Do you like watching movies about criminals or prison breaks? Traveling to Ireland is a great way to experience the prison life on your own skin. Kilmainham Gaol is nothing less than a prison, a real one, where hundreds of people were jailed, tortured, and executed. It is not a fun site with a positive atmosphere, but it surely enters the list of top must-see places in Ireland.
Prison sightseeing is not all weird after all. This building has played an important role in the history of the Irish nation during the time periods of 1780s and 1920s. You could state that the fate of this nation was written within these walls. Admission includes a guided tour, it informs about the key uprisings and revolutions. During an event that could pose a threat to the state, the jail would be filled with political prisoners.
Kilmainham Gaol is a morning activity. The sight becomes more and more popular every year. There is no way to book the tickets, while guided tours are held pretty early. The tickets are sold on first-come, first-serve basis. If you want to have the prison to yourself (and that would be a very strange wish), plan your trip in spring or winter. Summer months tend to be the busiest ones here.
Kilmainham Gaol is easily accessible. It is located only 3.5 km (2.1 miles) away from Dublin downtown. You can take the bus (numbers 13, 40, etc.) or walk.
Freeze to Death
Despite all the shirtless guys and sweat you see in the prison movies, it is winter in Kilmainham Gaol all year round. Make sure to take an extra sweatshirt or coat.
The guided tour lasts about an hour. If you want to inspect a few additional cells and read the leaflets, you’ll need another 2 hours or so.
Besides the huge amount of information about the Irish history, Kilmainham Gaol is also one of the most touching sights in Ireland. The place literally makes you shiver. Men and women were jailed along with children, executions, patriotic whispers in stone cells … and you’re there, walking freely through the corridors, which were hell for hundreds. You might even recognize some names. Visitors who are into political history would surely know the names Robert Emmet and Charles Stewart Parnell. They were the leaders of the biggest Irish uprisings.
While massive restoration works were carried out, not much was changed in the interior design. You are in no way restrained to walk around the cells, touch the walls, and soak into the atmosphere, nothing and no one is kept behind the bars.
The onsite café offers snacks and hot beverages. Find a seat and calm your shivers down. While a big number of museums in Ireland are free of charge, this one requires an entrance fee (€ 6 or $8). Don’t let it be a problem on your way to Kilmainham Gaol, as the experience is worth the price. Many visitors review their opinions about revolutions and a row of political issues. This is why this “prison break” will be one of the best and unforgettable visits in Ireland.