Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol: We decided to visit this former prison turned museum on the advice of Trip Advisor. You can only see the actual jail via guided tour and there is usually a substantial wait as it’s a popular tourist attraction in Dublin. Luckily, we came at a good time and only had to wait about 20 minutes for our tour to start.

There’s a great museum just past reception where we passed the time waiting for our tour to begin. It has everything from mock cells to propoganda posters and personal diaries and belongings of former prisoners. The jail was originally built in 1796 as a replacement for a dungeon that sat just a few meters away. Public hangings used to take place in front of the prison though that mostly subsided from the 1820’s.IMG_6232Our tour guide was ALL ABOUT the history of this place. He had definitely found his passion in life and we quickly realized that bringing along a small yet vocal baby may not have been the best plan. Our guide only thinly veiled his annoyance at Aksel’s random commentary so I did my best to stay in the back of the pack. However, as you can see by the photos, we were in an enclosed space with incredible acoustics. So no matter how hard I tried to muffle it, Aksel’s voice seemed to fill the room. So fun.IMG_6238Back to the history. This jail had no sense of discrimination – it housed men, women and children. Yes, children. The youngest prisoner was seven years old and likely arrested for petty theft. Prisoners weren’t segregated and up to five people were assigned to a cell that was just 28 meters. They had a single candle for light and heat and it had to last them two weeks. Just to add some perspective here – I was carrying a 20 pound baby up and down stairs which generally warms up the old core temperature due to physical exertion. In spite of that, I was absolutely freezing thanks to the damp and cold trapped in the stone walls. I can’t even begin to imagine the conditions (and smells) in this place at it’s peak. IMG_6237Kilmainham Gaol has a long history of corruption and violence. I thought this inscription over one of the doorways was incredibly powerful: “Beware of the risen people that have harried and held ye that have bullied and bribed.”IMG_6233The most impressive architectural section of the jail is definitely the East Wing. It opened in 1862 and it’s Victorian style was part of the belief at the time that prison architecture was crucial to inmate’s reform. Silence and separation were key so prisoners spent the majority of their time in their cells. Authorities hoped they would use this time to read the Bible, contemplate and repent. IMG_6242IMG_6239Since that time, this part of the prison has been used in various videos and films. You might recognize it from The Escapist or the U2 music video for “A Celebration.”IMG_6241IMG_6244I would love to tell you more about the history of this particular section but Aksel chose this setting for his prime performance. So the guide actually asked us to remove ourselves because he couldn’t hear himself speaking. And that’s how we ended up with the unique experience of actually being imprisoned at Kilmainham Gaol. We huddled in a jail cell for the duration of the speech and yes, they are very small and very cold. IMG_6249IMG_6252This guy and his murse (man-purse) pretty much summed up how everyone felt about our presence. IMG_6245By this point, we were really sweaty from the embarrassment of having children who actually are alive and make noise so were incredibly relieved when the tour took us outside. This is me giving up on life having fun. And this visitor’s guide is actually really informative and worth a look if this piqued your interest; just click here. IMG_6254After all that “fun,” we decided to just walk around and find a place for dinner. Don’t do this. There is nothing within a reasonable walking distance of the jail. Thankfully, we had brought Lena’s scooter with us and Aksel was content in the stroller. I would guess we did a solid 5k tour of Dublin without finding a single viable option for dinner. Also, it rained for our hour long jaunt through the city making it even more magical.

We finally gave up and ended up back at the hotel. Everyone was starving so we opted to just eat at the restaurant in the lobby. Such a sad, sad decision in hindsight. I spent the first half of dinner outside the restaurant trying to get Aksel to sleep while Jason and Lena enjoyed their food. Aksel wasn’t having it. So then Jason switched with me and as soon as I had my last bite, Lena said she needed to go potty. We ran to the bathroom as quick as we could. Apparently it wasn’t quick enough as she had explosive diarrhea that got all over the toilet, the seat, and of course, her pants and underwear. So the undies got thrown away and I did a make shift wash of the pants in the sink. So special.

To top if all off, we didn’t sleep very well because there was a cat dying in the alley all night. So it was a slow morning the next day. However, breakfast at the hotel was amazing. It was a full Irish breakfast buffet and I even tried white pudding which I can only describe as … interesting. After two days in Dublin, we were ready to leave the city behind and head south along the coast with our little road warriors. IMG_6257



By | 2017-02-10T16:55:19+00:00 January 28th, 2016|Travel With Kids|0 Comments

About the Author:

Wife, mama, graphic designer, and documentary photographer. Never met a piece of chocolate I didn't like. I love celebrating special occasions, exploring new cities through their local cuisine, and kissing my babies incessantly.

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