Our next blog is written by Sam from Dublin. He's 23 and studying to be an accountant.
Planning on visiting Ireland? There is one spot in the depths of Dublin that is an absolute must-visit during your time here. Throughout the years, Ireland has become known for its myths, legends, tales and icons. However, no place or person shares quite a similar history than that of Kilmainham Gaol.
For those of you who may be unaware, Kilmainham Gaol is one of Irelands oldest prisons. Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol was used to house criminals right up until 1924 until it was closed down by the Irish free state government and the prison fell into disrepair.
During the 1916 rising (Irish war for independence) many Irish revolutionaries such as Padraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke, James Conolly and Joseph Plunket we’re imprisoned & executed in Kilmainham Gaol by the British. Going further back to the 1820s, Kilmainham Gaol used to be the stage for public hangings. During 1803, Robert Emmet another famous Irish revolutionary leader was executed here. During his trial, Emmet requested that he wanted his grave to go unmarked until Ireland was free. Till this day, the whereabouts of his body are still unknown.
Unlike most prisons, there was no segregation between men, women and children. At any one time, up to 5 people had to share a cell between them with one candle that had to last up to two weeks as their light and heat.
The treatment for men was bad but the conditions for women and children was much worse. Whilst men were given iron bedsteads to sleep on women and children had to sleep on the floor on a flag.
At this stage, perhaps you’re wondering, who would arrest a child?
Children during this period were often arrested for petty theft with the youngest reported arrest being the age of 7. Don’t forget to use this story as a threat the next time your kid steps out of line. They have no idea how good they have it. All joking aside, let’s get back to the history of Kilmainham Gaol.
Since it’s decommission in 1920, the prison has stood as a national memory of oppression and suffering during its period of operation. Eventually it was restored and re-opened as a tourist attraction to the public in 1960s. However, many that go there tend to have very unusual experiences.
During restoration, those involved experienced many paranormal activities. Commonly, tourists from abroad and nationally have claimed to have seen ghosts walking around the chapel within the prison. From time to time, unexplainably the lights within the chapel will go on and off. Many believe it to be Joseph Plunket (the Irish revolutionary leader mentioned above) as this was the last known whereabouts before his execution.
Regardless, if you’re into ghost stories or not. There is a very uneasy atmosphere contained within these walls. One of which you should experience during your time in Ireland to fully comprehend what we mean.
Food & Drink
Perhaps ghosts aren’t your thing, don’t worry we’ve thought about you too. Around the prison there are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to visit as well as other tourist attractions.
If you’re looking for a fresh cold pint, The Old Royal Oak is not too far of a walk from the prison, it would be about half a kilometer down the road. Maybe you’re in the mood for food? In which case, I highly recommend you check out the Lime Tree Café. They cater for vegans also! As if our small country couldn’t get any more progressive.
Other Activities I Recommend
If the prison isn’t really your thing and you’re looking to do something else around that area, let us recommend the following;
If prisoners aren’t your thing than perhaps Vikings might be. We highly recommend you check out Dublinia to discover the Viking and Medieval heritage of Dublin.
Incognito Escape Room
Perhaps the history of Dublin isn’t your thing and at and you’re looking for some entertainment that doesn’t involve drinking. In which case, I’d recommend you check out Incognito Escape Room. Have fun rescuing your friends from a notorious serial killer
Maybe getting hunted down by a serial killer is a bit too extreme and you’re looking for something a bit more thrill and family friendly. In which case, you should check out Dublin Zoo! Fun for all the family.
Without a doubt, the Guinness Storehouse is the number one must see attraction in Ireland. Again, it’s more enjoyable if you’re at the appropriate age of drinking but still a spectacle all the same to visit and discover how Guinness is made!
Irish National War Memorial Park
If you do end up enjoying the rich history of Kilmainham Gaol then you should definitely pay a trip to the Irish National War Memorial Park, dedicated to the 49,400 Irish soldiers who lost their lives during the great war of 1914 – 1918.
Read our local guides about visiting The Guinness Storehouse or seeing The Book Of Kells at Trinity College.