A FORMER Irish prison has beaten Buckingham Palace as the best tourist attraction in Europe.
Spike Island off the coast of Cobh Co. Cork won the award at the World Travel Awards in St. Petersburg, Russia on September 30.
The island prison was competing against several European landmarks including the Acropolis in Athens, Buckingham Palace in London, La Sagrada Familia, in Spain, the Ribeira do Porto, in Portugal, the Eiffel Tower in France and the Roman Colosseum, in Italy.
Winners from the event will go forward to complete in the World Travel Awards Grand Final, this year taking place at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa in Vietnam on the evening of 10th December.
This is the third year in a row that an Irish landmark has won the best tourist attraction in Europe.
In 2016, the Titanic Belfast won the prestigious award, and in 2015 the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin were also winners.
During its time as a prison from the 1850s, Cork's Spike Island held over 2,000 inmates.
Although some inmates had committed more serious and often gruesome crimes, most of Spike’s inhabitants were imprisoned for minor crimes.
As a result of the Famine, there was an increase in crime and therefore prisoners.
For many years it was thought that the high mortality rate at the prison was down to the Famine that was causing over a million people to die from starvation all over Ireland during the 1850s.
But evidence uncovered by the discovery of a graveyard on the island has revealed that the prison was “a public health catastrophe," with over 2,000 men packed into overcrowded dormitories.
In 1853 a record 286 prisoners died on Spike and were buried on the east on the island.
In 1858, four years after the number of prisoners was reduced, only two people died whilst being held captive.
In 2010, the Department of Justice and Law reform handed over control of the prison to Cork County Council, and the site opened to visitors wishing to explore its secrets from June 2016.