Kilmainham Gaol – Dublin Ireland

Kilmainham Gaol is as famous for its history as it is for its prisoners.  This former jail turned museum is a must see for history buffs visiting Dublin for the first time.  The jail was a cruel and unyielding place used to house revolutionaries as political prisoners after the Easter Rising and eventually as a free state.

The jail is not only interesting in architecture and function but its history mimics that of Ireland itself.  Built in 1796 it was supposed to be technologically advanced moving away from its more dungeon like predecessor.  Hangings took place outside the front door giving meaning to the reptile you find adorning the entryway.  The yard outside witnessed many a young person shot to death before their time.


A photo of the dragon who sits above the entryway where many of the early hangings took place. I took a little artistic license with it…

Within its walls it housed such noteworthies as Eamon De Valera (who went on to be President of the Irish Republic), Charles Parnell, Countess Markievicz, Padraig Pearse, Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett whose marriage at the jail helped turn public opinion, and so many more.


Grace Gifford married her Revolutionary husband in this prison the day before he was killed. This helped turn the tide of public opinion at the time. Grace adorned her cell with artwork during her time in prison. The ruined mural has been reproduced in the original cell and can be seen through the door hole.

After falling into a state of disrepair the jail has been restored to protect its history because, like everywhere in Ireland and particularly in Dublin, the Irish take their history very seriously.  It is important that there are visual queues reminding one of sacrifices made in the past for those of the future.

Many noteworthy movies have been filmed on location such as The Italian Job, In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.  Get to this location early as the queue fills up early and one must wait in line for a visit.  The hop on hop off bus tour visits here so be weary of crowds.  It is worth the wait and there is a safe to keep you fueled.


The main wing was heated from kitchen steam built directly below its floors


Who says you can’t find beauty and beautiful lines at a jail?



Names and statements were carved above jail cells. Some original work remains.


Drafty, cold, and damp inmates slept on the floor and were lucky to have hay to sleep on.


The yard whose walls could tell the stories of each revolutionary killed for their beliefs…


The Irish flag flying proudly in the yard where so many were killed.


Kilmainham Gaol 1787

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