Spectacular views of Cork harbour abound from atop Curraghbinny Hill overlooking the waters. It is one of the world’s finest natural harbour’s with many river estuaries feeding it. The Rivers Douglas, Owenacurra, and Lee drain within and allow some portage for ships to communities along their banks to the harbour. The Harbour itself is a Special Protected Area because of the avian species that inhabit its banks. More historically, it is known for being the last port of call for the “The Titanic“. It is also home to three military installations: the historic jail site “Spike Island”, Fort Carlisle, and Fort Camden. The oldest yacht club in the world, known as the RCYC, as “The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork” was founded in 1720 C.E. The Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) that studies ocean energy operates from the harbour, and along its banks are located eight out of the ten world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
A natural harbour and river estuary at the mouth of the River Lee. Based on its navigation area, it is the second largest natural harbour in the world … the first being Port Jackson in Sydney, Australia. Cork City, the largest city at its bank, is slightly upstream on the River Lee from the Harbour while its suburbs of Black Rock, Mahon, Passage West, Rochester, and Douglas are much closer to the harbour. Smaller towns around the lower harbour area are Monkstown, Ringaskiddy, Ballinacurra, Midleton, Passage West, Crosshaven, Raffeen, Great Island, Whitegate, Aghada, and Cobh. There are numerous islands in the harbour such as Harper Island, Hop Island, Haulbowline Island, Great island, Fota Island, Little Island, Spike Island, Rocky Island, Brown Island, Weir Island, Brick Island, Corkbeg Island, and Hop Island. Cork Harbour had a number of fortifications (such as Fort Charles) built around it during the 17th century C.E. to protect essentially Cork City. Haulbowline installed fortifications during the 18th century in order to protect anchorage in Cobh. When America was gaining its independence, Cork Harbour built forts at Fort Carlisle and Fort Camden. The harbour didn’t have too much military importance until the Napoleonic Wars took place one naval headquarters were transferred here becoming an important anchorage to guard the English Channel and maintain blockades of France. Fortifications continued to be developed thru the 19th century. Fort Templebreedy was built just to the south of Fort Camden beginning of the 20th century. Once Irish Independence was won, Cork Harbour was included with Lough Swilly and Berehaven in a list of Naval British sites that would remain under control of the Royal Navy even though the Haulbowline Island naval dockyard was given to the Irish in 1923. With Irish Independence however, controlling and maintaining the Cork harbour became a difficult operation. It became a low Priority and disadvantage to keep for the English, so in 1938 the British Government handed them over to Ireland unconditionally. At this point, Ireland ceased using most of the military installations for military purposes as there was no need for them. Fort Carlisle was renamed Fort Davis and used by the Defence Forces for FIBUA training. Fort Camden was renamed Fort Meagher and is currently being renovated by local volunteers and enthusiasts as a tourist attraction. Fort Westmoreland was renamed Fort Mitchell Spike Island Prison and is also being used as a tourist attraction. Haulbowline Island’s fortifications are now the headquarters of the Irish Naval Service.
Today the Harbour is one of the most important industrial areas located in Ireland where shipbuilding, steel-making, and fertilizer manufacture took place even though today they are on the down-climb and replaced by the pharmaceutical industry. Here firms like Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Janssen Pharmaceutica, and others are conducting major business. They however too have been affected by the economic crisis and the 100+ pharmaceutical companies in the area have been affected during recent years. Transport through the harbour include import and export of oil, livestock, dairy, pharmaceuticals, grain, ore, cars, and other merchandise. It is also a major tourist port with numerous cruise ships and ferries coming to port here.