A Bit of Dublin History at the Kilmainham Gaol
One of the top tourist attractions in Dublin, Ireland is the Kilmainham Gaol. Scott and I only spent a short time in Dublin but knew we had to visit the historic prison.
The Gaol is located in the city of Dublin and can be visited a number of ways. We took a taxi from our hotel, but there is a bus stop just across the street from the prison. Or, if you have your own transportation, a car park is available.
Scott and I bought our tickets online because we wanted to choose our tour time. Upon arrival at the prison, we found the staff to be friendly, and the entrance system set up to run efficiently.
At the appropriate time, our group of approximately 20 people went with our guide to begin the tour. We were quite entertained by our guide as he explained how life had been in the Kilmainham Gaol.
A Bit of History
The prison opened in 1796 as the prison for the city of Dublin. Over 130 years untold numbers of inmates came and went, some left of their own accord, while others were executed on the property. Many citizens of the city were housed there, including; men, women, and children. Their crimes were as varied as you can imagine; murder, assault, and even theft of food to feed a starving stomach.
Mainly, the tour focused on how the building is a symbol of militant and constitutional nationalism from the rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War in the 1920’s. The prison is a solid representation of Ireland’s fight for independence.
Leaders of rebellions were detained and, at times executed in the gaol. We visited the courtyard where executions took place. It was a surreal, creepy spot, and now a black cross marks the spot where executions took place by firing squad.
Our guide told us stories of prison life and explained how famous leaders of the Irish Republican Movement such as; Henry Joy McCracken, Robert Emmet, and Anne Devlin were held there. The cells were dark and tiny. It was what I imagine a real prison cell should look like. Very basic, and not a place you want to end up.
We got the feeling of how cold, damp and miserable it would be to be a prisoner there, so long ago.
The gaol is considered by some to be one of the most haunted places in Ireland. In the 1960’s the prison underwent restoration. People who worked on the project felt a strong wind in the dungeon, saw lights off and on in the chapel and felt as if they were being followed in the hallways.
As we quietly walked the long, dark corridors, the echo of the past definitely followed us as we went.
Scott and I found the tour to be interesting and informative. We spent time in the museum after the tour and learned much more about the eclectic prisoners and rebellions of the past.
Finally, one tip we suggest is to visit the museum first. It will help you put a face to some of the more well-known prisoners, as well as understand the desperation and lives of the inmates at the Kilmainham Gaol.
To read more about our time in Ireland, please click here.
Or, to learn more about the Kilmainham Gaol or purchase tickets, click here.