Opened in the eighteenth century, Kilmainham’s last prisoner left in 1923. His name was Eamon De Valera and he returned to the Gaol many years later as Irish President to open it as a museum. A tour through the Gaol touches on some of the most tragic moments in Irish history, from the transportation of Irish convicts to Australia, to the Great Famine and the executions of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.
You can only visit the gaol through an entertaining one hour tour in English which runs throughout the day. There can be a wait to get on the tour at weekends, so it’s no harm to go early. They tell the often sad, and sometimes, darkly humorous stories of the many prisoners who came through its doors, from children driven into crime by poverty, to political prisoners, and the future leaders of Ireland. The tour provides a great introduction to the key events in modern Irish history for those unfamiliar with it and the museum at the end allows people to get a bit more information on the background to these. As a former history student, I really enjoy seeing such an important historical site first hand, and experiencing its eerie atmosphere.
A must-visit for history buffs.