Spike Island, County Cork

Spike Island, County Cork

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Spike Island occupies a key location in lower Cork Harbour, which is the second largest natural harbour in the world. The multi-cultural island in County Cork has hosted a monastery, a fortress and a prison within its 104 acres, all of which have left their marks.

History

The island was the site of a monastic settlement in the 7th century and was used by smugglers for some time. Its location at the entrance to Cork Harbour meant that the island held strategic importance. Therefor it became a significant military site. Purchased by the British government in 1779, Fort Westmoreland was developed on the site featuring fortified gun emplacements facing the mouth of the harbour.

Spike Island has a long history as a place of detention and punishment which has earned it the title of "Ireland's Alcatraz". In the nineteenth century, convicts awaiting transportation to Australia and Tasmania were held on Spike and also on prison hulks anchored within the harbour. It remained in use as a garrison and prison through theIrish War of Independence, when IRA prisoners were held there. The prison facilities were only closed in 2004.

Today

Spike Island today is a popular tourist attraction and can be accessed by ferry from Cobh or Monkstown. However, while already in that area we would definitely recommend to spend some time in the lovely village of Cobh and visit its Titanic exhibition or Queenstown Story exhibition. See also our blog about favorite places in Cork.

There are also guided walking tours bookable to get to know the lively history and stories of this Cork Island.

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