A trip to Ireland’s Alcatraz- Spike Island and Cobh, Co.Cork

A trip to Ireland’s Alcatraz- Spike Island and Cobh, Co.Cork

Did you know that Cobh (or Queenstown as it was called back then) was the last port of call for the Titanic. I was thinking of this fact as we took the N25 out of Cork city, past fota island wildlife park and along the coastal route to reach the destination where so many people had travelled before us over 100 years ago to get the big ship to America! (The roads probably weren’t as good back then). Cobh is only 20 minutes outside Cork city and when we arrived on a Sunday afternoon the little town was bustling with activity.

After we got parked up we took a walk down to the quayside park where the bandstand is to see that there was a band setting up to start playing. Cobh is home to so many attractions and beautiful monuments of sporting hero’s, the Lusitania sinking tragedy and of course the Titanic. To the left of the park you will find the Titanic experience. It is housed in the old offices of the white star line.

The exhibition is open 9-6pm Monday to Sunday and adults are €9.50. This includes a guided tour through the history of Titanic with particular emphasis on the passengers that boarded in Cobh. Its well worth a visit and there’s a lovelyIMG_5080 gift shop at the end with all the expected Titanic memorabilia.

Cobh heritage centre is also on the way into Cobh on the right hand side. This center is an absolute must stop if you are visiting the area. Its open all year round and adult admission is €9.50. Its housed in the old Victorian railway station and because Cobh was the main departure port for immigration in Ireland from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s it has so many stories to tell. If you have ever visited Ellis Island in New York you may have seen the statue of Annie Moore- the first lady to pass through Ellis Island when it first opened in the late 1800’s. Annie has her own statue outside the heritage center also.

IMG_5086Cobh is a beautiful town to walk through also with plenty of quirky shops and random laneways filled with smart ways to display flowers! You will be spoiled for choice on pubs and restaurants also!

Our main reason for visiting Cobh however was to take the short boat trip out to spike Island for the afternoon. The ticket office for the boat is right in the middle of the town by the harbour. The ferry departs daily on the hour from 11am to 3pm and the last ferry returns @ 6.30pm. You should leave at least 3 and a half hours to explore the whole island.

We arrived at the ticket office at 2.05pm and we were horrifed to see the 2pm ferry pull out from the harbour. The guy at the ticket office assured us that the driver wasn’t going to come back for us! 🙂 We bought our tickets for the 3pm ferry and we got one of the last tickets left- so the moral of the story is arrive on time folks!

The ferry over only took 20 minutes and passes by the HawlIMG_5092bowline naval base. The kids on the ferry were entranced with the navy boats and were getting some great selfies with the base in the backround. On arrival on spike island we were all met by a lovely lady who gave us some information on where everything was and pointed everyone in the direction of the guide who would take anyone on the tour if they wished. Me and Ali decided to explore ourselves. We headed up the hill to the main gates of the prison but there is a walk you can do around the base of the Island where you can see the abandoned village and get some great vistas over Cobh.

On entering the gates we went to the right hand side and followed the signs for the Riot exhibition. You will fiIMG_5098nd the visitors room still in good nick where the prisoners met their families and there are cells still set up that you can walk into. Did you know that the last prisoner left spike Island in 2004! Its not surprising that some parts of the prison are really well kept- some of the beds are still warm! (Slight exaggeration!) The 1985 riot on spike island is well documented here also and there is a whole area dedicated to it with video footage from RTE playing in here too. This is definitely an exhibition to check out.

We took a walk around the old cell blocks then and up to the old canon firing spot. There was a member of staff there giving us the history of the defences of the island and the harbour itself. This side of the Island has some amazing views over the entrance of the harbour and there are lots of little tunnels to explore where the look outs were when the British used the island as a fortress. There is so much history here!

After exploring the other viewpoint from the north of the Island (that has some spectacular views over Cobh) we headed down to the tea rooms. The tea rooms rIMG_5128eminded me of a prison canteen but that is probably the look they were going for. There was an abundance of delights on offer and we found our must have fridge magnets and keyrings in here also! There is a beautiful seating area outside also to take in the courtyard of the old prison.

Our last visit on the Island was to Mitchell Hall. On that particular day it was home to a quilt exhibition and Corrine Leland art. We met Corrine as we entered her exhibition and she very kindly showed us around her display of paintings and prints. She told us some of the stories behind her paintings and I would recommend anyone to look her up! We bought a gorgeous print for only €15 and she very kindly signed it for me too. Corrine is based in passage west but you might be lucky enough to bump into her on spike Island!

IMG_5122We made our way back down the hill to get our ferry after our very enjoyable afternoon on Spike Island. As we passed by the abandoned village we couldn’t help but comment on how the convicts must have felt leaving Ireland’s version of Alcatraz after their stay! The ticket for the trip costs €18.50 per adult and I can honestly say it is worth every penny! (There are discounts for families also). Spike Island adventures is also on the Island.

If you are visiting Cork or the south of the country Cobh and Spike Island should be put on your itinerary straight away! I have attached all the links below that you might find helpful for your trip. If I have missed any important info or must see places along the way don’t be afraid to leave a reply! As always – HAPPY GALAVANTING

Article by www.galavantingireland.com