Blog post-Spike Island
As we continue our work here in Cork Harbour and connected with last months blog post, is another edition of our exploration in and around our broader work area. As we were up visiting Ringaskiddy Martello tower, due to its imposing views of Cork Harbour, we had magnificent vistas of Spike Island, which is the subject of today’s blog post.
The history of Spike Island is steeped in juxtaposition–a history of both saints and sinners. The earliest known accounts of the island are from the seventh century–the well-known St. Mochuda, or Carthage, is said to have founded a monastery here in AD 635. The island however, is perhaps best associated with its later, more visible military history.
In the 1770’s, the American War of Independence was underway and Cork harbour replaced Kinsale as the principle royal navy base on the south coast. To fortify the harbour, a fort was built on Spike Island. It was named Fort Westmorland and building was completed in 1779. This was later replaced by Fort Mitchel which was started in 1804 and completed around 1850 and currently stands today. Its design comprised of a strategic star-shaped fort, its points combined with its low visibility from encroaching intruders made it extremely difficult to penetrate.
The Fort was designed to garrison up to 3000 men, but due to the famine population levels rose significantly and Spike kept people in rather than keep them out. The last of the prisoners left in the late 1800’s and the Fort was used by both the British and Irish army and Navy over much of the twentieth century before becoming a prison again in 1985. This prison facility closed in 2004. In the following years, the island developed into a tourist destination and in recently came second in Europe’s leading tourist attraction 2017 at the world travel awards, in ahead of the Great Wall of China and Mount Kilimanjaro!
Today, Spike Island is a major tourist attraction and welcomes tours all year around. For more information view the promotional video for a snippet of what to expect- https://youtu.be/pm2aoN7NG5s and visit the website for more information on tours, history and much more! https://www.spikeislandcork.ie