Kilmainham Gaol is one of the most fascinating historical attractions in all of Dublin. Not only is the building interesting to explore on a guided tour, but the significance the jail has played in tumultuous moments in Irish history make the tour especially poignant. The Kilmainham Gaol Historical Museum is available to see only through these guided tours; it isn’t possible for you to wander around on your own. However, tours begin about every twenty minutes, and there are plenty of exhibits to hold your interest during the wait. The jail is open every day from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm with last admission at 4 pm. On Sundays, the jail opens at 10 am. This national monument provides one of the most interesting introductions to the recent history of Dublin and is a worthwhile visit for every visitor to the country.
The jail is more than just a history museum in Dublin. The tour leads you through different areas of the jail, from the chapel to cold stone cells to the more modern block of cells. Opened in 1796 and closed in 1924, the life of the jail coincides closely with the time of British rule in Ireland. The tour will teach visitors about the turbulent period of history this was for Ireland, including rebellion, famine, revolution, and civil war. Kilmainham Gaol not only reveals facts about the history of the country, but also brings this history to life through the stories of the men and women who died fighting for an independent Ireland.
One of the most moving parts of the tour is seeing the Easter Rising Memorial. Participants of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed by a firing squad in the yard of Kilmainham Gaol after their capture. A single cross in stone signifies where this terrible strategy, which ultimately garnered more support for the rebels, occurred. At the other end of the yard is another cross, to signify where James Connolly was shot to death. Connolly was wounded during the rising, and after being transported to the jail by ambulance, he was so weak that he couldn’t stand or cross the yard. He was then tied to a chair and shot. These stories are told at the Kilmainham Gaol historical museum by knowledgeable guides who share their passion about Irish history with each and every visitor.
This history museum in Dublin has been recognized by Hollywood as an ideal backdrop for a variety of films. The Italian Job, In The Name of the Father, and Michael Collins were all filmed in Kilmainham Gaol. The Irish rock band U2 also filmed a video in the jail, for their song “A Celebration.” The Victorian wing was the preference for these films, and is part of the guided tour. The Kilmainham Gaol historical museum also shows how incarceration changed over time, from cold cells that squeezed four or five people into a tiny space to more civilized, brighter spaces where rehabilitation became the key focus.
This history museum in Dublin isn’t located right in the city center, but it’s easy to reach the jail with a fifteen-minute bus ride from the city center. Dublin Bus operates a number of routes that pass by the jail, but another option is bus tours. These tours operate between the major tourist attractions of the city and provide commentary between stops. Visitors can purchase a ticket for the entire day and hop on and off as they please. It’s never too long of a wait between buses, and this avoids the need to figure out the local bus system. The public transport option is cheaper, however, and for about 2 euros each way, you can easily reach this marvelous attraction from central Dublin.