It may be a far cry from the likes of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum or Buckingham Palace, but an Irish prison has beaten them all to be named Europe’s top tourist attraction for 2017.
Spike Island in Cork managed to beat off stiff competition for the honour at the World Travel Awards in Saint Petersburg in Russia, last month.
The awards are known as the ‘Oscars of the travel industry’ and the night is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year by travel workers.
The winners at the ceremony are chosen by a public poll, though votes from those working in tourism count for double.
It is a landmark achievement for Spike Island, which only re-opened to the public a year and a half ago.
The prison island is home to the infamous star-shaped fortress, which was once a lock-up for over 2,000 prisoners. But before it became a home for criminals, Spike Island was also a monastery for monks – making it an island for saints and sinners, you could say.
The Cork attraction’s victory at the WTA’s marks a hat-trick for Ireland over the last three years – the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin took home the accolade last year, while the Titanic Museum in Belfast scooped the 2015 title.
DID YOU KNOW?
Fort Mitchel, the unusual star-shaped fortress on Spike Island, was originally built to fend off any attacks from other countries. The shape of the building meant that the soldiers inside had an excellent view of every coast of the island and were ready to defend any surprise attack that may land on their shores.