Following the takeover of Spike Island by Cork County Council in 2010 the former jail and British military fort has received a €6 million investment to turn it into a top tourist attraction; aiming to attract 100,000 visitors by 2020.
Originally the site of a monastic settlement in the 7th century, Spike Island had its first artillery fortification built in the 18th. A series of forts were subsequently built on the 104 acre island in the late 18th and early 19th century.
It was used as a prison in the 19th century when thousands of prisoners were transported from Spike to Australia and was the largest prison in the world in 1850. The island remained under British control following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and it was only handed over in 1938 when the last British forces left. Its island location and settlement of families on the prison island has seen it often equated to Alcatraz.
Among the refurbishment works carried out on the island to date have been the installation of a Pontoon to facilitate access for ferry passengers coming from Cobh which has recently been named as one of Europe’s best cruise destinations. In addition, there has also been a refurbishment of the Punishment Block and construction of a new Military Exhibition Yard.
Self guided tours of the island have also been facilitated through the introduction of new next generation technology by Cork based Company In Hand Guides. In Hand Guides develop souvenir audio players with beacon technology and plan to use Spike Island as a launchpad to the growing global tourism technology market.
In Hand Guides have been manufacturing and selling basic souvenir audio players which have been designed by the Nimbus Research Centre at CIT for 5 years and have sold close to 600,000 units for attractions including Blarney Castle, Book of Kells and St. Patricks Cathedral.
However, for the Spike Island experience, In Hand Guides with investment from Kernel Capital, have developed a system where low cost beacons trigger audio on the audio players as visitors move around. There are 40 audio tracks and 40 associated beacons on the island, both inside and outside, which trigger the appropriate track when in range which can be from 5m to 150m and altered to the client specification. In Hand Guides are not reliant on Wi-Fi or GPS to stream audio so users avoid any download costs which may be incurred with conventional apps.
For more information about In Hand Guides see http://inhandguides.com/