Things To Do In Spike Island, Ireland

Spike Island is just a short ride from the picturesque little fishing village of Cobh in County Cork. A historic area that encompasses 103 acres, the island has been a monastic settlement, as well as a prison. These are just among the best things to do in Spike Island, Ireland. 

Spike Island’s history goes back to over a thousand years, as it served purposes that have nothing in common except the location. 

Things To Do In Spike Island, Ireland

Fort Mitchel Spike Island, Ireland
Fort Mitchel
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As a monastic settlement, Spike Island was home to a 6th-century Monastery.

Then, a 24-acre fortress was built during the Victorian area which housed a prison which the island is now known for. This fortress is the world’s largest convict depot, a star-shaped building that’s also known as ‘Fort Mitchel’.

Over the years, Spike Island has become one of the best attractions in County Cork. It is often referred to by tourists as the “Alcatraz of Ireland’, in reference to the island in San Francisco, California.

It has not been that open to the public for a long time, yet the island already received awards such as Europe’s leading tourist attraction 2017 at the World Travel Awards and it’s considered one of the best islands in Ireland.

Getting to Spike Island


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From the village of Cobh in County Cork, Spike Island is just a short boat ride away. It is best to join a tour to make the most of your visit and to ensure that you really get to explore the many interesting places that the island has to offer. 

5 Things To Do in Spike Island

More than being the so-called Alcatraz of Ireland, Spike Island offers many interesting places to see and things to do for its visitors. Here are some of them. 

Learn Military History at the Artillery Gun Park


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One of the best places to see in Spike Island is also the largest Artillery Gun Park in Ireland.

Here, you’ll find old cannons as well as modern military machines, in over a dozen exhibits that cover more than 300 years of warfare.

You will also find here a stunning recreation of the Battery Observation Post.  This is a fun and fascinating feature of Spike Island that’s not to be missed. 

Visit the Punishment Block


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Constructed as a response to the murder of Warder William Reddy in 1856, the Punishment Block is now one of the most intriguing places to visit in Spike Island.

On your visit, you’ll see the Guardroom where you’ll learn how archaeologists worked on the site. Get your torchlight ready and visit the Dark Cells. There’s also the modern solitary cells that were in use until 2004.

Other interesting places to see are the cells of Irish nationalists Patrick Tierney and John Mitchel, which are both recreated, as well as the upstairs rooms of the block which houses an art exhibition of prisoners artwork.

Walk along the 1985 cells


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While in Spike Island, go and explore the 1985 cells, which housed modern prisoners in 4 man cells. One of these prisoners was Martin Cahill, who orchestrated a 40 million Euro art heist in Dublin.

Today, you may visit these modern C-Class prison cells for a glimpse of what life was and is like for modern prisoners, compared to the conditions in the 1850’s Punishment Block. 

Check out the ‘Shivs and Shanks’ exhibition here, where you’ll find some of the dangerous weapons that were made in the prison and kept by inmates, as well as homemade tattoo guns.

See the 6-inch Guns

6-inch guns

The 6-inch guns became part of the British service at the start of the 20th Century and played a significant role since.

These guns are now among the best attractions in Spike Island, with two located in the Number 3 Bastion.  The third gun meanwhile is used for training and kept in a covered building on the north of the island. 

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Join the After Dark Tour


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What can be more exciting than touring an old, possibly haunted place at night?

If you’re up for some spooky adventure, then joining their After Dark Tour is the best thing to do in Spike Island. Discover more about the prison’s somber and frightening history, as you explore this dark and dangerous place.

Hear a different take on some of the island’s top attractions such as the Punishment Block, and come out with some intriguing stories to tell your friends back home. Not for the faint of heart but this is a must experience. 


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