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Irish prison competes with Europe’s top holiday attractions

An unlikely Irish site is competing with famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace and the Colosseum to be the best holiday destination in Europe

However, it isn’t the Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher or the city of Dublin that has scooped the honour – but a former prison.

Spike Island in Cork was the third Irish attraction in as many years to win the top award at the World Travel Awards in 2017.

Spike Island has been named as Europe's top tourist attraction

It followed in the footsteps of Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse, which won the award in 2015 and the Titanic Museum in Belfast which was 2016’s winner.

Spike Island is still wowing the holiday writers and the public. Itwas originally used as a monastery as far back as the 6th century. In the 1800s, while Ireland was under British rule, it was used a prison.

It was handed over to the Irish state in 1938. The Irish government also used the island as a prison between 1985 and 2004.

In 2010, Cork County Council set up the Spike Island Development Company after taking over responsibility for the island from the Department of Justice.

Martin Riordan was the county manager and his aim was to tap into the island’s 1,300 year history and to turn it into Ireland’s Alcatraz.

The council, along with Fáilte Ireland invested more than €6.5m to turn the island into a tourist attraction and the hard work really paid off.

The island reopened in 2016 and by early 2017 it had overtaken Fota Wildlife Park to become the number one thing to do in Cork on Tripadvisor.

Visitors canget to the island by taking a short boat trip from Cobh.

Several leading tourism agencies from the UK, the USA, Germany and France have all signed contracts with the council to send their visitors there each year.

A Spike Island spokesperson wrote on their Facebook page: “We beat off the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower and more to win the highest award a tourist site can win.

We also became the first ever site outside of the capitals to win this award.

“An enormous thank you to Cork County Council, Fáilte Ireland, those in Cobh with the vision to fight for Spike, our visitors, and most importantly to our incredible staff and tour guides, whose passion and hard work have made this a deserved award.

Dublin’s Sandymount Hotel and Convention Centre were also winners after scooping the awards for Europe’s best green hotel, and Europe’s leading conference centre respectively.

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