Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kilmainham Gaol

A long long time ago, I was grumpy about not being able to get into Kilmainham Gaol on Culture Night.  I resolved to rectify the matter as soon as possible.  This turned out to be last Friday, 2 years later!

It was a rainy miserable day in Dublin, so it seemed natural to do touristy things.  Kilmainham Gaol's website isn't the best, being part of OPW's template site for every place they look after.  It gives the main information but nothing about parking.  An email request for information about parking was not answered.  That's the bad.  Everything else is good.  It's well worth seeing.  We arrived and found on street metered parking.  This is convenient when it's raining.  There's not a lot of it though.

Entry cost a tiny €6 for adults with reductions for senior citizens, students and kids.  My last visit to the Gaol had been as a 9 year old on a school trip, so it's safe to say lots of it went over my head then.  Access is granted only by guided tour, though you can happily wander around the two storey museum solo.  Make sure to see it - full of memorabilia, items made in the prison, posters and a lot of good information on how the prison developed (new panopticon model based on Pentonville in London, etc).

The tour lasts an hour.  Our tour guide was excellent explaining the history of the prison, the stories about famous prisoners.  It's cold and draughty inside, so make sure to dress warmly.  The youngest prisoner to grace Kilmainham was just 5 years old!  Naturally the Rising came up and we saw the stonebreakers yard where the leaders were executed.  Having been to Alcatraz in San Francisco, I was glad to discover there were no creepy wax models of prisoners!

Corridor where the leaders of the Easter Rising were held.

In the main hall, you can walk into cells, which are bare whitewashed rooms and close the door, to get a small sense of what it must have been like in there.  And then you can regain your freedom immediately.  They currently have an installation of bonnets on the floor.  They are modern reproductions of bonnets made for and by women being transported to Australia.  Extremely poignant.
The thing that surprised me most was how popular a tourist attraction the prison is.  I expected to be on a group tour.  I didn't think there would be about 50 people on it, with another similar sized tour just ahead of us.  Almost all were tourists in both groups.  And this on a wet day in mid-October.  I guess people really don't come here for the weather!


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