SPIKE Island has beat out the Eiffel Tower and Buckingham Palace to be named Europe's leading tourist attraction at the 2017 World Travel Awards.
Other attractions on the shortlist were the Acropolis in Greece and the Coliseum in Rome, but the former prison and fortress came out on top at the awards ceremony in St Petersburg, Russia.
Mayor of Cork County, Declan Hurley, was in Russia for the awards ceremony.
The 104-acre island was a monastic settlement in the 7th century, an artillery fortification built in the 18th century by the British with subsequent forts built in the late 18th and early 19th century and a prison in the 19th century where thousands of prisoners were transported from Spike to Australia.
Spike 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. It was later used as a prison again before being closed at the turn of the century, and has since been repurposed as a tourist attraction.
More than 45,000 visitors were welcomed this year with a target of 100,000 visitors by 2020.
The County Mayor paid tribute to the people who turned Spike Island from an unused site into a world-leading tourist attraction.
"This award is recognition of the incredible dedication by a great number of people who foresaw the potential of Spike Island."
"I would like to pay particular reference to the roles played by the Spike Steering Group, chaired by Mr Brendan Tuohy, who helped guide the recent site investment and also to the retired County Manager, Mr Martin Riordan, whose initiative in taking ownership of the island has yielded such vast rewards," he said.
Spike Island General Manager, John Crotty, attributed the island's success to its extensive history and hard-working staff.
"A recurring feature of our feedback is the performance of our staff and guides whose enthusiasm really infects our visitors with its rich history. Our story is really only just beginning. We are already looking forward to the coming season will continue to enhance our offering with the support of Cork County Council and welcoming visitors from Cork and the world. Come and visit, you will not be disappointed," he said.
Spike Island’s success makes it an unprecedented three in a row for Ireland, following victories for Titanic Belfast in 2016 and the Guinness Storehouse in 2015.
The attraction will now go forward to represent Europe at the Grand World Final, held on 10th December at Phu Quoc, Vietnam.