Sunday 22 October 2017

Former Irish prison beats Colosseum and Eiffel Tower to be crowned Europe's top tourist attraction

Spike Island, Cork Harbour.
Spike Island, Cork Harbour.

Mary McDonnell

Cork’s Spike Island has won the "Oscars" of the travel industry and been crowned Europe’s leading tourist attraction of 2017.

The 104-acre former prison site in Cork harbour beat famed destinations like Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower to claim the prize at the World Travel Awards in St Petersburg, Russia last night.

It’s the third victory in a row for Ireland following wins by Titanic Belfast last year and The Guinness Storehouse in 2015. In a huge win for Cork, it’s also the first attraction outside the capital to earn a nomination.

Fortress Spike thanked Cork County Council and paid tribute to the “passion and hard work” of their “incredible staff”.

A statement on their Facebook page said:

“We beat off the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower and more to win the highest award a tourist site can win. We also became the first ever site outside of the capitals to win this award.”

“An enormous thank you to Cork County Council, Fáilte Ireland, those in Cobh with the vision to fight for Spike, our visitors, and most importantly to our incredible staff and tour guides, whose passion and hard work have made this a deserved award.”

Cork County Council and Failte Ireland invested over €6.5 million into the former Monastery, fortress and prison to create the award-winning visitor attraction which reopened in June 2016.

Cork Mayor, Cllr Declan Hurley, who attended last night's ceremony, told the Irish Examiner: “This award is recognition of the incredible dedication by a great number of people who foresaw the potential of Spike Island.”

The island, which is accessed by boat from Cobh, served as a monastery in the 6th Century.

In the early 1800's a fortress was constructed to protect the island from Western Europe.

The fortress became a prison under British Rule in the 19th Century, before it was handed over to the Irish State in 1938 – one of the last areas to be handed back after independence.

Under Irish rule it served as a prison again from 1985 to 2004.

Fortress Spike Island wasn't the only Irish winner at this year's awards.

Sandymount Hotel in Dublin was named Europe's leading green hotel and Dublin's Convention Centre Europe's leading conference centre.

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