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Kilmainham Gaol

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If you are fanatical about the Irish fight for freedom, or simply a sucker for punishment, you would do well to visit Kilmainham Gaol, one of the top tourist attractions in Dublin city. Want to find out how a starving peasant was punished for stealing bread in the 19 th century? Or how brave soldiers fighting for Irish independence passed their final hours before being executed? One of the few places you can call both ‘terrible' and ‘wonderful', centuries of pain, oppression and suffering are tangible in the morbidly fascinating jail

You may have visited Alcatraz or Robben Island prisons, but nothing is so grim and shocking as this Dublin jail. There is a collective shuddering and shivering as the tour's visitors are guided around this now unoccupied prison, dating from 1796. Men, women and children alike were all incarcerated here; the youngest child on record being a meagre five years old, jailed for petty theft.

It is advisable to bring a warm layer of clothing as the stone cells, twisting stairways and narrow corridors are all icy cold, and your blood will already be running cold at the conditions the prisoners were forced to endure here. There were five occupants to a cell with only a single candle for light and heat provided once every two weeks. Women had to sleep on the floor while men were with provided iron beds. Public hangings and later, firing squads, were all common methods of execution here; deportation to Australia was also a regular punishment.

During the Irish War of Independence and after the 1916 Easter Rising, many of the captured Irish militia were held and executed here. These ‘martyrs' as they are commonly known, gave their lives for Irish freedom, hence the jail becoming hallowed ground, sacrosanct, to the Irish people. Prepare to be moved as you visit the execution sites of some of the most famous figures in Irish history such as Pearse, O'Connell and Emmet. The last prisoner to exit the prison to freedom was Eamon de Valera himself, father of the Irish Free State. Following his release in 1924 Kilmainham Gaol was closed as a functioning prison.

On site there is also an Irish History museum, detailing events in the history of Ireland that led to the Irish War of Independence. If you are interested in this and happen to visit O'Connell street, don't forget to look for the bullet holes still present in the General Post Office walls where the British shot at the Irish who had taken refuge there.

The tour lasts an hour, and includes an audio visual presentation. It is advisable to book in advance as they fill up very fast. There is also some touring in outside areas, so be sure to pack an umbrella on a rainy day.

The jail is located on Inchicore Road, Kilmainham in Dublin and you can take the Bus Route(s): No. 79, 79A, 78A & 51B all from Aston Quay, Dublin 2.

April - September: Daily 09:30 - 18:00 (last admission at 17:00)            
October - March: Mon -Sat 09:30 - 17:30 (last admission at 16:00), Sunday: 10:00 - 18:00 (last admission at 17:00).
The jail is closed December 24 th , 25 th and 26 th .


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