Cork’s Spike Island has been nominated for Europe’s leading tourist attraction at the prestigious World Travel Awards 2017. The awards are the ‘Oscars’ of the travel industry and there is no higher accolade for a tourism site. The Island joins Buckingham Palace, The Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum and the Acropolis in the top ten sites chosen to compete for the European category. Winners will be chosen by public vote with votes from those working in the tourism sector counting double.
The nomination caps a remarkable 12 months for Spike Island following its reopening in June 2016, with a nomination for a Chambers Ireland tourism award followed by a nomination at the 2017 Irish Tourism awards for best leisure tourism innovation. Over 6.5 million was spent turning the former Monastery, Fortress and Prison into a visitor attraction in 2016, in a project co-funded by Cork County Council and Failte Ireland.
Reached by ferry from Cobh, visitors to the island are taken on a guided tour through the islands 1300 years of history. The island was home to 6th century monastery before a 3000 capacity star shaped Fortress was built in the early 1800’s, to protect the Southern approaches to Western Europe. That same Fortress became the largest prison in the world in the 1850’s, when its numbers swelled during the famine years to over 2300.
The prison would close in 1883 and the British army would reside there for the next 55 years before a handover to the Irish state in 1938. The Irish army and navy would use the island and fortress over the next 47 years before the island became a prison once again, until as recently as 2004.
“We are blessed with rich authentic history that has echoed the demands of the mainland for many centuries”, said Island manager John Crotty. “Religion, military and Penal interests have all played a part in Spikes history, as well as centuries of civilian life”. “The island stands as a living testament to the changing faces of Ireland’s history, and that history is brought to life by the world’s best storytellers who are truly passionate about the island”.
“The aim for us is to become the go to destination for the South of Ireland, and to be seen on a par with Titanic and the Guinness Storehouse”. “We want to be a key attraction and cornerstone of Irelands Aincient East”.
Spike Island is looking to make it 3 in a row for Ireland at the World Travel Awards, following the success of Titanic Belfast’s win last year and the Guinness storehouse in 2015. The competitions organisers praised Spike Island for its ‘rich history that is authentically retold using guides and interpreted spaces, the variety of day and night tours and varying ways to enjoy the attraction, and the strength of its visitor feedback’. The island has moved to number 2 in Cork on Tripadvisor ratings, 2nd to Fota wildlife park, and a master plan is in place to grow visitor numbers to over 100.000 visitors.
Company Director David Keane said “It is a marvellous reward for the ambition and courage that was displayed by Cork County Council and Failte Ireland when taking on the refurbishment project. At 104 acres and being an island the site presents many unique challenges, but its story is unrivalled and it deserves to be told’.
The awards ceremony will be held in St Petersburg in Russia in September, and everyone is urged to visit www.spikeislandcork.ie and click the link to vote for Corks Spike Island.