I can’t imagine there are many places in the world where the number one tourist attraction (at least according to the ubiquitous TripAdvisor) is a prison. Until recently the only place where I would have considered this to be a possibility would have been Alcatraz in San Francisco. Even though Robben Island in Cape Town is a fascinating place and a “must visit” I expect even Nelson Mandela would not have put his former “home” anywhere near number one. So when we started planning a visit to Dublin I was surprised to find that if you search for things to do in Dublin on TripAdvisor Kilmainham Gaol sits proudly at the number one spot.
I quite understand that many people may be thinking something along the lines of “Of course this is number one! Have you never been to Dublin before? Do you know nothing about Ireland’s history?”. In answer to the first question – no, I had never been to Dublin before. As for the second question I have to admit I know shamefully little about the history of Ireland and of the importance of this prison and of the prisoners who were held here.
Since my visit I now know a lot more (thanks to the hugely knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide) however I am not going to try and bluff my way through Irish history here as this would just highlight my general ignorance of the subject! A good starting point is Wikipedia’s page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilmainham_Gaol or the gaol’s own website at http://kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie/.
Suffice to say that Kilmainham Gaol’s position at the top of TripAdvisors list is fully warranted and that if you ever go to Dublin make sure you find the time to pay a visit. It is a little way out of the city centre but is on the main bus routes and on the tour bus routes too so is easy to get to.
I would however advise that you book your tour well in advance – numbers are limited and since tours are of course very popular it is unlikely that you will be able to buy tickets on the door.
These pictures are of a small section of the whole prison – just the East Wing – and although this may be the most photogenic area the whole prison is fascinating and more than worth a visit. Many films and TV series have been filmed here including the original Italian Job, In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins, Ripper Street, and Primeval.