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Spike Island

Spike Island

Photo credit – Spike Island

“The island fortress built to defend an empire that became the largest prison in the world…”  

Enjoy a day of family fun at the historic and enigmatic Spike Island. The island, which lies a short and scenic ferry ride away from Cobh has layers of exciting and interesting history behind it. In the last 1300 years, Spike Island has been host to a 6th century Monastery, a 34 acre Fortress and the prison in the world during Victorian times. Today, the island is dominated by the 200 year old Fort Mitchel, a star shaped fortress which was once a prison that held over 2300 prisoners in the past. 

The history of this location is one of many layers as it has been used as a place of worship, defence, confinement and punishment throughout previous centuries. The prison was the world’s largest prison in the 1850’s, and visitors can learn more about this through prison cell tours and a prison riot exhibition. The punishment block is an area which is not to be missed, as you can learn about this solitary prison once known as ‘Ireland’s Hell’.   

The island was also home for some of the British and Irish Army and Navy, as well as Ireland’s largest Artillery Gun Park. For over two centuries there has been a military presence on Spike Island. Built between 1804 and the 1860s, this construction is rich in the history of Ireland’s defensive practices. 

Today visitors can explore deep tunnels, scale high walls and walk through abandoned prisons cells. Fully guided tours, including after dark tours, serve to enhance the experience further. Following that, your family can explore 104 acres of scenic walks and natural beauty, and enjoy a day outdoors upon one of Cork’s award winning off-shore islands. 

The fully guided day tours give visitors a sense of the rich military and social history of the island so you can learn more about those who once called the island home. The After Dark tours open the island’s more frightening and sombre past to those who dare to listen, providing a terrifying look into prison life that is not for the easily terrified. 

Other on-site activities include a children’s fairy house hunt, the cinema club, concerts and events, paranormal investigations and more. The island also has café and picnic areas on site for families to relax and refresh throughout their visit.  

Ferries depart from Kennedy Pier Cobh, which is a 25 minute drive from Cork City. The ferry journey duration is about 10 to 20 minutes. The island is open from 10am to 3pm seven days a week for June, July and August. Ferry and Fort experience tickets can be bought online. 

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