This infamous and eerie former prison is a fitting place to hear the grisly story of Ireland’s punitive past and the struggle for independence from British rule.
Visit Kilmainham Gaol where prisoners were held for nearly 150 years, ending with Ireland’s most turbulent days of revolution. Learn all about the painful struggle for independence by the Irish nationalists. The heroic and tragic events that took place here come alive during an audio-visual exhibit and guided tour.
After it was completed in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol held many famous prisoners, as well as poor citizens, including children, accused of petty theft and begging. Many of the inmates were deported to Australia afterwards. Not all prisoners made it out alive; public hangings took place here until the 1820s. During the days of nationalism the jail became as legendary as its inmates. It was a feared final destination. Famous prisoners included 28-year-old Joseph Plunkett, who was among those behind the Easter Rising of 1916. He married in prison just before he was executed by a firing squad. The prison closed in 1924. A restoration society turned it into the Kilmainham Goal Historical Museum in 1960.
Enter the dungeon-like corridors and visit the audio-visual exhibition that recounts the history of the prison. Follow one of the knowledgeable tour guides to hear grisly accounts of torture and rebellion. Cells were overcrowded and women slept on straw beds in common halls.
Listen to the chilling story of the 1916 Easter Rising and the executions of its leaders in the former Stonebreakers yard. You may recognize the central hall with its caged galleries and staircases leading to solitary cells; it was used as a setting in the 1993 biographical movie In the Name of The Father and the 2008 thriller The Escapist. Don’t miss the exhibit on the top level showing art by present-day inmates of jails around the country.
The Kilmainham Gaol is open daily, except Christmas. Access is by guided tour only, which takes an hour. It’s a good idea to arrive early in high season. The museum is located two miles (3.5 kilometers) west from the center of Dublin, near Phoenix Park. You can get there by tram and bus or by Dublin’s hop-on, hop-off bus tour. There is a tearoom for refreshments.