Cork Harbour, situated in Ireland’s southern coast, is believed to be the second largest natural harbour in the world. Steeped in history from its very beginning the harbour is most commonly known to date for its natural beauty and discreet man made military fortifications.
Spike Island is centrally located within view of the mouth of the harbour, and was part of a strategic military coastal defence system for the surrounding areas, along with 3 other neighbouring forts, Fort Carlisle on the eastern approach, Camden Fort Meagher and Fort Templebreedy on the western side. It was built to protect against any threats of invasion and there were many, from a French treat in the early 19th century to a German one in the early 20th century. Before this the Spanish had landed troops in nearby Kinsale
As well as the forts, there are also numerous Martello towers, a Magazine (ammunition store), Castles and the country’s main Naval base. At the time of much of the construction Cork harbour's defenses would have been at the pinnacle of Naval military technology and would have made the harbour among the best defended in the world if not the very best. There was even a nearby gunpowder plant at Ballincollig with a winding trail to the Rocky island in the harbour which held tens of thousands of barrels of the black stuff.
Being the largest original port entrance in the country has created an industry of its own for the area. With the livelihood of Cork and the wider country depending on the safeguarding of the harbour, it is little wonder that the Irish Navy are based in the area along with decades of army presence. A visit to the harbour reveals the continued vibrant buzz of merchant shipping, Naval vessels, import and export ships and ongoing ship building.
Generations after all threats of attack were removed Cork Harbour still plays a vital role in Ireland’s culture and industry. The harbour is still recognised for its fortification and historic relevance, but now also has industrial significance. It continuously boasts a strong worldwide commercial shipping network and also contributes to Ireland’s tourism sector, welcoming international cruise liners all year round, seasonal ferry crossing to France which creates ease of access to Europe.
The Cork International Airport is within close proximity making the region well connected by all International transport routes. Each of these factors in turn promotes a healthy multinational work force in pharmaceutical production and IT development and the future is bright for one of the most stunning natural harbours in the world.
The harbour is also a wonderful natural home for birds, animals and sea life, with seals, dolphins and even occasional whales.