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Elizabeth Fort was first built in 1601 by Sir George Carew, the then president of Munster during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The fort was built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city from the south. Following the death of Elizabeth in 1603, the fort was attacked by the citizens of Cork, however, when the city was re-taken, they were compelled to rebuild it at their own expense. It was replaced in 1624 by a stronger, stone fort, much of which survives today. It is reputed that improvements were also made by order of Oliver Cromwell in 1649.
In 1690 the fort was besieged, along with the city, by Williamite forces while being held by the Jacobites, an event known as The Siege of Cork. After a week of attack, the city walls were breached, the city and the fort were then surrendered.
In the following years, the fort was used as an army barracks, a female prison for convicts awaiting transportation, an RIC station and a Garda station until 2013.
The site is highly significant in relation to the military and social history of Cork and boasts an exceptional view of the city from the ramparts and from the timber-viewing gallery along the north side of the courtyard. Elizabeth Fort is now in the hands of Cork City Council, who continue to develop this valuable asset as a major public attraction within the city.