Discover Spike Island

  • Port

    Cobh (Cork), Ireland

  • Activity Level


  • Excursion Type


  • Wheelchair Accessible


  • Starting At


  • Minimum Age

    Information not currently available.

  • Duration

    3¼ Hours

  • Meals Included


Set out on foot accompanied by your guide and board a boat to Spike Island.

Measuring 104 acres, Spike Island commands a strategic position within the sheltered mouth of the lower reaches of Cork Harbour -- one of the largest natural harbors in the world. For centuries people have used the island for a host of different purposes. Written early-Christian evidence suggests that, in the 7th century, Saint Mochuda founded a monastic settlement on Spike Island with 20 brothers.

Cork Harbour has been vital to the development of overseas trade and commerce since Viking times, but not all of the trade on Spike was legal. During the 18th century, the island's rugged shoreline was a hiding place for smugglers. In order to protect the harbor, a series of artillery fortifications was built during the 17th and 18th centuries, the largest of which is on Spike Island. Unlike medieval castles, these were built with a low profile to absorb cannon fire and featured a star-shaped plan with corner bastions. You will find memorabilia from this time on display on the island.

In 1847, Spike Island became a convict depot. By 1850, more than 2,000 convicts were detained on Spike Island but, by 1883, the last of the prisoners were relocated to prisons on the mainland. Incredibly, between 1985 and 2004, the fort was re-opened as a prison to hold young offenders -- mainly 'joyriders' convicted of stealing and recklessly driving cars on the mainland.

Today Spike Island is a repository of stories and memories that make your guided tour of its key features rather interesting. Afterwards, you'll have some free time to explore independently.

Re-board the boat for the return journey to Cobh. Guests who wish to stay in town to shop or explore independently are welcome to do so, but must make their own way back to the ship.


The boat is not exclusive to Holland America Line guests. The surface is gravel and flagstones and is uneven in places. There are steps throughout the island tour. Dress warmly in layers. Bring a rain coat.