€40m plan to develop Spike as tourist hub

Up to €35m annually and around 190 jobs could be generated from Cork County Council’s plan to transform Spike Island into a tourist attraction

A proposed €40.3m project could attract up to 300,000 visitors to the Cork Harbour island every year, experts believe.

Consultants have completed a proposal for a three-phase development plan for the historic, 104-acre island.

A report has been presented to county councillors.

The consultants, CHL Consulting Company and Scott Tallon Walker Architects Consortium, produced a detailed business plan and final draft masterplan.

The first phase, costing €7.43m, will include providing a landing pontoon and slipways, carrying out safety works on buildings, extending walkways and basic interpretive boards.

Phase two, at a cost of €12.54m, will see toilets and ticketing facilities being installed, along with the enhancing of the fort as a visitor attraction and the building of a stage for events.

Meanwhile, an imposing development of a large aquarium and an interpretive centre on emigration will form part of the €20.32m third phase.

The consultants maintain the project will “create employment in construction works and 160-190 full and part-time jobs directly and many more indirectly”.

While the council will lead the development project, other stakeholders involved in the overall project include the Port of Cork, UCC, Fáilte Ireland, National Maritime College of Ireland, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In the long-term, the island may be accessed by ferries running from a cluster of new marinas in the harbour, and from Cork City, Midleton, and Trabolgan.

It is also envisaged that shops and restaurants will be built on the island in the coming years.

Consultants propose that once the infrastructure is in place, admission charges will be €9 for adults, €7 for OAPs/students, €4 for children and €3 per head for school tours.

County councillors have approved the report and intend to drive on with its recommendations.

Cobh-based councillor John Mulvihill said his town had been devastated in recent years by the loss of several key heavy industries. He described the creation of tourist-based jobs “as the only way to go”.

“This won’t just benefit Cobh but Cork, Munster, and the whole country.”

County manager Martin Riordan got permission to draw down €1m in funding to kick-start the project and hopes to have access to a further €4m from Fáilte Ireland, which will be used to start the first phase.

Mr Riordan said it was important that the council delivered on the consultants quality product. He was confident he could also get the private sector involved in the multi-phase scheme.

Spooky tour to reveal dark side of island

If you fancy getting “Spooked on Spike” then a ferry will transfer you to the “darker side of the island” next week for a truly ghoulish experience.

According to Cork County Council, investigations carried our earlier this year at Spike Island by Ghost Hunters International reveal “tales of the unexplained”.

As a result, the creators of the original Spike Island Guided Walking Tours, Titanic Trail Ltd, in partnership with the local authority and Marine Transport, are organising special nighttime ghost tour there on Nov 24.

The tour will trace the island’s darker folklore which started when it was first inhabited by monks the 7th century.

Its colourful and often harsh history since then has included 400 years of military occupation and a penal colony since Cromwellian times, when mainly woman and children were transported as slaves from Spike Island to the Caribbean.

In more modern times, the island also housed a prison.

“Evidence and tales of the unexplained will be shared with participants, recalling eyewitness accounts and technical investigative procedures in the darkened atmosphere of Spike’s isolation,” said a council spokesman.

Apparently, the tales are so nasty that anyone under the age of 16 will not be allowed to board a ferry leaving Kennedy Quay, Cobh, that night.

* Limited tickets, including the ferry and tour, can be booked on a first-come, first-served basis until Nov 22 at www.titanic.ie, for the reduced price of €14.50.

Tickets can also be purchased at the tourist information office in Cobh and the cash office in County Hall for €15.

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