Delve into Ireland’s turbulent history with a visit to Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol. Check out our guide to one of the most poignant places you’re likely to visit in Ireland – we’ll give you some background information on the gaol’s history, it’s famous prisoners, how to get there and much more.
Kilmainham Gaol is located on Inchicore Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8 and is a designated National Monument. It was extensively renovated in the 1960′s by a group of volunteers and re-opened as a museum by a former inmate and then President of Ireland, Mr. Eamonn de Valera, on the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The prison was built in 1796, and until its closure in 1924, it saw famous prisoners from the many conflicts during that period. Well known inmates include Robert Emmet, Charles Stuart Parnell, Michael Davitt, Padraig Pearse and Countess Markiewicz, to name but a few.
During the famine years many people committed petty crime in order to be incarcerated. They knew that this was a sure way of getting regular food at this very bleak time. Kilmainham Gaol was also a holding centre for deportees to the colonies.
Many executions were carried out at the prison and indeed you may ask yourself why you should visit such a dark and depressing place? The answer is because Kilmainham Gaol is absolutely steeped in history. See prisoner crafts in the Gaol Museum, see the cell where Robert Emmet was incarcerated, see a mural painted by Joseph Plunkett’s wife Mary Gifford, ask a tour guide to close a cell door in on you and experience what it must have felt like to be a prisoner in those by gone days. No doubt about it, the most emotional part of your visit will be to Stonebreakers Yard, where the heroes of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed. Today two small crosses mark this area.
Kilmainham Gaol may look familiar to you. The reason being it was the location for such epics as “Michael Collins”, “The wind that Shakes the Barley” and “The Quare Fellow”. Our own U2 have also used it as a backdrop for their music video – “A Celebration”.
How to get to Kilmainham Gaol
Bus routes operating from Aston Quay in the city centre include the 79, 79A, 78A and number 51B.
Please note that access to Kilmainham Gaol is strictly via guided tour only. The duration of the tour is approximately 1 hour. It closes earlier in winter, with the last admittance 1 hour before the stated closing time. Special exhibitions/events are also held during the year. Please check Heritage Ireland for details on admission prices and opening times etc.
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