Spike Island, nestled in Cork's natural harbour, off Cobh, has a dark and fascinating past. Uncover the stories of her inhabitants from monks to military and convicts to idolised rebels. Access to the island is by boat. Open May-Sept.
From the 7th Century Spike Island was the site of a Christian monastic settlement built by Saint Mochuda. Archaeologists are actively attempting to locate any remains from this era.
In 1779 the island was purchased by the British government and so began over 200 years of British and post 1938 Irish military occupation. Visitors are amazed at the magnificent design and size of the 19th century fort surrounded by a dry ditch, the last fully bastioned fort built on the then British Isles.
As it was built to protect and defend Cork Harbour it was essential that large guns would be placed there. These guns are now on public view. They range from the early cannon to the 6” guns that have been beautifully restored, and include a recently returned Armstrong Pattern 7” Mark 1 Rifled Muzzle Loading cannon from 1865. It is possibly the only one of its kind in Northern Europe.
From 1847 to 1883 Spike was also used as a convict depot. The punishment cells built for the convicts are open for public viewing. Take the unique opportunity to compare the difference between them and the modern cells used until 2004. Walk in the footsteps of the famous Irish patriot John Mitchel, after whom the fort is named. He was incarcerated on the island in 1848 prior to being transported to Bermuda. Visit the convict graveyard where at least 1,200 of these unfortunates are buried.
During the Irish War of Independence Spike was used as a place of detention for Republican prisoners. Approximately 700 men were held there during 1921. Check out the list of prisoners and browse through a copy of one of their autograph books. Learn how some of them escaped and visit the spot where Captain Pat White from Clare was shot.
Spike Island, being a Treaty Port, was held by the British until 1938, when it was handed over to the Irish government. Afterwards it was used by the Irish Army until 1979 and then by the Naval Service until 1985. Take the opportunity to visit the room dedicated to the people who served on Spike during this time. Walk to the now abandoned houses where they and their families once lived.
A recently opened ‘Glacis Walk’ gives visitors an opportunity to stroll around the outside of the fort. On the walk there are beautiful views of the lower harbour, of the outstanding stonework of the fort, along with information boards and seating ideally located where visitors can relax and enjoy the vista.
When it is time to sit down the Spike Island Tea Room is the ideal location to enjoy some home baking, beverages and browse through the merchandise.
Tours can be booked with Michael Martin Tours
Tel: 087 276 7218 or 021 481 5211
Marine Transport Services
Tel: 021 481 1485