Day trip to Spike Island – “Ireland’s Alcatraz” – off the shore of town of Cobh in Cork Harbor, Co. Cork and Fota Wildlife Park – Sept 27, 2015
On another beautiful sunny Sunday in Ireland, I took my first ride on the trains from Cork to Cobh (pronounced “cove”) – home to the 2nd largest natural harbor in the world – with Kate! In that harbor, you’ll find Spike Island a prison affectionately known as “Ireland’s Alcatraz” (minus the escape attempts). Spike Island actually has quite a varied history from a monastery site to a fortress and a military hospital to a prison including periods of time where the island remained unused. Having only officially closed 30 years ago in 1985, the island as a tourist attraction is relatively new. An exhibit room detailing the final prisoner uprising which left the island in a charred mess was just opened on 31 August this year. As the peak tourist season has come to an end, projects to make Spike Island a historical cultural center and improve visitor experience are currently taking place and set to continue through summer 2016. Although there’s not too much to see or do beside looking at the main structure and rooms and eating at the cafe, the island boasts beautiful views of Cork Harbor and the Cobh coastline.
Since the ferry only runs twice, I had perfectly planned out our departure from the island to the train we’d catch toward Fota. However, the ferry ended up leaving 15 minutes late causing us to fast walk (and eventually run) the typical 5 minute walk from the dock to the station. Luckily, we were able to catch the train with a couple minutes to spare!
Fota Wildlife Park is basically a zoo but most of the smaller animals have very minimal barriers between them and the walking path. The various colored routes were kind of confusing but I think we ended up seeing, at least, most of the animals! The penguins were my favorite; there were so many of them! They had a surprising number of giraffes as well. There was only one tiger (that we saw) and he/she seemed really lonely pacing back and force by the fence. We think the tiger was found of us though since he/she walked parallel to us as we walked along the path then ignored everyone else and went to take a nap.
Overall, minus some train struggles, Kate and I had a pretty great day exploring some of the history and attractions of County Cork!