Spike Island finishes second only to Machu Picchu at World Travel Awards

Spike Island in Cork has finished second at the World Travel Awards 2017 in Vietnam, second only to Machu Picchu in the ‘World’s Leading Tourist Attraction’ category, writes Olivia Kelleher.

The island finished ahead of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai who were among the nine shortlisted finalists.

Aerial view of Spike Island.

In a statement Fortress Spike Island Cork said they were proud of their achievement in seeing off such big hitters of the travel world.

"We are so proud and want to thank all our amazing staff and volunteers for their hard work. Our thanks also to all our visitors for choosing to come to us, and to Cork County Council and Failte Ireland for your support. And of course thanks to all in Cobh for helping us to get this far, we will endeavour to recognise individual involvement now that the journey is complete."

Earlier this year Spike became the number one tourist attraction on Tripadvisor for Cork overtaking Fota Wildlife Park for the first time. In October it came in ahead of Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower to be named Europe's leading tourist attraction at the World Travel awards. It was then sent forward for the overall world final.

Spike Island came in ahead of Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower to be named Europe's leading tourist attraction at the World Travel awards.

Spike Island was once the largest prison in the world with over 2,300 inmates. The site is worth in excess of €3.5 million to the economy in Cobh and East Cork annually attracting thousands of visitors every year since it reopened in 2016. Fifty people are employed in a part time or full time capacity at the site as tour guides and at the cafe.

The convict prison on Spike Island was seen as “an experiment” when it was opened in 1847 and it became part of the ‘Irish System’ in the 1850’s, which was admired and copied internationally, influencing modern correctional systems in countries as far apart as the US and Germany. It was a a hub for convict transportation.

In July 2010 the island was officially handed over to Cork County Council on behalf of the Department of Justice by then minister for social protection Eamon Ó Cuív.

The local authority transformed Spike Island into a major tourism and heritage centre, highlighting its role in Irish history. Over the centuries it has been the site of monastic settlements, penal colonies and military bases.

Spike Island Jetty.

A military outpost or penal institution of some kind since the 16th century, Spike Island finally closed as a prison in 2004.

The first known use of the 106-acre island was as a monastic settlement when a religious community was established on it in the 7th century.

The first prison on the island dates from the 17th century following the end of the Cromwellian wars.

During the late 18th century and early 19th century it was used to hold prisoners to be transported to the West Indies and Australia, and during the 1850s John Mitchel (after whom the prison was renamed in 1938) was jailed on Spike for his involvement in the rebellion of 1848.

Spike Island entrance gates.

The island remained in British hands until July 1938, when the last British troops departed and the Tricolour was raised by Eamon de Valera.

It was transferred to the Department of Justice in 1985, and operated as a prison for many years.

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