Emigrant Experience in County Wexford. Hear tales of the cramped conditions, rampant disease and scuttling rats on board the ships, as well as the stories of those who perished and those who survived. After you've visited, head to Cobh and pay these brave souls homage at the statue of Annie Moore along the seafront, the very first emigrant to pass through the gates of Ellis Island in New York...

4 Mass exile

For some of those who departed Ireland’s shores, leaving wasn’t a choice, it was a punishment. While Ireland saw many sail away seeking a new life, some were being sent abroad to prison colonies in Australia and the West Indies. Their tales come alive at Wicklow's Historic Gaol – spare a thought for these poor outcasts, often referred to as the “forgotten Irish”.

5 By hook or by crook

We have the Hook Head Peninsula to thank for this famous phrase – Oliver Cromwell once vowed to take the city of Waterford "by Hook or by Crooke", either sailing up the peninsula or going via the village of Crooke not far away. But it's not all about the name: this part of Ireland is full of heritage. There's Hook Lighthouse, one of the world's oldest lighthouses, which has been safeguarding the harbour for over 800 years. Loftus Hall is one of Ireland's most haunted sites, having seen visits from the devil himself. And along the edge of the Peninsula, the imposing Duncannon Fort acts as a bastion against the sea, waves and would-be invaders.

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