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Following a record breaking 2017 which saw the island crowned Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction, Spike Island is extending its 2018 opening season to include weekends in November for the first time. In previous years the island has closed at the end of October but consistently strong demand has seen the positive step taken, with visitors numbers are set to increase by 50% in 2018.

Island Manager John Crotty commented “We have been delighted with the response to the attraction and we can tell from the emails and phone calls coming in that people are anxious to come and see us”. “We were at capacity for much of July and August so we feel extending our opening season will give everyone the chance to come and visit us”. “And with several internal exhibitions and spaces and a covered ferry and bus on site, the weather is no longer a factor in visiting the island so an extended opening season makes sense”.

The island hopes to add a second ferry for the 2019 season to deal with growing demand, with a tender process well under way to more than double the existing ferry capacity with a second larger boat. The existing capacity on the 80 seat ferry has proved insufficient in July and August at peak demand.

As well as winning the World Travel Awards in 2017 the island also won a Chambers Ireland award for heritage and built environment, and a Cork Business award. The site also took the top spot for Cork on travel advice website Tripadvisor in late 2016, a position it has held since then, and Cork County Council Divisional Manger and company director Declan Daly has seen the site grow from an abandoned island to one of Cork’s go to destinations. “The feedback had been very positive to date, with visitors enjoying the mix of prison cells, military exhibitions and scenic island walks and ferry journey”. “The challenge now is to continue to deliver the great tours and experiences we have to date, but also further develop the island to meet the growing numbers”.

A funding application for the second phase of works is planned in January 2019 which would see Cork County Council and Failte Ireland co-fund the next round of development, with plans to open the main prison cell block, add a themed tea rooms and an international welcome hub on the pier. The total funding could come to over 6 million, as the island seeks to become the next big name in Irish tourism and top 100.000 visitors in the next 3 years.

“Presently we contribute in excess of 6 million to the economy of Cobh and Cork, and we want to push that figure into €10 million plus as quickly as possible”, said Mr Crotty.

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