1 October 2017
By Elaine Murphy
Cork County Council’s Fortress Spike Island has been named ‘Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction’ at the 2017 World Travel Awards 2017, seeing off a shortlist which included the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace and the Colosseum.
Spike Island has proven to be a top tourist success following its takeover by the Council from the Department of Defence in 2010. A number of refurbishment works have been carried out on the island with an investment of €6 million, partly funded by Fáilte Ireland, resulting in the islands first full year of operation in 2017.
Upon receiving the award, Divisional Manager of Cork County Council and Spike Island Development Company Chairman Declan Daly expressed his delight at the win, “Earlier this year Fortress Spike became Trip advisor’s number one attraction in County Cork and now the island is Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction for 2017. This is especially rewarding considering we have so much more planned.”
Reiterating these sentiments, Chief Executive of Cork County Council Tim Lucey went on to say, “This award is recognition of the incredible dedication by a great number of people to enable Fortress Spike Island to be such a success. Cobh has recently been named one of Europe’s best cruise destinations and I am confident that Fortress Spike Island will be a go to attraction, for our cruise visitors but also our national and international tourists.”
The 104 acre island was a monastic settlement in the 7th century, an artillery fortification built in the 18th century by the British with subsequent forts built in the late 18th and early 19th century and a prison in the 19th century where thousands of prisoners were transported from Spike to Australia. Spike Island remained under British control following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and it was only handed over in 1938 when the last British forces left.
Spike Island’s success makes it an unprecedented 3 in a row for Ireland, following victory for Titanic Belfast in 2016 and the Guinness Storehouse in 2015.
Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Declan Hurley, who attended the awards ceremony in St. Petersburg, Russia commented, “This award is recognition of the incredible dedication by a great number of people who foresaw the potential of Spike Island. I would like to pay particular reference to the roles played by the Spike Steering Group, chaired by Mr. Brendan Tuohy, who helped guide the recent site investment and also to the retired County Manager, Mr. Martin Riordan, whose initiative in taking ownership of the island has yielded such vast rewards.”
Over the last number of years Fortress Spike Island has become a go to location in Cork Harbour with visitor numbers increasing year on year. Over 45,000 visitors were welcomed this year with a target of 100,000 visitors by 2020.
Spike Island General Manager, John Crotty, in accepting the award, attributed the islands success to its extensive history and hard working staff, “A recurring feature of our feedback is the performance of our staff and guides whose enthusiasm really infects our visitors with its rich history. Our story is really only just beginning. We are already looking forward to the coming season will continue to enhance our offering with the support of Cork County Council and welcoming visitors from Cork and the world. Come and visit, you will not be disappointed!”
Fortress Spike Island will now go forward to represent Europe at the Grand World Final, held on 10th December at Phu Quoc, Vietnam.