Activities for School Tours

Spike Island is a vast area, covering 104 acres. It’s rich history makes it an ideal learning location for School Tours. Suggested activities which children can do on a visit to Spike Island. Before the Trip, involve the class in planning the visit.

1. Study the location of Spike Island

  • Decide on whether it is best to go to Cobh by bus or train
  • Compare costs and convenience
  • Book the Ferry to the Island

2. Will you allocate time to visit other parts of Great Island en route?

  • Barryscourt Castle (Medieval castle)
  • Fota Wildlife Part; Cobh Heritage
  • Follow the ‘Titanic trail’ Heritage walk of Cobh
  • Cobh Cathedral

3. Investigate other major aspects of History of Cobh:

  • Cobh is a British Military and Naval base
  • Titanic visit on maiden voyage
  • Fr Brown’s photographs; Sinking of Lusitania (that brought USA into First World War)
  • Importance of Hugh Lane to Irish Artistic collections (drowned almost in sight of Lane family home in Myrtleville)
  • Cobh as place where Fr Matthew died

4. Study the importance of Cork Harbour in context to:

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Proximity to Ocean Currents that made trade easy between Europe and North America
  • Trade in Sugar
  • Slave Trade
  • Butter Trade

Consider the importance of Cork Harbour in development of British Empire:

Provisioning Port for Royal Navy
Soldiers sent via Cork to fight in American War of Independence
Hulk Ships;
Penal Transportation to Sugar plantations in Caribbean to Bermuda, to Australia

  1. Why was Cobh so important as a Trans-Atlantic terminal?
  2. Why is position of Railway Station so close to the Deepwater Quay?
  3. Consider importance of Sail-Making and rope-making in Douglas village?
  4. Consider the closeness of Ballincollig and its Gunpowder factory

Original Monastic Settlement

The earliest settlement of which we have knowledge on Spike Island was a monastery.

  • Why do you think an island was chosen by the monks?
  • Where do you think the monastery was situated? Why?
  • Name the important parts of a monastery
  • Why was Ireland then known as “The Island of Saints and Scholars?
  • Who is your favourite Saint? Why?
  • What do you know about St Brendan the Navigator?
  • How did monasteries defend themselves against the Vikings?

On Spike Island

  • If you have your compass with you, take Grid-bearings on major features on the landscape and work out your own position.
  • Study Nature near landing point:
  • Sandy coastal beach
  • Vegetation, bird life
  • Sea-shells
  • Life of “Little Nellie of Holy God”.
  • Her life on the Island
  • Her importance in deciding present age of children receiving First Holy Communion Devotion to Little Nellie in Cork
  • Study old houses as typical of naval accommodation at that time
  • Why is the landing point on this side of the Island?
  • Study Wooded area
  • Listen to bird life
  • Nature & Woodland around Old Village
  • Study the trees from this distance. Are they Coniferous or Deciduous? Explain
  • Discuss: Canopy-Level, Shrub-Level, Field-Level and Ground-Level
  • What kinds of birds/animals/plants and insects might live at each level?
  • What do you know about Soil horizons from what you can see?
  • Look at the colour of the grass and guess which areas were best to cultivate
  • Why is Woodland important for all of us?
  • What are the parts of a flower and how is it pollinated?

Village Life

  1. See School, Church and houses. What facilities did the people have?
  2. What was it like to live here?
  3. Where did they buy their food?
  4. Where did the children play?
  5. What games did they play?

Consider slope up to Fort Gate

  1. Why are there no fields, only an open slope?
  2. Examine this grassland as a habitat
  3. Why was Fort positioned on top of the hill?
  4. What were the reasons for building a “Star Fort”?
  5. Why is so much of the Fort underground?

Looking back down the slope from the Fort Gate

  1. Why was Gunpowder stored in Rocky Island?
  2. Why was the repair shipyard in Haulbowline?
  3. What other naval services might have been here?

The Walk around the Fort

If you have your camera, why not take photos of the wonderful views from this walk. Look at the positioning of the marker buoys showing the main channel. Follow the main channel from the Harbour mouth to Passage West
Examine the aerial photograph in your “Spike Island Historic Trail” brochure Give reasons for the location of each of the Four Forts (outlined in yellow) and also for the need to defend Haulbowline. (It is helpful to look at these through the Harbour).

  1. Why was a ship-repair yard built on Haulbowline?
  2. Why was a gunpowder store built underground on Rocky Island?
  3. Why would you think that Cork Harbour was an excellent location for repairing and provisioning (providing food for) ships?
  4. Sail-cloth and ropes were made in Douglas. Why was this convenient?

In more recent times:

  1. Why was a dockyard built at Rushbrook?
  2. Why do you think the Oil Refinery was located at Whitegate?
  3. What other clues can you see on the aerial photograph that Ringaskiddy was chosen for the ferry terminal?
  4. Why is Crosshaven so popular for sailing? Did you know that the oldest Yacht Club in the world was once located in Cobh and is now located in Crosshaven?
  5. Why do you think it was re-located?

Inside the Fort

See the display of photographs showing the Fort in earlier times. Contrast the old Mitchel Cell block with the more modern one. See how almost all the older major buildings are underground whereas the more modern buildings are around the Barrack Square. Examine the location of the major gun emplacements that were meant to defend the Harbour.
Examine the smaller gun emplacements that were meant to defend the walls of the Fort in case the enemy landed on the coast of the Island. Imagine what it must have been like to be in this Fort as a prisoner, waiting to be transported to Australia.

  1. What was it like to be a soldier or sailor living in the Fort?
  2. What was it like to be a prison officer?

Examine the different types of artillery pieces that are now displayed in the Fort Imagine what it must have been like to be under attack in this Fort!
Now, why not assemble all this information you have gathered. Make it a Project. Show it to your parents and just perhaps they might bring you here the next time and you can show them what you have learned?

CrossRiverFerryActivities for School Tours