Spike Island is expected to get more than 50,000 visitors this year, up 20% on 2017, and plans are in place to bolster numbers by creating further attractions.
The magic figure to make the tourist amenity self-sustainable is 100,000 visitors and, to achieve that, the island has a number of new attractions that have a rich and varied history dating back 1,300 years.
The island’s manager, John Crotty, said an application for co-funding has been lodged with Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland for the projects.
It will help create an ‘international welcome hub’ on the arrivals pier where foreign tourists can orientate themselves on how best to enjoy their visit.
Furthermore, a new ferry will come on stream next year with increased passenger capacity.
There are also plans to re-open the Victorian dungeons buried deep under the fort’s walls and to re-open the island’s largest cell block which previously housed the late Dublin criminal, Martin Cahill.
A series of new exhibitions will outline the strong links Spike has with America, Australia, and Britain.
It’s also hoped to add a land-based train to allow people less mobile to see the wider island.
The visitor attraction is also aiming to operate throughout the year.
He said the size and history of the 104-acre island could easily be overwhelming for anyone, but especially so for someone with a limited grasp of English. “So, using visual aids and multi-language print, audio, and video resources we want to create a space that opens up our stories to the entire world and make us a go-to destination for all international visitors.”
On the south side of the island, impressive tunnels run hundreds of metres under fort walls, in a warren of dark rooms and corridors.
As the tunnels held prisoners during the 1800s, the opportunity to create Ireland’s first real dungeon-style experience is also being examined.
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