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School Tours

Children of all ages can learn about Spike Island's and Ireland's incredible history through our curriculum led, age appropriate school tours which offer an incredible mix of history, sightseeing, eco-tours and adventure activities in Ireland’s premier school tour destination.  The adventure starts with a short 10/15 minute ferry journey from scenic Cobh across the worlds 2nd largest natural harbour, where you might spot seals, sea birds and occasional dophins!  One of our guides will join you and escort your group on one of our beautiful ferries with lots of windows for harbour views, and there is a seat for every person travelling.  The group will pass the Irish Naval Services base of opeations, Haulbowline, and can enjoy amazing views to Cobh and around the water.

In the last 1300 years Spike has been home to heroes and villains, captains and convicts, red coats and rioters and sinners and saints, and the islands impressive 104 acres have at one time or another hosted an Island monastery, fortress, prison and centuries of island homes.  We share this rich history on our guided tour which starts as soon as you arrvie on the island.  The focus is on fun and fresh history that tells our story in an interesting way, as we share insights into island social life and our nature and geography while walking our beautiful island trails. Then it’s on to the imposing Fortress Spike which at 24 acres is one of the largest star shaped forts in the world!

Spike Island was the largest prison in the known world in the 1850’s with over 2300 inmates during the famine years, and there has never been before or since a larger fison in Britain or Ireland. A tour of our impressive ‘Punishment Block’ shows the conditions Victorian convicts endured, and in our modern cells your group can experience daily life for 1980’s prisoners. The tour continues to the mighty 6’’ harbour guns which are the most powerful coastal defence guns in Ireland, and our gun park’s military vehicles and canons showcase coastal warfare and are always a highlight for school groups.

We break up the tour element with some fantastic adventure activities which can include our obstacle course, an archaeology dig, military dress up and drills or jail break orienteering.  And we even have options for eco-tours like visiting the island goats who maintain our grasslands, beach cleaning and pollinator planting.  Each activity and tour is age and weather dependent but we guarantee your group a great experiene, just call us to discuss. 

Then on we go to lunch (teacher supervised time) in our purpose built cafe, where packed lunches are welcome or hot food can be pre-ordered or purchased on the day.  We even have classroom facilities available if you want your group to get a history lesson from one of our resident archaeologists or historians!.

Your initial tour, breaks and activity done, we finish off with a guided visit through some of our amazing buildings.  In our Transportation room there is a recreation of a convict hulk helps us to tell the story of the tens of thousands of Irish men and women transported from Spike Island to all corners of the world. While our media room has a state of the art computer rendering of Cork Harbour where students can take control and pilot a ship or protect Cork harbour from attack!  The group can also enjoy our auditorium with its 20 minute showing of the Spike Island story.

Our trained guides will also tell the stories of our famous island personalities, from convicts like Jack in the Box, Irish nationalists prisoners like John Mitchell and Austin Stack, to famous dignitaries like Eamonn De Valera, Winston Churchill and celebrated residents like Little Nellie of Holy God.

From daring escapes and recent riots to famine prisoners and World Wars, no matter what the interest or age group Spike Island has it all. 1300 years of history awaits. Will you escape from Fortress Spike??

Why not download this FREE schools activity pack and do some lessons on our history before visiting! /contentfiles/SPIKE_ISLAND_CORK_SCHOOL_TOUR_CHILDRENS_ACTIVITY_BOOK.pdf 

And our APP can be downloaded for FREE with its audioguide and many pages of history, search for SPIKE ISLAND on the app store or play store.