Taking the ferry from Cobh on a dour, rainy day, I want to find out. In 2017, this 104-acre island in Cork Harbour beat off famous attractions like Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower to claim the title of Europe’s top tourist attraction the World Travel Awards. The award attracted plaudits, but also scepticism. Spike Island? Seriously? Stepping off the boat onto a concrete pier near the Haulbowline naval base, I’m not sure what to expect. Prison tour? Heritage site? Weird and wonderful walks? The answer is all of the above. As the wind spits sideways rain into our faces, tour guide John Flynn evokes a sixth century monastery, a British fortress, the Victorian world’s largest prison and, disarmingly, a simple home. In a glass-half-full kind of way, the weather adds to the atmosphere. But much of the tour is outdoors, so be sure to dress for the occasion. Spike Island re-opened in June, 2016, as a visitor attraction following an investment of over €6.5 million by Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland. In a geographical stretch, it now sits within Ireland’s Ancient East. The investment has paid off. Stepping into its notorious, 19th century ‘Punishment Block’, the light sinks… Read full this story
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