The Kilmainham Gaol is a prison that has been in existence for hundreds of years, dating back to 1796.
The tour guides and anyone who talks about it usually talks about all the rebellions, military actions and other tragic events that the site was a part of. It played a role in the fight for Irish independence and in other important events throughout the country’s history. Today, it is museum and a testament to what the country and its people have endured through the ages.
What to Do
A guided tour of Kilmainham Gaol will take you through the restored halls of this ancient structure. You’ll receive an oral history of the place and see where some of the more important events took place. The guide will talk about all the prisoners who were held there, including women and children, some of whom were held on very minor offences and kept in awful conditions.
You’ll be able to visit some of the prison cells and see how prisoners were restrained and what their day to day life consisted of.
You’ll also be able to visit the chapel and the residential areas of the grounds which played important roles in the prison and in the lives of its occupants and caretakers. There were more than just prisoners who lived there, and you’ll get to experience some of what life was like for them as well.
It feels like stepping back in time when you enter the gaol’s walls, but the entire facility has been lovingly restored for the past 50 years, as it was in shambles before then. Now it is open to the public and a major tourist site all year round.
The upper floor contains an art gallery showcasing paintings, jewellery and sculptures that relate to the gaol and its occupants.
The Kilmainham Gaol is an incredibly large prison and one of the largest of its kind in all of Europe that is no longer occupied, making it a must-visit site for the historically inclined.
What to Know before You Visit
You’ll want to make sure that you can get in when you visit the museum, and that means coming at the right time. It’s a very busy tourist site, so you may run into delays when you visit, especially if you come during the busy season, which tends to be around the summertime.
You have to go by guided tour, if you want to see the gaol, and if you have a group of ten or more, then you need to book in advance. Your group can’t exceed 35 people, though, so be aware of the restrictions.
To get to the museum, you will probably need to park at a nearby building or take public transport. There is no parking at the gaol itself. If you travel by Luas then take the Red Line and get off at Suir Road. There are several bus routes that take you next to the gaol, if you would rather travel that way.