A visit to Kilmainham Gaol

posted in: Dublin, Ireland | 26
We have to visit Kil-Main-Ham Ga-ol.  Trip Advisor rates this place as a must see Dublin attraction.  It mentioned that this is a largest unoccupied jail in Irish history“.  And so I convinced my family and took them to this place.  At the entrance I prompted the old man sitting at the ticket counter “Is there any guided tours for Kilmainham Ga-ol?”, spontaneously came a response “Yes, and it’s kil-main-em Jail as in Jail”.
With an embarrassed look, I say “oh..its said as Jail“. “The tour will start in 10 minutes, from the museum,which is on the left side here“, he said. “How on earth does Gaol and Jail sound same” I cursed myself! Cheeky!

Least did I know that what I will see and hear in the next 1.5 hours will be a haunting and interesting history, and that it will remain the best experience in my whole of Ireland trip. This jail has seen both tragic and heroic moments, death and sufferings of famous martyrs who struggled during Irish Independence and Civil War. As you walk through this tour to the jail, you will learn the turbulent and brutal history between UK and Ireland. And yes, as mentioned, this is the largest unoccupied Victorian jail in Europe.

Before the actual tour started, there was a 15 minute power point presentation that showed in a nutshell the history of Irish Revolution, it’s leaders, and the economic scenario of Ireland while they were under UK rule.  And then we were taken to various sections of the jail, shown the cells, the condition of the prisoners, cells of famous leaders and on how the jail was run.


Kilmainham Gaol
Public hangings used to take place in front of the Gaol. There were no gender or age segregation in the cell.  Each cell were roughly 28m.sq. and there were 5 prisoners in each such cell.  And they were given 1 candle every 2 weeks.
It was very cold inside despite me wearing the warm winter clothes.  Couldn’t imagine the plight of the prisoners who would be just wearing the cotton clothes.  And windows are now covered with glass, but back then there was no glass (as you see in the above picture).  And to add, the sanitary conditions were poor then.  It would have been such a brutality!
Over the 129 years that it served as a jail, there were about 180000 prisoners most of which were due to common crimes.  And during the famine, the cells would be packed with prisoners who commit the crime of stealing bread and potatoes/ any food or clothes.  It was under British rule that various Irish patriots were captivated and executed. 14 of the country’s famous leaders were shot dead in the courtyard (above picture where you see the cross).
Kilmainham Gaol (Jail)


This is the East wing of the jail which was constructed later to accommodate the increasing Irish prisoners during the fight for their independence. On it’s familiarity note, this part of the Gaol has been filmed in various movies, the most famous being yesteryear’s flick The Italian Job.

Overall it was a great learning experience in terms of the country’s history. The tour guides were very knowledgeable and the stories about the martyrs were heart wrenching.  If you have just time to visit 1 tourist attraction in Dublin, then this would be it! Highly recommended!  But do note that they do not accept credit/debit cards, but only Euros, and it’s best to pre-book the tour in advance to avoid disappoints.

26 Responses

  1. Last year my daughter and her husband visited Ireland, they really enjoyed the visit. My daughter is a very good self taught photographer, and brought back such lovely pictures of that country.
    I had come across the term gaols/ jails while reading some Irish/ English plays during my college days.
    Good to know yo have started a travel blog. Wish you all the best!

    • Oh that's good to know that your daughter has already been to Ireland and you are aware of gaol. Had I told you earlier, you'd have given me advice 🙂
      Thanks for the wishes Rama!

  2. Ha ha … gaol as jail. Like the pictures.

  3. Jail? That sounds different. I would like to see it. I'm so wanting to see the Andaman Jail before that! That's nearer to me! 🙂

  4. You could have given a short history about the Irish struggle for independence. I wonder why the British were so adamant about occupying territories that were not theirs. I hope they found a match in Ireland and Ireland gave it back to them. Should have, that's why Ireland is still a different country, despite being so close to England. But I must read some history before making such fleeting comments 🙂

    I remember this jail from the Italian job movie. That was a funny movie 🙂

    Destination Infinity

    • There's a lot of it in their history, and I honestly did not know all of it. So I din't wanted to write about it DI 🙁
      Totally. The brutality I had seen and heard is so much it reminds me of British rule in India!

  5. Interesting place and seriously no one could have imagined the word to be pronounced as jail. Inside shot is really pretty. It is well kept and quite a history. Congrats on the new blog and saw that you reached 'Z' of the photo challenge and that too with a Zebra 🙂

  6. Well, First thing, I am not sure if I would have visited this place, I get this shiver, even when reading the post,Superwoman!

  7. "here were no gender or age segregation in the cell. Each cell were roughly 28m.sq. and there were 5 prisoners in each such cell. "
    That's really bad.. 5 prisoners in each cell was too much. I wonder how much they would have suffered. I had visited one prison in US and that gave me enough chills to last for a lifetime. Here

    • 5 prisoners in each cell is normal. During famine, there were many people dumped into the cells because there wasn't enough space inside. I am just heading to your US Prison visit page…

  8. That reminds me I still haven't visited Alcatraz.

    Goal — I found it strange too, when I heard of it. That was way back in school. 🙂

    The visit to Kilmainham must have been quite an experience, right? Especially to put all those stories and this incredible building together. It does seem like a must-see.

    Nice shots, Anu. 🙂

  9. Beautiful photographs and interesting commentary!

  10. Very interesting post Anu! Been to Ireland but missed this place:(

  11. Congratulations Anu! A very beautiful space you have got yourself here 🙂

    Fascinating place and wonderful captures! The place looks like an absolutely treat for anyone who loves to delve into history though it also stands as a stark reminder of all the blood and gore stories it has got to tell.

  12. One must be overwhelmed by all the history of the place, Anu. The East wing of the jail looks impressive, simple but having a character. No wonder that it's been used in movies.

  13. I was wondering why it looked familiar. Glad you clarified it being shown in Italian Job, else I would have been hitting my head to recall where I saw it. All such places have pretty rich history, some quite dark. Love the last shot.

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