Venice has Murano, Sorrento has Capri, San Francisco has Alcatraz and Cork, well… Cork has Spike. For well over two hundred years the people of Cork could admire, but never set foot on, Spike Island. Now we can and it makes a great day out.
The island housed a monastery as early as the 7th century. In 1779 a defensive star-fort was built on the island due to its strategic position in the centre of the harbour. The fort was later used as a military prison and a holding centre for convicts awaiting deportation. The British army finally left Fort Westmoreland in 1938. It was renamed Fort Mitchell but continued to serve as a prison until 2004.
I’ve never quite managed to picture the geography of the harbour in my head. It’s huge. It’s a wiggly shape and it’s dotted all over with islands. A walk around the star-shaped fort walls gave a 360 degree tour of Cork that should probably be on the school curriculum!
We got tea and scones from the prison gym and ate at picnic tables in the courtyard.
On January 1st 1892, 17 year-old Annie Moore and her two brothers were the first emigrants processed through the newly opened Ellis Island facility. They were reunited with their parents who had been living in Manhattan for four years.
Most famously, on April 10th, 1912, 123 passengers (you can read their names here) boarded small tenders here which then rowed, around Spike Island, to the join the Titanic which lay anchored in deep water at the mouth of the harbour. They were the last to board.