Kilmainham Gaol, situated in Dublin, is the largest unoccupied prison in Ireland. Opened in 1796, it’s famous for detaining the major political and military players in Irish history and executing many revolutionaries from the Easter Rising in 1916, before finally closing its doors in 1924.
Nowadays, it operates as a museum, detailing the various uprisings and past political struggles Ireland faced in a bid to break free from British rule. I’ve always found large, virtually abandoned buildings fascinating and not being particularly well versed in Irish politics, I was looking forward to an atmospheric history lesson.
Kilmainham didn’t disappoint. The site is huge and although there is only access to part of it, you still get sense of how demoralising it would have been to be imprisoned here. It’s cold and bleak, with corridors of concrete and eerily abandoned cells still displaying the scratchings of prisoners marking their time. Moving subjects for a few snaps.
As a tourist attraction, it is incredibly popular, so it’s surprising that you’re unable to book tickets in advance. Queues circle the perimeter and you’re ushered along to cosy up to the nearest stranger in an attempt to make it look smaller. That said, it moved quickly and overall we only waited around 40 minutes. Once inside, you’re allocated a tour slot (there isn’t an option to wander unaccompanied) and there are various exhibitions with historical artifacts belonging to past occupants to explore.
Our tour guide was fantastic, bringing each area to life for over an hour and including enough humour to explain what were dire circumstances without being boring or flippant. The best part was wandering around the main hall from the Victorian era. Still in fairly good condition, it looked like every classic jail scene I’ve ever seen on TV (many films have been shot here) and was one of the first of its kind that many future jails were modelled on.
It would have been nice to wander around at leisure, but we were warned not to lose the group as the myriad of corridors were difficult to navigate without someone clued up. In fact during the tour, our guide had to pause and radio security as she spotted someone, ‘…loitering in the 1700s wing.’
They never found this lost soul. I’d like to think it was a ghost…
Kilmainham Gaol opens from 9.30am most days, with prices starting at €6 for adults.
Image Credits: All my own so please be sweet and ask before sharing 🙂